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A beginner's guide to skiing in Zell am See

View of Zell am See


If you’re looking for a spectacular setting for your first ski trip, Zell am See in Salzburgerland, Austria, could be just right.

The ski resort sits above the 4 km by 1.5 km Lake Zell, which, whilst swimmable in the summer, freezes over in winter for a picture-perfect scene.

Often referred to in the same breath as its neighbouring resort, Kaprun, both resorts offer a warm welcome - especially to beginners.


In this beginner's guide, we answer:



Let’s dive into the details of your first trip to Zell am See.



Is Zell am See a good resort for beginners?


Very well suited to beginners and intermediates, Zell am See is famous for its excellent and long-standing ski school, for gentle and well-groomed slopes, and for the fact that you can learn to ski high up the mountainside, whilst enjoying the incredible views of the surrounding peaks.

Children are very well catered-for with themed fun runs, and lots of thrills off-slope too. 

As authentic first time ski holiday destinations go, Zell am See is up there. It's a picturesque resort town boasting lots of amenities, including bars, restaurants, and shops, with everything you need on your doorstep - should you choose to stay in the town itself (more on where to stay as a beginner next).


If Alpine charm is at the top of your list, make sure to check out Meribel - another great resort for beginners. It's chalets and bustling centre make it super-attractive to groups and families.


Where to stay in Zell am See if you’re a beginner


There are three areas to choose from if you're a beginner coming to Zell am See. If you love hustle and bustle and want to be within easy access of bars and restaurants, stay in Zell town centre. There are regular buses (every 15 minutes in high season)* to the main ski lifts in the area, with the central bus stop at the Postplatz (marked on the map below).

If getting the bus in the morning isn't an attractive thought, you could stay nearer the Schmittenhohebahn and the two beginner slopes next to it. This area is outside of town, but there is a bus that takes you into the resort centre every 15 minutes (last bus back shortly before 11pm), which means you'll still be able to frequent all the bars and restaurants Zell am See has to offer in the evening.*

Just outside of the main town is the area of Schüttdorf, which has two beginner slopes. Again, the area is very well connected to Zell am See by bus (it takes just ten minutes), and has the arietXpress gondola which whizzes you up to the heart of the skiing area.

 *Bus information reflects the 23/24 season and is subject to change.



Is Zell am See suitable for a first time family ski holiday?


Families fall in love with Zell am See, not only for its captivating, lively atmosphere and events and festivals for every age, but on the slopes too for the fun runs and snow parks.

Look out for Schmidolin, a friendly dragon mascot bringing smiles to kids’ faces at the Drachenpark zone.

Later on the whole family can enjoy floodlit tobogganing until 10 p.m.

For a day off, head to the incredible Tauern Spa in nearby Kaprun for soothing baths and saunas in the shadow of the mighty Kitzsteinhorn Glacier. The dedicated children’s area keeps the younger ones happy with pools and exhilarating slides.


Gordon Ritter, Head of Product at Iglu Ski has been to Zell am See multiple times with his young family. He mentions:


"Zell am See is a convenient 1 hour 15 minutes transfer from Salzburg airport, while the partially pedestrianised centre is a great place to wonder around safely with kids in tow. There are numerous large hotels with rooms suitable for families and great facilities to match. It's also a resort to suit all budgets. There's a great kids playground called 'Kidsslpoe' accessed via the AreitXpress and also the Dragon park accessed via the Schmittenhöhe (more central). As far as the slopes are concerned, plenty of easy wide-open runs to suit all the family."


Read more:

Another family-centric resort is La Plagne, and it just so happens to be great for beginners. It doesn't have quite the same Alpine charm, but big points for everything it does to cater to families.



Beginner skiing in Zell am See


Easy runs are blue rather than green in Zell am See, with the blue nursery slopes designed specifically for first timers.

In total there are 30 km of blues, making up 39% of the resort and it’s worth knowing that runs are numbered rather than named here.

There are beginners’ lifts in the valley in Schüttdorf and near the main Schmittenhohebahn lift. In Schüttdorf try the Schmidolins Zauberteppich (magic carpet) or the Bambilift (a button lift). 

Most beginners enjoy the runs around the Areitbahn and around the Glocknerbahn and Breiteckbahn lifts. Ascend there from either Zell or Schüttdorf.

At the AreitXpress mountain station, there is a beginners’ area with a moving carpet.


Where to head when you’re ready to explore Zell am See


From the nursery slopes at Schüttdorf there are lovely long easy runs to progress to, including 3 and 3a serviced by the Glocknerbahn lift. 

Alternatively, around Sonnkogel the wide runs are relatively quiet and great for learning to control turns. Higher up, the slopes at the Kapellenbahn, Kettingbahn and Hahnkopf lifts are also perfect for beginners.

What’s more, the short, gentle blue runs off the back of the mountain make good progression runs.


Top Tip

Zell am See is now very well linked, not only to Kaprun but also to the Skicircus, which includes Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn - good news for those coming as part of a big mixed ability group.


How much do local lift passes cost in Zell am See?


For adults, a daily lift pass costs €72, but it's usually better value to buy a lift pass for the total number of days you plan on skiing. An adult pass for six days in Zell am See is €377, which equates to roughly €62 a day - much better value.

Children benefit from a cheaper lift pass in Zell am See. You can purchase 16-18 year olds the Youth pass for €54 for the day, or just over €47 a day for six days of skiing, while kids 6-15 can have the child pass which is cheaper still. 

Prices are for the 23/24 season for Zell am See and Kaprun combined. 

If you are likely to want to ski in the Skicircus, buy a Ski Alpin Card to cover all of those lifts, in addition to Zell am See and Kaprun.


Is there a free or discounted lift pass for Zell am See?


Typically there is a slight reduction for the very first weeks of the season, until the third week of December. And it's worth bearing in mind your lift pass includes the local bus, so you can easily try all the nursery slopes at Zell and Schüttdorf and have plenty of slopes for practice.



Can you access après bars and restaurants from the beginner slopes?


One of the many attractions of Zell am See is the number of mountain huts offering delicious food and a warm welcome until teatime, and sometimes later. Most you can ski to and from and/or grab a lift down after a drink.

At the top of the slopes, aim for the SchnapsHans Bar in the Berghotel, at the upper terminus of the Schmittenhöhebahn. It promises ‘summit senses’ in a traditional hut atmosphere and offers local delicacies and drinks by the open fire. Get out onto the sun terrace in the Spring with views of 30 3000m peaks, and enjoy the end of the skiing day. Open until 4.30 p.m.

The Breiteckalm is over 70 years old and is located at the trassXpress connecting cable car, meaning if you’re too tired for a last run home, you can jump on the lift and be taken back to the valley at Zell in comfort.

The Glockneralm was recently refurbished and offers a Happy Hour between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Not far from the Drachenpark children’s piste at the top of the Areitbahn II, you can chill out in the cosy lounges until 5 p.m.

At the Hochzelleralm at the summit of the Schmittenhöhe, there are hot dumplings to welcome you, and more awesome views.

For the end of the week, when your confidence is high, head for the Pinzgauer Hütte–a hidden gem, down a side track to the left of blue run 9a from the Kapellenbahn. You’ll never forget your exit, it’s a skidoo tow back to the piste. Open until 10 p.m.


How much do ski lessons cost in Zell am See?


There is an excellent and flexible Ski School in Zell am See, founded in 1945, with over 120 instructors. In fact, it’s one of the biggest ski schools in Austria, and there is a choice of other schools waiting to help you progress from beginner to experienced skier.

Beginners usually start in a small group getting used to their equipment and doing simple drills on gentle slopes either in the valley or higher up the mountain.

A group lesson starts at €95 per person per session, reducing to €59 if 5 days are pre booked, rising to €145 per hour for a private teacher. In groups, you’ll typically buy a 5 or 6 day-long series of lessons. Private lessons can be as short as one hour and upwards to suit you.

You may like a private family lesson for 1 or 2 adults and a maximum of 3 children aged 4 to 15 years from €370 per 4 hours.

Private classes do get booked up early, especially for school holiday dates, so get ahead to confirm your choice. Here are ‘from’ prices, indicative for the 23/24 season.


Ski School Group lesson per adult per session Group lesson per child per session Private lesson per adult per hour Private lesson per child per hour
Ski School Zell am See Peak: €95 Non peak: €95 (up to 10% discount available) Peak: €95 Non peak: €95 (up to 10% discount available) Peak: €85 Non peak: €85 (up to 10% discount available) Peak: €85 Non peak: €85 (up to 10% discount available)
Outdo Peak: n/a Non peak: n/a Peak: €50 Non peak: €50 Peak: €75 Non peak: €75 Peak: €60 Non peak: €60
Sport Alpin Peak: €90 Non peak: €90 (up to 15% discount available) Peak: €95 Non peak: €95 (up to 15% discount available) Peak: €145 Non peak: €145 (up to 15% discount available) Peak: €145 Non peak: €145 (up to 15% discount available)


Is there a beginner-friendly snow park in Zell am See?


The 1.5 km Funslope XXL is suitable for beginners with brilliant, fun tunnels, giant hands and even a speed trap to record how fast you can go.

Nearby, at the top of the Hochmaisbahn chairlift, is a terrain park suitable for beginners with 12 obstacles including butter boxes, wave boxes and kickers. It’s perfect for beginners who are just discovering their love of freestyling.


Overall, is Zell am See a good choice for beginners?


Zell am See is a very good choice for beginners, especially those looking for varied, wooded slopes with fine views as they learn to ski on this horse-shoe-shaped mountain.

Zell itself is a charming medieval, car-free town with plenty to explore. As confidence rises, it’s easy to progress to neighbouring valleys for more skiing, and with top après all season long, it’s the perfect destination for a beginner ski holiday.