More reporting from beyond the world of the Blue Books.
Kitzbühel in Austria's Tyrol Bundesland has been on my winter wish-list for quite some time, and now I've finally made the trip. Even though they all have similarities, every Alpine resort I've visited has it's own character and variation on some common themes. Kitzbühel is no exception. The central area of the town looks quite different from what I've seen elsewhere. Whereas towns like Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Lech and Oberstdorf look like rustic towns that became wealthy because of tourism, Kitzbühel has the look of a prosperous town that became ever richer once people starting coming here for skiing. The center reminds me a little bit of Berchtesgaden- instead of chalet-type buildings, you see those brightly painted multi-story structures with the thick stone and plaster walls. Wooden and stone chalets are prominent outside the downtown. The old center contains mostly expensive spa hotels, expensive restaurants, high class wine bars and expensive boutiques. Expensive seems to be a common theme in this town. If you're looking to excede your usual yearly clothing budget with a single purchase, Kitzbühel beckons.
Alpine views: From the town, the vistas are fairly restricted. Typical of many Alpine locations, when you're in the valley, the geometry of the of lower slopes blocks your view of most of the high peaks, which are generally recessed further back. Although it's definately scenic, the views won't immediately blow your mind, like you might see in the Berner Oberland or the Swiss Rhône valley. Once you ascend, though, the peaks jump out at you.
Skiing: Even though the conditions haven't been great since I've been here, I really like the layout of the pistes. The skiing areas are spread out over a very large geographic area, but you can access most of the slopes without descending to the valley. T-bars and rope tows (which I hate!) are few and far between. There's more than enough mountain restaurants and bars to keep your appetite and thirst under control while you ski. Most of the pistes are not particularly difficult. This would be a great place for beginners and intermediates. One complaint on that front, however. The easy "exit piste" that takes you back to downtown Kitzbühel is temporarily closed. This means that the only way to exit the slopes is to take the "racing piste" where they hold international ski competitions. At the end of the day, when my muscles are usually screaming at me to take a break, I would prefer a nice gentle descent, rather than an Olympic-caliber downhill. I can imagine beginners have a particular hard time getting down the mountain. (cont.)