A ski trip to Zell am See in Austria that's like being in a fairy-tale

An enchanting hotel, a magical setting and powder-soft slopes… A ski trip to Zell am See in Austria that’s like being in a fairy-tale

  • Carol Driver checks into the Grand Hotel Zell am See, which is nestled in Austria’s SalzburgerLand 
  • She reveals that the hotel serves ‘exquisite’ food, has an amazing spa and is extremely handy for the slopes 
  • The area boasts 167 miles of pistes, accessed with one pass – and has a viewing platform at 10,000ft to boot 

Grand Hotel Zell am See is nestled in Austria’s SalzburgerLand, in the picturesque town from which it takes its name, amid scenery that befits a postcard.

The backdrop? The imposing, breathtaking Schmittenhohe mountains. The foreground? Stunning Lake Zee.

In short, like a fairy-tale.

Carol Driver checked into the enchanting Grand Hotel Zell am See, which stands proudly on the Lake Zee shoreline

Carol describes Grand Hotel Zell am See as a ‘traditional alpine-style hotel… dripping with ornate “Belle Epoque”‘ designs

My husband and I have brought our three-year-old daughter here for her first skiing trip, with the nearby slopes making for the perfect location for beginners, as well as advanced skiers and snowboarders that like more challenging off-piste action.

Deciding where to go is something of a welcome headache – we’re spoiled for choice. There are new lifts linking the 77km (47 miles) of runs in Zell am See with the extensive 270km (167 miles) of pistes at Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Ski Circus – accessible all with one pass called an Alpin Card.

We’re staying at the Grand for three nights, in a double room boasting a balcony, with breathtaking views across the icy-blue Lake Zee.

The Grand Hotel Zell am See can be seen in this stunning photo on the far shore

The traditional alpine-style hotel, which stands proudly on a lakeside peninsula, dates back to the 19th century and is dripping with ornate ‘Belle Epoque’ designs throughout.

We’re staying in a glorious, apartment-style suite, which means we have access to the luxury Grandspa, too, where we enjoy swimming a few laps in the heated indoor pool, and warming up in the Turkish steam bath.

After settling in, we stroll through Zell am See’s cobbled streets, past a medieval church, stopping at one of the many busy cafes to refuel with a hot chocolate and a slice of cake.

A deluxe double room at the Grand, which Carol says offers breathtaking lake views

The spa facilities (pictured) at the Grand are impressive. There is a heated indoor pool, Turkish steam bath and treatments such as luxurious facials and massages are available (stock image)

Yum’s the word: Carol describes the food served at the Grand, pictured, as ‘exquisite’

Rooms at Grand Hotel Zell am See start from €768 (£640) per person for a seven-night stay based on two sharing a double lake view room

Handily, the ski lift is just 800 metres away from the Grand and during the winter there is a free shuttle service from the hotel to the gondola that only takes a few minutes.

Gentle slopes and a ski school make Zell popular with families and first-timers, while there are also tree-lined trails and wide-open pistes on the mountain range for all skill levels.

We hop on to the gondola, heading to Schmittenhohe, where there are 50 miles of powder-soft slopes, as well as bars and restaurants along the way.

Gentle family pistes are ideal for new skiers, while the ‘standard’ and ‘trass’ runs are exhilarating choices for pros. Plus, there’s a World Cup downhill for the very brave.

After a lovely afternoon finding our feet again with a few gentle runs, taking it in turns as we help get our little girl used to wearing her skis, we head back to the warm comforts of our hotel.

The Top Of Salzburg viewing platform on Kitzsteinhorn, which offers jaw-dropping views from 3,029m (9,937ft)

We store our equipment in the handy locker room, then head to the elegant lounge area, where we help ourselves to cakes and biscuits, all served with hot tea. Delicious!

Then we’re off to the spa to relax. Also available are treatments such as luxurious facials and massages. Then we wander to the elegant upstairs lounge area.

In the evening, the restaurant is transformed, and we dine upstairs from an exquisite menu, featuring everything from local delights to international favourites.

After a few glasses of wine, we’re ready for bed – and a ski adventure in the morning.

We’re up early to make the 20-minute drive to the village of Kaprun to ski the legendary Kitzsteinhorn – Salzburg’s highest ski area at nearly 10,000ft high and home to the city’s only glacier ski resort.

With 33 slopes combining 25 miles and all abilities, the Kitzsteinhorn is ideal for learners, beginners and the more adventurous.

Carol explains that there are plenty of fun activities and areas at Zell am See for little ones

I leave my husband and daughter at the SkiDome where she’s enjoying a day of ski lessons at the brilliant Bobo adventure park, where there are lots of fun activities for little ones.

With my trusty ski guide, we make our way up to the top of the Kitzsteinhorn. There’s nothing quite like it.

For starters, there are activities to enjoy up here for the ski-fatigued, such as the Top Of Salzburg viewing platform, which offers jaw-dropping views from 3,029m (9,937ft).

We make our way along the slopes, passing a cinema as well as a restaurant, and head towards the impressive Ice Camp where you can enjoy drinks and chilled-out music. There’s also an Ice Camp trail for hikers. 

The Kitzsteinhorn glacier is a magnificent ski area, which can be accessed by a funicular railway 

The Kitzsteinhorn has 33 slopes in total and challenges for skiers of all abilities, writes Carol

Other non-skiing mountain activities of note include the year-round toboggan run, Maisi Flitzer, further down the mountain at the valley station of the MK Maiskogelbahn (Kaprun Center) and the natural spectacle that is the Sigmund Thun Gorge, boasting fascinating scenery.

Back at the base camp, it’s my husband’s turn to enjoy the slopes, while my daughter and I head to one of the nearby restaurants to load our plates with pizza and chips – followed by the obligatory hot chocolate.

Ready to rest. We head back to our hotel to relax in our room before dinner, and to get a good night’s sleep before doing it all again in the morning. Bliss!

When it comes to ski family holidays, Zell am See really does have it all.


Carol opted for ethical brand Polarn O Pyret’s ski jacket and boots to keep her daughter snug (stock image)

Carol Driver was hosted by Grand Hotel Zell am See (www.grandhotel-zellamsee.at/en). Prices from €768 (£640) per person for a seven-night stay based on two sharing a double lake view room with balcony on a half-board basis (option of two children – up to 12 years – to stay free of charge, including half-board meals, in a room with two paying adults). 


For information about Zell am See-Kaprun, lift passes and ski school visit www.zellamsee-kaprun.com. For information about the SalzburgerLand region visit www.salzburgerLand.com.

Ski kit 

Keeping little ones warm in the snow is always a challenge.

Carol opted for ethical brand Polarn O Pyret’s ski jacket and boots to keep her daughter snug. It has also launched a free repairs service to customers who have bought outerwear apparel (it doesn’t matter when), and they’ll fix zips or broken poppers, inline with POP’s ongoing commitment to become even more sustainable.

Visit www.polarnopyret.co.uk/blogs/pop-magazine/repairs. 

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