If you want to ski early in the season, or have guaranteed snow cover even in bad years, Hintertux Glacier [www.hintertuxergletscher.at] is the place to go. This resort towers over almost every other resort in Austria with a peak of 3,250m. It’s often above the clouds, giving a great view like the one above (looking over the Schlegeis glacier on the back side of the resort). When the weather is good at Hintertux, you have many km of freshly-groomed slopes, and you can see lots of powder stashes from the lifts.
Hintertux is not a huge resort as Austrian resorts go, but it does have 86km of slopes: 23km for beginners, 47km for intermediates, and 16km for experts. Because of the wide, nicely-groomed slopes, it’s a great resort for snowboard carving and ski carving (especially early in the mornings when the pistes are not yet cut-up).
Getting to Hintertux
Hintertux is 180km from Munich, 90km from Innsbruck, and 200km from Salzburg. Arriving at Hintertux can be difficult in bad weather, but if you plan ahead you should have no problem. Because of the high altitude, the weather is extreme during storms, so be prepared to drive in snow if you rent a car. You might need chains to get up the last 15km or so to the resort, and in bad weather they are required. Front wheel drive is much better than rear wheel drive in the snow, and 4WD is the best. Just remember, 4WD doesn’t help you when you are braking. If you don’t want to drive up, you can take a train to Mayrhofen, and then catch a bus from there.
Tips for Hintertux
If you like carving on groomed slopes, get to Hintertux early in the morning. You won’t regret it! The Apres Ski is going all day at the Sommerbergalm lodge, which is at the top of the first gondola. So if you start early and get tired out at 1 or 2pm, you can have a few drinks on the mountain while waiting for your friends who slept in. Just at the bottom of the mountain is a great Apres Ski place called Hohenhaus Tenne [www.tenne.com], where you’re sure to hear the famous song of the region. “Tux, Tux, Hintertux!” Along the road leading up the Zillertal valley to Hintertux (which is at the end of the road), you’ll pass several discos, and you can always head down to Mayrhofen (half an hour away) for a serious night out.
One cool thing about Hintertux is the cave at the Spannagelhaus, a lodge just below the top of the Gletscherbus II Gondola. It’s great for non-skiers in your group, who can walk down from the gondola (about 10-15 minutes walking along the slope). A tour costs around 10 euro, and they are offered on the hour during the day (except around lunch time). Ask at the cashier at the bottom of the mountain for times. There’s also an Ice Palace cave at the top of Gletscherbus III, but this is only recommended for the nimble, because you are walking on corridors of slippery glacier ice the whole time.
You’ll see fantastic views and in-shape people at Hintertux. This guy is hiking up the whole mountain on telemark skis! Also, you can see T-bar lifts in the background of this photo. There are lots of them at every glacier, because they are less susceptible to wind. Snowboarders should study the Hintertux map and try to avoid these if you don’t favor T-bars. As a boarder myself, I often stay on the Gletscherbus gondolas and the Schlegeis chairlift. One last thing: be prepared for cold weather. It’s often -15C during the day if there’s a storm; for those days you will want a ski mask to protect your face from snow & wind. After a cold day like that, I recommend the tasty restaurant “Alte Hutte” in Madseit, about 5km down the road from Hintertux. The grill platter (3 types of meat, with chips and salad bar) is unbeatable.
Last but not least, I’ll leave you with the Hintertux song!