A day trip to the Alps: Snowboarding Austria and back

By Mark Mcgettigan – editor of Snowboard UK magazine
Published May 2009

To a ski resort in the Austrian Alps and back in a day from the UK – is it possible? Mark Mcgettigan, editor of Snowboard UK magazine went to find out...

stunning sunsets over the Austrian Alps

When the alarm goes off at 5.30am, my immediate reaction is to turn it off and roll over to go back to sleep – but not today. Today, I have foolishly agreed to join Austria Superski on one of their signature one day riding skiing/snowboarding missions – ‘The Hoch’.

The idea of getting out of the office for a day to go riding in Austria is very, very tempting (hence why I said yes), but the downside is obvious – in order to get maximum slope time, I have to be on the first flight out of Stansted to Salzburg; and that’s at 6.45am...

Having negotiated check in and customs, I head straight for the nearest cafe to get a coffee. Next to me, there’s a table full of guys tucking into beer – not exactly the heartiest of breakfasts.

Austria Superski’s deal includes Priority Boarding on your Ryanair flight, which means that you get onto the plane with minimal hassle and free choice of seat. With no baggage checked in, it makes sense to get one near the exit for a speedy get away – Stuart (the company owner) has promised me six hours on the hill, and I’m determined to put this claim to the test by not wasting time.

catching some Austrian air

The flight lands in Salzburg ahead of schedule and I’m out of my seat and off the plane like a fat kid after the dessert trolley. I only hope that the guys with the minibus are early. Fortunately they are. And at about the time the plane was scheduled to land (9.30am Austrian time), we’re already pulling out of the airport towards our destination – the wonderfully-named Hochkonig’s Winterreich and its 150kms of piste.

Thom (the Austria Superski rep) has phoned ahead already with my details so when we arrive at Mulhbach after an hour’s drive, it’s ready and waiting for me. A quick change of outfit in the back of the shop – much to the excitement of the owner’s wife who stumbles across me – and Stuart and I are heading towards the gondola.

It’s 10.43am as we step off the gondola and get ready to strap in for the first turns of the day, and this only an hour and a half of landing at Salzburg Airport. Stuart is looking smug as he knows that, bar injury or accident, we’re pretty much going to get the promised six hours in. Not that that disappoints me, for obvious reasons...

We opt to tour the whole area, riding from one end of the valley (Mulhbach) to the other (Maria Alm), ready to be picked up after the lifts have shut. Hochkonig Winterreich is actually part of the impressively massive Salzburg Superski area, which comprises a staggering 2200kms of piste on the same lift ticket and includes such notable resorts as Kitzbuhel, Kaprun and Saalbach.

We don’t have time for that so we stick to cruising the practically empty slopes that are well-maintained, doubtless helped by the record snowfalls that this part of Austria has been receiving this season. Unfortunately, there is no fresh powder so I console myself by looking wistfully from the chair lifts at beckoning tree runs and open powder bowls.

empty Austrian slopes

However, the high snowfall has allowed the area to go terrain park crazy – and during the course of the day we cruise past at least five different parks of varying standards. Regular visitors to resorts with super parks, such as Mayrhofen, may be disappointed, but each park has its own little gems, from well-shaped booters to testing rail combos. My personal favourite is the Natural Park. Arguably influenced by Burton’s ‘Stash’ parks, this park contains only wooden obstacles – and great fun it is too; although wooden ‘rails’ hurt just as much as metal ones!

In order to achieve Stuart’s much-vaunted six hours off riding, we have to wait til after the lifts close and then ride down in near-dark, dodging piste bashers all the way. Thom is waiting in the van, and there’s enough time to go and indulge in some après ski shenanigans before grabbing a quick shower at the chalet and heading back to Salzburg.

The flight lands around 10.20pm, giving enough time to catch the Stansted Express back into London. Mission accomplished. I’m pretty knackered by the time I reach home, and I know that those special ‘riding’ muscles are going to be aching, but it’ll make for some interesting chat around the coffee machine tomorrow in the office.

I’ve even managed to pick up a sneaky goggle tan.

For more details of ‘The Hock’ day trip, visit: AustriaSuperSki.com. Prices start from £99.

Mark McGettigan is the editor of leading snowboarding magazine - Snowboard UK.