An idyllic medieval town perched on the edge of a stunning lake, Zell am See isn't your usual Austrian resort, and is the perfect retreat for those looking for a winter holiday in peaceful, scenic surroundings. Giant mountains surround the resort and its cream-coloured buildings. When the lake freezes, people jump into action - fishing through the ice, going ice-boating, curling or skating right across the surface to Thumers-bach village. Joined with neighbouring Kaprun, the resort is a part of the Europa Sport Region, and the mainly intermediate-friendly skiing is spread over three mountains - Schmittenhöhe, which you can access straight from Zell am See, Maiskogel and the Kitzsteinhorn glacier in Kaprun which are accessed by a short bus ride.
The region offers 130 km of downhill pistes and more than 200km of pistes for cross country lovers along a well-prepared network of trails. The glacier offers 365 days a year skiing, making Zell am See-Kaprun a great late season and even summer destination as well. Intermediates will be able to cover just about the whole area, and will love the freedom of the uninterrupted 6.3 km Schüttenabfahrt run. Beginners will enjoy the convenient nursery slopes at the Sonnenalm lifts, and some gentle tree-lined runs.
Experts can test themselves on the World Cup downhill course, and the glacier at Kaprun. There are several other black pistes, but if spending a decent period of time here, there is limited really challenging terrain for advanced skiers and snowboarders. If you have hired a car, it's worth visiting some of the nearby resorts, including Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Bad Gastein-Bad Hofgastein, Wagrain, Schladming and Obertauern. As with any low altitude resort, the snow is not always reliable, and lifts can get long at the glacier. While having won awards for its family facilities, Zell am See also draws a young funky crowd with its lively après-ski scene. The old village dates back to the 13th century and has been pedestrianised, making it a lot more peaceful. You can wander through the winding streets and check out the ancient church and city tower. This is a fun, lively resort in a beautiful setting which will suit beginners, intermediates families and young groups.