Discover Alpbach
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Discover Alpbach

I wouldn't say the churchyard is the liveliest place in Alpbach but one of the many delights of the village is that isn't alive to the constant sound of disco music and oompah bands. Another rare feature is that you struggle to find a bar with a giant flat screen television showing live Premier League games or a shop with permanent 'sale' sign plastered across its windows.

And if you still need to be convinced there is something special about Alpbach, when I went to the hire shop counter to settle up for my skis and boots the response was: ‘Not now – pay us when you bring them back'.

Alpbach


Can there really be a ski village in the Alps where they DON'T want your money upfront? But, to be fair, Alpbach isn't so much a ski resort, it's more a village from where you go skiing. And that makes it special. One of the many reasons to ski in Austria is that it has resorts to suit every taste.

If you want style and sophistication – and to wear your mink coat without disapproving glances - there's the likes of Lech and Kitzbühel. If you prefer to drink from dusk to dawn you’ll be in good company in Ishgl or Saalbach Hinterglemm. But if you made your debut on the slopes in the days when you raised an arm above your head and curled your fingers over the tip of the ski to find the correct length, there is Alpbach.

Don't get me wrong. Up on the slopes you aren't more likely to plough into a Zimmer frame rather than a snowboard but the village itself really is different and so treasured by British skiers that many never go anywhere else.

Alpbach is small. It has a population of just 2700 and it’s less than a mile from one end of the village to the other but in the ski season it doubles in size with 3000 guest beds.

Alpbach

I stayed in Haus Angelika, a spacious pension where Lisa and Georg (correct) Lenk are so anxious to please that to satisfy one fussy family George made a daily delivery of free range eggs and unpasteurized milk from their own farm. More practically the ski bus starts just a few paces from the front door.

So what about the actual skiing? The main lifts are a frequent and friendly ski bus away and the 100 plus kilometres of pistes and 46 lifts offer enough variety to satisfy all but the most extreme skiers. There is also a fun slope for children, a park for boarders and a four kilometre toboggan run.

The best place on the mountain to stop for lunch is always a crucial queston. My favourite has to be the Bogalm where spit roasted chicken is a speciality. I also spent one pleasant morning escaping a blizzard in the spacious and functional Hornboden where I shared a glass or two with a veteran of Alpbach who pleaded with me not to be too complimentary 'in case you encourage more Brits to come and crowd the place'. He meant it.

Finally, back to my favourite churchyard. There has been a church in the village since 1369 and its doors are never closed. Ideally, visit it at night when the sight of impeccably kept graves, all marked with imposing iron crosses and lit by flickering red candles, is just one reason why Alpbach is so different and special.

But if including a graveyard on your après ski itinerary unnerves you, there is also a one-man brewery where Jos Moser produces a range of award-winning beers. There are tastings and tours and you can leave with 15, 30 and 50 litre barrels. Alpbach, however, isn’t the sort of ski village where they will appreciate you rolling them down the high street.



GETTING THERE Inghams is one of the few operators featuring Alpbach, package ski holidays (including flights and transfers) can be organised via Iglu Ski. Browse ski holidays to Alpbach here. The nearest airport is Innsbruck. A taxi direct to Alpbach with four sharing is around €140. Or by train to Jenbach or Wörgl and a free bus to Alpbach.  Austrian Tourist Office Information Line: 00800 400 200 00.

Words: Peter Miller

Photos: TVB Alpbachtal Seenland Tourismus