Resort Guide: Mayrhofen, Austria

Mayrhofen is a firm favourite amongst us Brits. Located along the Ziller Valley, the village is picture postcard pretty, with lots of traditional chalets lining the main streets, and no high-rise buildings.

The local area covers a very handy 133km of pistes, but the Ziller valley is home to so much more. Hintertux, a short half hour bus ride away, is one of the few remaining resorts to stay open 365 days a year. The gondola to enter the Zillertal arena is only a few kilometres from Mayrhofen and its home to the big Dutch party town of Gerlos with another 139km of pistes and great off-piste. On the same side of the valley as Mayrhofen is Hochfügen with another 88km of pistes. Not bad eh? 

The village has hosted Snowbombing since 2005, and seen it mushroom into Europe’s largest snow and music festival. It’s a week of utter carnage, usually accompanied by sunny days with which to shred away the hangover.

Did you know?

Back in 2006 the Penkenbahn gondola made it into Whitelines’ list of the world’s scariest lifts. “After going through an un-necessary dog-leg,” we wrote, “the gondolas take on a sustained gap of horrifying height until the top station catches and releases each load of trembling tourists.”

The Parks

The Vans Penken Park in Mayrohofen is not huge, but don’t let that put you off – it’s a great all round snowboard park that has helped nurture numerous British pros over the past decade. Starting at 1820m, the sun-drenched south-facing park sits in the basin at the foot of the Horberg and Penken peaks, where it is served by the Sun-Jet chairlift. This lift takes a mere five minutes to get to the top, meaning you can notch up 30 plus park runs a day very easily. The pro line has three awesome jumps in a row, with the likes of Jamie Nicholls riding there regularly. The medium line is not as good though, with kickers that require far more speed than their size would suggest; if you land even a little sketchily off the first, don’t bother with the second unless you like knuckles. 

Squeezed between the pro and medium lines last season was the Fun Area, which has its own entrance, and features a few lumps in a boardercross style. On the right you'll find the completely separated kids'beginners park.

Mayrhofen boasts a selection of rails to choose from, including down rails, double kinks, a zig zag bar, elbow rails and selection of boxes and gaspipes, It is an awesome place for the rail rider to dial in their tricks.

Although the famous 'Wangl! Tangl' event won't be happening this year, there are a ton of other comps taking place in the park, from locals' jam sessions to international contests. Check the resort website for info. You'll also often stumble on top european pros training or filming here.

The Powder

The area isn’t the most expansive for freeriding, but there are plenty of good places to look out for.

There are some established ski routes down to Finkenberg from the top of Rastkogel, and if you can’t be bothered queuing for the gondola back down, there is a route back down to the Horbergbahn cable car.

From the top of the Penken you’ll find the north-facing slopes into the valley offer the steepest terrain, and there is some good off-piste featuring small rock drops under the Nordhangbahn chairlift.

Further along the ridgeline you can drop off the edge of the blue pistes into the Horbergtal valley – the further towards the 150er-Tux cable-car you get, the steeper it becomes. These areas can slide easily, so preparation and caution are a must.

The Pistes

Once you’ve queued for the Penkenbahn (probably with one of Hans Gasser’s fine hot pork rolls in hand) you reach the main ski area. Most of the slopes are nice and wide, though you will find a few narrow tracks with the occasional flat patch linking some of the areas. Beginners will really enjoy the pistes near the six-seater chairlifts gerent and Unterbergalm, but should steer well clear of the black piste that drops into the Horbergtal valley: the Harakiri. This is Austria’s steepest slope adventure with a gradient, in a tiny section anyway, of 78 percent (36 degrees). It is one of the few genuinely testing pistes here, and on an icy day, make sure you get that video camera on standby as you pass over on the Knorren chairlift.

From the other side of the village, the pistes served by Ahorn cable-car are much quieter and great for beginners and intermediates to have a relaxed slide on. There is a 5.5km leg burner back to the village that runs from the bottom of the Ebenwald chair, but this should only be attempted if there’s been plenty of snow about, otherwise you’ll face a long walk down.

The Parties

Mayrhofen partying is a mix of the traditional Austrian and the traditional British – but it’s all completely bonkers. The traditional Austrian après ski is handled nicely by the Ice Bar, which is directly next to the bottom of the Penkenbahn. This place is already rammed by 4pm with plenty of Austrian, German and Dutch revellers, all fuelled on jagermeister and euro-pop, or the even dodgier schlager music. By 4.15, someone’s usually dancing on a table in their ski-boots singing “Oi oi oi!”.

The English pub, the Scotland Yard, provides a good respite from this Austrian madness and is open until 2am. It’s usually the choice of the locals and seasonnaires.

Just out of town back towards the Ahornbahn is the Gasthoff Zillertal, a youth hostel mainly serving the young and the rowdy with cheap beer, all night food and live music. Many young loves and broken hearts have been made here as the locals, the Dutch, German, Swedish and British all culminate in one sweaty dancehall.