The best Austrian resorts that you’ve never heard of? The three picture-postcard villages of Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis are full of charm, steeped in history and enjoy expansive views of the Inn Valley. Their skiing is also linked up to the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis region, the sixth largest in Austria, boasting some 68 ski lifts, 214 km of piste covering 460 hectares and snow-sure slopes up to 2800m.
There is plenty more appeal by way of exceptional children facilities, extensive cross country skiing and spectacular walking routes, whilst all of this ski holiday heaven sits only an hour from the closest international airport (Innsbruck – pictured below).
And yet… this is a ski region that most experienced skiers (outside Austria and Germany perhaps), will hardly know and probably never visit. Thousands of skiers flock to the nearby Tirol and Vorarlberg to visit names like St Anton, Lech, Ishgl, Solden and Kitzbuhel without noticing the little turn from the main A12 road that leads up to the higher reaches of the river Inn.
We have to confess our guilt too. Locally we have reviewed the resorts of Solden, Hochgurgl and Lech, we have checked out the charms of the cities of Innsbruck, Salzburg and Zurich (Switzerland), and all without, until now, exploring the delights of the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis region.
We chose to stay in Serfaus, the larger of the three resorts. It is also located at the farthest point on the connecting road and is mostly pedestrianised, although we were permitted to drive to our hotel’s heated underground car park. Transport through the village is spectacularly easy and free, via an ultra-modern underground railway that runs almost silently on an air cushion. Taking just 7 minutes between the farthest points on the four linear stops it is a very welcome bonus before, and after, a hard days skiing.
This ‘U-bahn’ leads to the main ski base where you can quickly pick up your equipment, lift tickets and any ski school reservations before climbing on to one of the three high speed gondolas. Their capacity was enough to cope with any morning ‘rush’ during our off-peak stay although we suspect minimal wait times even in peak season.
To the west the Almkopfbahn and Komperdellbahn take you across a series of ridges and valleys that run approximately north to south. On sunny days and in bad weather it is easy to adjust your itinerary to enjoy the best slope conditions suited to the season and time of day. Our stay was late season and sunny so we cruised the open south facing slopes as they softened in the morning, slowly moving to the east facing runs of the Lazid- and Scheid-bahns and later following the sun to the highest peaks of the Masnerkopf and Pezid.
There is excellent variety to be found including lots of truly exceptional long, broad and steep cruising reds and blacks stretching down from Pezid, Lazid, Scheid and Obere Scheid for example. This area has plenty to keep advanced skiers happy for days, whilst most lifts also have easier options.
To the east from Serfaus the Sunliner carries you up to the ridge above Fiss from where you can jump on the Schonjochbahn two-stage gondola to the top of the final ridge of the system high above Ladis.
Beautiful cruising runs through unspoilt rural scenery – taking in a pretty Mountain restaurant or two – lead you all the way down to Ladis. Alternatively fork off to return to the base of the Schonjochbahn to return to the top. This is another area of delightful, open blue and red cruising, suitable for most grades of skier and serviced by high capacity gondolas and chairs.
The central parts of the system above Fiss and Serfaus are where you will find the ski schools starting points, the exceptionally well-equipped family areas, and snow parks. Superb skiing facilities start for those from 3 years upwards with indoor and outdoor play areas, magic carpets and enclosed safe skiing areas. Older children have plenty of open blue slopes and all ages can progress upwards and outwards from here. The area is central to the ski areas and convenient for easy family lunch time and after ski rendezvous points.
The region actually promotes itself with the motto ‘We are Family’, the great ski facilities sitting alongside equally good child-friendly non-ski options like kindergartens, children’s restaurants, a pedestrianised village centre and some high quality family hotels like the Lowe (Lion) & Bar (Bear).
This is not to say couples and singles will feel left out. There is plenty to suit adventurous and advanced skiers plus organised extras like romantic sunset dinners high on the mountain at Masner’s restaurant, small group ‘First Tracks’, mountain breakfasts at the Hexenseehutte, plus weekly night skiing with mountain fondues.
Families with children should put Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis right up at the top of their must-visit lists whilst all skiers who want to avoid the big-resort crowds should look at this as a very worthy alternative.
For more information and to book visit Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
CELLOPHANELAND* stayed at the Hotel Lowe Serfaus
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