When my friends ask me about my favorite area for ski touring and skiing in Austria, my answer comes so suddenly out that most are surprised: the Ötztal Alps. My eyes begin to shine and my voice becomes passionate.
I can name so many reasons why I have come to love this diverse region that much. Fantastic glacier worlds, wonderful ski tours and hiking routes, great ski slopes and of course the world-famous Ötzi. The Ötztal Alps simply offer countless adventures year round. In addition, after a decade and a half of countless visits, I also associate some strong memories with this area. Memories that I like to build on when I go on tour over the impressive peaks again.
The impressive first sight, then the ascent to the second highest summit in Austria: the Wildspitze
The highest peak in the Ötztal Alps is the Wildspitze at 3,774 meters elevation. If you, like me, have a soft spot for the majestic sight of these natural skyscrapers, I have an insider tip for you: take the climb up to the Pitztaler Jöchl. From here you only have to cross a small glacier and a breathtaking glacier landscape opens up just in front of you. Enjoy the stunning view and take a good look at the Wildspitze – as you will probably now feel the irresistible urge to be up there on your skis soon.
Take a good look at the Wildspitze – you will probably now feel the irresistible urge to be up there on your skis soon!
To make this happen, the best thing to do is to take the Pitztaler Gletscherexpress and then the chairlift to the Mittelbergjoch. That shortens the ascent immensely, and you still have to cross some nice glaciers and overcome a climbing section (difficulty level 1+) to reach the summit cross. With a little advanced experience, you can do it well. From a technical point of view, the tour is absolutely manageable and the subsequent descent of around 2,000 meters elevation compensates entirely for all the efforts.
When I stood here for the first time 15 years ago, it was anyway a moving time for me, because also my daughter was born in that year. I think it won't be long now before we can enjoy the fantastic view from the second highest mountain in Austria together.
Dramatic 360-degree panorama in the middle of the Ötztal Alps – from the top of the Similaun
The ascent to my favorite summit in the Ötztal Alps – the Similaun, with an impressive 3,606 meters elevation, is also associated with special memories of mine. I started from Vent, an idyllic village with 136 inhabitants that has long become a center for ski tours in the region. The snow conditions and the weather forecast were great – unfortunately I was already struggling with physical weakness and a fever when I arrived in Vent.
No good starting conditions. But anyone who knows me is certain that I just couldn't miss this opportunity. So I first rested for a day and then carefully made my way to the Martin Busch Hütte, which is about three hours' walk away. In the evening there was the traditional stone pine liqueur (Zirben) and the next morning I got up with the others at 5 a.m. I still didn't feel totally fit – yet I decided to join the group for at least the first part of the journey.
We made it over the Niederjochferner in a calm but continuous pace. I was struggling a little with fatigue. Nevertheless, it was clear to me “now I've come this far, I'll also be able to pack the last bit”. So I took my crampons to finally conquer the last meters to the summit cross and reap the reward for my perseverance: the 360-degree panoramic view from the top of the Similaun is simply indescribable.
A dream for every ski touring professional: the Vent Loop Trail
Adventure-loving ski touring experts are attracted to Vent by one very special tour: the Vent Loop Trail. In five days, it leads you over the highest peaks of the Ötztal Alps and rewards the physical exertion with grandiose panoramic views in the midst of the poetically beautiful mountain landscape.
If you want to pass here to the end, make sure you have good equipment and prepare yourself mentally as well. Because after the ascent to the Similaun, as I described, you continue to the Finailspitze (3,514 m), over the Weißkugel (3,739 m) and the Fluchtkogel (3,497 m), until you stand on the Wildspitze for the crowning glory. In addition to the long distances, you can also expect some nice Via Ferratas and of course a few great descents. After that you will feel really happy and accomplished – just be aware of what you are getting yourself into.
In five days, it leads you over the highest peaks of the Ötztal Alps.
Not on this tour but equally recommendable when you are nearby is the Rheinland-Pfalz-Biwak on the Wassertalkogel – a really cozy mountain shelter with a magnificent view including the Wildspitze, at an altitude of 3,252 meters. A memorable destination and clearly a personal highlight for me whenever I am around in this beautiful corner of Austria.
Varied ski slopes & inspiring hiking trails – the diversity of the Ötztal Alps
Even if you completely leave out ski touring, there are more than enough reasons to love the Ötztal Alps anyway. The ski resorts here offer pure variety: Sölden, as one of the best-known ski and snowboard centers in Europe, has around 144 kilometers of slopes in all levels of difficulty, two glaciers and 31 lifts. Three 3,000-meter peaks with viewing platforms can even be reached directly with the lift. Perfect if you don't have time for long ascents or if you want to enjoy the view together with your family.
In the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl ski resort, there are also perfect trails to discover on a total of 108 kilometers of slopes. As in Sölden, the snow is fantastic most of the year – already from September onwards. And those who prefer to move beyond the big lift areas can explore a little jewel in Vent: the small ski resort at the end of the valley comprises only 15 kilometers of slopes; nonetheless, this mountaineering village offers an incomparably homely atmosphere.
You can make a choice out of six ski resorts in the Ötztal Alps and enjoy an extensive network of cross-country trails with a total length of impressive 143 kilometers. So more than enough to discover even for regular visitors.
What is great, the Ötztal region is a holiday destination with a wow factor in summer as well. The view from the Seelenkogel over the glaciers is simply breathtaking – and that is just one experience of many. Around 1,600 kilometers of hiking trails wait to be explored here and, in return, offer wonderful views of the vast mountain landscape.
Those who like to climb peaks will get their money's worth here too: with over 250 three-thousand-meter peaks, there is more than enough choice for every personal route planning. The 12 summer mountain lifts can of course be used as a convenient support for your activities to see as much as possible in the limited time.
Are you ready for the Ötztal Alps?
Can you now empathize with why I love the Ötztal Alps so much and why I recommend them wholeheartedly when asked for tips for Austria? It is best to explore the area yourself as soon as possible – whether alone in the wake of a thirst for adventure or on a family vacation.
I am looking forward to your experiences. We will be happy to hear from your – just feel free to send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.