Bad Hofgastein is a quiet spa town set in the widest part of the Gastein Valley. The historic centre was once full of wealthy mine owners but now the pedestrianised streets are packed with cosy cafés, bars and restaurants as well as fountains bubbling with water from the thermal springs.
Local folk traditions play a major part in the area year round but the big draw seems to be as the neighbouring Italians put it 'dolce far niente' - the art of doing nothing. This isn't the place for a fast paced ski holiday. Put your laptops away, don't set your alarm and have lazy days on the mountain followed by rejuvenating spas and delicious food.
Skiing in the resort
With a good mix of wide open runs towards the peaks and tree lined runs further down, Bad Hofgastein is geared towards those that love to cruise around on reds all day. There's plenty of blues on offer as well and if you're more towards the advanced end of the ski spectrum then you'll love the off-piste opportunities up Sportgastein, though make sure you take a guide. And what makes the runs even better is that they're pretty much empty, you may even find yourself having the slope to yourself.
From the town, the funicular up the mountain can get busy first thing in the morning, but grab that lie in and you won't see a lift queue all day. Head for the Hohe Scharte Nord; the stand out run of the ski area, over 10 km long it's a real leg burner and the views are great.
Though the resort is Austrian it’s not the usual party atmosphere we've come to expect from Austrian resorts. Up on the mountain, places such as Aeroplanstadl get pretty lively as well as one or two at the base of the slopes. However, the après scene is all about the spas here, a little relaxation after your days on the mountain. The Alpentherme Spa has 36,000 square metres of sauna and relaxation worlds and is well worth a visit. Alternatively, the food is gorgeous with plenty of traditional options. Bars are also plentiful if you're looking for a quiet drink, there's plenty of decent choices but just not the lively atmosphere to go with it.
What we like:
- Exceptional mountain spas with natural thermal waters
- Extensive wide slopes
- Great mountain restaurants for long lunches
- Good mix of open pistes and tree lined runs
- There is a new gondola for the 18/19 winter season which will go to the Intersport where you can rent lockers and store your equipment meaning you can take the bus/walk in your normal shoes
- Depending on where you're staying you may have to take a short but very punctual bus ride to the funicular each morning
- The après scene is fairly quiet, more sitting in a sauna than dancing on tables, though there is a lively scene at the bottom of the slopes straight after skiing
- The ski area is part of the ski amadé meaning if you buy a 2 day or more lift pass you could have a day trip out to one of the other five resorts included on the lift pass (760km of pistes in total) buses are free