By modern standards, Grossglockner Kals-Matrei ski resort in Austria is a small, modern, well-equipped, and spectacular. If you want a change from the mega-resorts but don’t fancy a week on cranky old lifts, put it high on your hit-list. Austria is amongst Europe’s top ski resorts.
At the Grossglockner Resort Kals-Matrei, you’ll find a well-managed, well-equipped ski area with several high-speed chairlifts, hard-working snow cannons, a rather swanky top-of-the-world restaurant, and some cracking terrain. Yes, it’s also small. There is just 45km of waymarked pistes, which makes it a minnow compared to the Arlberg or the SkiWelt. But if, say, you’ve got kids with you, and won’t be skiing flat out all day, every day; or if you use it as a base for day-tripping to some of the Osttirol’s other, more idiosyncratic ski areas, you’ll have a ball.
Guide to skiing in Kals-Matrei
The two sides of the same ridge will be skiing as it marches north to reach the main east-west alpine wall. The ski area faces east or north-east on one side and slides down into the peaceful Kalsertal valley, bottoming out at 1300m. The other is more north-west facing and sits above the small market town of Matrei in Osttirol (altitude; 975m).
On the side of Kals, the steeper pistes appear to be: this is where you can find the two best blacks in the resort. Neither is exceptionally long, but both have excitingly steep fall-line sections: the kind of way you can look down your outer ski edge and see the mountain falling in an unbroken line below you.
Beginner and intermediate slopes
The Matrei sector is where the largest region of cruisey, confidence-boosting pistes, known as Goldried, can be found by intermediates. It is set between 2200 m and 1450 m and faces north-west, so for most of the winter, the snow level is substantial. In the meantime, beginners get two primary nursery slope areas: down on the Kals side at the bottom of the valley and up on the Matrei side in the Goldried section.
The Matrei Ski School or the Kals Ski School should be contacted by those looking for tuition, depending on which side of the mountain their base is. A road to the local office of the Bergführer can beat more experienced skiers. From a half-day ski touring taster to a whole week of ski touring excursions from Kals, the mountain guides here give everything.
Top lift: 2426m
Ski area: 45km of piste
There is an impressive range of pistes, both above and below the treeline, for such a small area. Even if it comes in small doses, there is enough for everyone here.
The slopes are remarkably calm. Between Boxing Day and New Year and Carnival week (which climaxes on Rose Monday and Shrove Tuesday), things get a little busier. But you’ll never see crowded pistes like La Plagne or France’s Val Thorens pistes. In January or March, at midweek, you’ll only have a couple of skiers on the slopes for company.
Snow cover and snow cannons
Snow-cover, on-piste, is useful for a mid-altitude resort. Snow cannons protect 100% of the roads, but Mother Nature gets plenty of back-ups if there is a drought. Of course, in spring, stuff on the lower slopes on both sides of the valley can get slushy. The snow’s quality is usually intense, particularly from December to early March, with many other slopes facing either north-east or north-west.
If you are searching for a ski resort that is yet to be fully discovered by foreign tourists, this ski resort is for you.