Tyrol: the best insider-tips on and off the slopes
The Tyrolean mountains can also be explored off-piste on skis, from the air or in the company of animals. But the right place to stop for refreshments is never far away.
The sky over the Zillertal is wide. And yet for Armin Fankhauser, it is within reach. It hangs on special thin cords under a 26 square metre piece of plastic high above the 2095 metre high Penken. "For me, paragliding means passion and ultimate freedom," says Fankhauser. "The step into the air is very special," is how he describes his hobby, which he has been pursuing since the 1990s and has now turned into a second profession.
Fankhauser offers tandem flights for guests. On the other hand, he has dedicated himself to the production of fine brandies and liqueurs for twenty years. What began with rowanberry schnapps has now grown into an extensive portfolio from one of the highest distilleries in Austria. In addition to single-variety fruit brandies and creamy-sweet liqueurs, his range also includes specialities such as a fruit cuvée matured in oak barrels or a "roasted Swiss stone pine" refined with honey. With "a sweet dessert schnapps to go with an espresso", Fankhauser delivers a promise of enjoyment - similar to a paragliding flight from the Penken down to Mayrhofen. "When you take off and have the panorama of the Zillertal main ridge with the forests and snow-covered peaks in front of you and the imposing valley basin a good 1500 metres below you, it's a different dimension," he enthuses.
... and action!
In Fankhauser's neighbourhood, in Tux-Lanersbach, Sebastian Stock ensures that taste buds also take off on flights of fancy. At his Chef's Table in the "Bergfried", the thermals are perfect for sightseeing flights through his very own cosmos of flavours with direct insights into the kitchen. The nine courses are accompanied by wines that are perfectly matched to the menu.
At "Brugger's Genießerhotel Lanersbacher Hof", it is Toni Fercher in turn who provides tasty indulgence experiences based around his signature creation from Tuxer Steinschaf sheep, and thanks to artful presentations also provides a full visual board for the eyes.
Anyone looking for alternatives to the 544 kilometres of ski slopes and paragliding will find what they are looking for in what is probably Tyrol's most famous Inn side valley. On the one hand, you can test the finely groomed toboggan runs on the Spieljoch and on the Bichlalm. On the other hand, at Ahorn in Mayrhofen you can try out the grandchildren's version of the good old toboggan, the Generation Z of the toboggan scene, so to speak: the "PistenBock" is a steerable toboggan construction in which the runners under the seat are divided into a fixed rear section and a movable front section. Steering is done by pressing with the feet on the desired side of the front axle.
With snowtubing, on the other hand, targeted steering tends to be a product of chance. Maximum fun, on the other hand, is guaranteed if you hurtle down the toboggan run on the Gerlosstein sitting on an oversized floating tire. In the valley, the "Rocky 7" in the architecturally striking "Hotel Zillergrund" in Mayrhofen (where Alexander Hönigsberger creates special eight-course menus) or the "Heleni" at the "Posthotel" in Zell with its down-to-earth, straightforward, but carefree-creative kitchen line.
Destination addresses for great moments of indulgence.
"A very high level of quality"
Back in the Inn Valley, you are spoiled for choice: either head west to Seefeld or east to the Wilder Kaiser-Kitzbühel region. "The Kayser, a very high mountain range, like an imperial crown" - this is how the striking limestone mountain range north of Kitzbühel is described in a map over 400 years old. This imposing appearance has not changed since then. The only difference is that since then, more than 80 lifts and 270 kilometres of slopes have crept into the landscape, providing a correspondingly diverse range of offers. But even without skis and snowboards, you can experience winter at all altitudes between Ellmau, Going, Scheffau and Söll.
Whether on the weekly pleasure hikes, where regional cycles and local specialities are explained (and tasted), or by means of a specially issued winter hiking pass, which allows two daily uphill and downhill rides of your choice and thus considerably expands the radius of movement. If you don't want to be alone, you can enjoy the company of animals; hikes with llamas start regularly from the "Koglhof" in Ellmau. Originating from South America, these shaggy four-legged friends are not only herbivores but also stress eaters.
The deceleration factor for humans is high when they trudge through the snow shoulder to shoulder with the llamas. It is not always clear who is actually leading, because the hoofed animals not only have pointed ears and big eyes, but also a strong will and each has its own character. In any case, there is plenty to talk about at the evening gourmet spectacle in Günter Lampert and David Wagger's "Kulinarium" in the "Kaiserhof" or in the "Bär" in Ellmau, where Carinthian-born Herbert Wieser is now the new man at the stove responsible for refined taste experiences with regional origins. However, the density of top gastronomic addresses in the vast realm of the Wilder Kaiser is now so high that a standard vacation is not enough anyway. Because once you've been through the big names like the "Stanglwirt" in Going or the "Krummerei" on Söll's main square, nearby Kitzbühel still awaits.
In the Gamsstadt
In the Gamsstadt, the cold season is celebrated like hardly anywhere else in the Alps. 8300 inhabitants, the most important race weekend in the Ski World Cup, top-class gastronomy and an almost magnetic effect on the international public result in a mix that makes the municipality the winter metropolis of (at least) western Austria. The range of options for spending your daytime leisure time in the mountains between the Hahnenkamm and Kitzbüheler Horn is extensive, and the choice of evening gourmet addresses is just as dense.
In the "Restaurant Berggericht", Marco Gatterer manages to symbiotically combine influences from his Tyrolean homeland with French haute cuisine and compile avant-garde dishes that enchant the palate. The "Tennerhof" also extends its culinary hand to France, while at the "Sonnbühel" it is the Mediterranean region that leaves its mark on the plate. Meanwhile, "Lois Stern" has pursued a European-Asian cross-over line in his open show kitchen in Kitzbühel for years. Only the "Weißes Rössl" brings Asia to the Alpine town in an even more radical way.
"Zuma" moves into the traditional Kitzbühel hotel as a pop-up restaurant during the winter months and serves Japanese cuisine at the highest level. This international concentrate leaves plenty of room for traditional Alpine cuisine to shine elsewhere - whether on the mountain or in the village, for example in the "Bichlhof" or the "Kaiserhof".
They all provide the culinary soundtrack to the region's main course: 233 kilometres of slopes, spread over 575 hectares and served by 57 lifts. The two newest facilities (Gauxjoch, Trattenbach) focus on sustainability through new technology. Based on the specific access data at the valley station, not only the speed but also the seat heating on the lift is controlled according to demand and thus in an energy-saving manner.
Gentle winter in Seefeld
Those who want to avoid the hustle and bustle will find the perfect setting further west in Seefeld. 34 lifts provide variety here too, but the focus on the high plateau above Innsbruck is clearly on cross-country skiing and winter hiking. The 245-kilometre network of cross-country ski trails connects the five villages between Seefeld, Leutasch and Reith, and a free bus service facilitates transfers.
The breathtaking backdrop of the Wetterstein and Karwendel mountains makes a lasting impression. Accompanying restaurants, such as the "Alpin Resort Sacher" or the "Seefelder Stube" in the "Marcati Hotel", provide culinary delights. And the skies are not stingy either, gracing the plateau with 2,400 hours of sunshine a year - best enjoyed on a walk through the countryside. The protected area around the Wildsee lake, gave the small settlement of "Sevelt" (Feld am See) its first documented name 1000 years ago.
TIPS & ADDRESSES
Toni Fercher fuses Tyrolean tradition with international inspiration and flavour-intensive vitality cuisine.
Lanersbach 388, 6293 Tux
T: +43 5287 87256, lanersbacherhof.at
Genießerstube im Alpenhof
"Alpine Taste" is the name of the special kitchen line created by Maximilian Stock. He uses regional basic produce and meat from his own farm.
Hintertux 750, 6293 Tux
T: +43 5287 8550, alpenhof.at
Alexander Fankhauser displays first-class craftsmanship and a keen sense for the extraordinary. The excellently curated wine selection completes the perfection.
Hochfügen 34, 6264 Fügenberg
T: +43 5280 225, lamark.at
Rocky 7 im ZillergrundRock
The hotel is an architectural eye-catcher, Alexander Hönigsberger's cuisine a culinary one. Multi-course menus with guaranteed enjoyment.
Zillergrund 903, 6290 Mayrhofen
T: +43 5285 62377, zillergrund.at
When the curtain rises on Sebastian Stock's Chef's Table, the highest culinary artistry takes to the stage. In the leading roles are Alpine and Mediterranean cuisine in a spectacular setting.
Lanersbach 483, 6293 Tux
T: +43 5287 87239, bergfried.at
Marco Gatterer draws inspiration for his "Alpine Fine Dining" from local and French cuisine to create an aromatic wonder of flavours.
Hinterstadt 15, 6370 Kitzbühel
T: +43 670 6045450, berggericht.at
Francophile accent in Tyrolean specialities, with the elegant signature of Johannes Denk. And a contemporary dining culture. An overall experience.
Griesenauweg 26, 6370 Kitzbühel
T: +43 5356 63181, tennerhof.com
Contemporary Japanese dishes and sushi variations of the highest international standard find their way to the foot of the Hahnenkamm.
Bichlstraße 5, 6370 Kitzbühel
T: +43 5356 71900, roesslkitz.at
The trio Martina Feyrsinger, Alexander Knelle and Jürgen Kleinhappl offer the whole range from vegetarian to steak - and traditional Tyrolean dishes in between.
Florianigasse 15, 6370 Kitzbühel
T: +43 5356 691158, neuwirtkitz.com
Wilder Kaiser region
New chef, old quality. The bear is still going strong under Herbert Wieser and impresses with fine compositions made from regional produce.
Kirchbichl 9, 6352 Ellmau
T: +43 5358 2395, hotelbaer.com
Kulinarium im Kaiserhof
Günter Lampert guarantees that even with a daily changing menu, the quality is served at the highest level.
Harmstätt 8, 6352 Ellmau
T: +43 5358 2022, kaiserhof-ellmau.at
Margarete Hautz and Alexander Schmiedhofer dig deep into the regional treasure trove of ingredients for their cuisine, along with a well-stocked wine list.
Leiten 33, 6351 Scheffau am Wilden Kaiser
T: +43 5358 73370, hotel-leitenhof.at
Alpin Resort Sacher
The cuisine at this five-star superior hotel has won several awards. It offers fine dining that does not hide its Tyrolean roots.
Geigenbühelstraße 185, 6100 Seefeld
T: +43 5212 22720, astoria-seefeld.com
Austrian specialities or Italian classics or an honest-to-goodness surf & turf duet? Here you are spoiled for choice.
Innsbrucker Straße 23, 6100 Seefeld
T: +43 5212 2383, marcati.at
The snow-covered forest in the background provides an idyllic setting for original Tyrolean inn cuisine and local classics.
Triendlsäge 259, 6100 Seefeld
T: +43 5212 2580, triendlsaege.at
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