Within the last two to three years, flight connections to the Alps for Jersey skiers have improved greatly, and it is now possible to leave Jersey in the morning and be in your resort by early afternoon using scheduled airline flights.  Previously it was not uncommon to spend hours in airports waiting for connections or even having to stay overnight on the way.

Notably, Blue Islands fly direct from Jersey to Geneva and Zurich with a laid-back departure time of 11am and British Airways fly five times a week to both Innsbruck and Salzburg in Austria, from Jersey at 7am via Gatwick. All these airports have ski resorts within an hour by road.

Within the last two to three years, flight connections to the Alps for Jersey skiers have improved greatly, and it is now possible to leave Jersey in the morning and be in your resort by early afternoon using scheduled airline flights.  Previously it was not uncommon to spend hours in airports waiting for connections or even having to stay overnight on the way.

 

With the British Airways flights your luggage is routed through from Jersey to your final destination and you stay ‘airside’ in Gatwick, which entails a much shorter security queue before accessing the departure lounge and duty free shops. Total journey time to Innsbruck is four hours, with four hours 45 minutes to Salzburg.  BA Flights to Salzburg run throughout the year, unlike Innsbruck flights which run from December to March, which extends the ski season greatly and also offers mountain walkers unlimited possibilities of mountain trails.

I visited Kaprun at the beginning of November on a fact finding mission, to enable us to offer ski packages there in the future. It’s an easy 80 minute drive along good roads from Salzburg airport.  Kaprun is a village that falls in the area of Zell Am Zee, and sits on the wide valley floor on the opposite side of the valley to Lake Zeller and the town of Zell Am Zee, in the Hohe Tauern National Park. The Park was established in 1981 and is the largest nature reserve in Central Europe. The water of the Zeller Lake is especially pure and is classed as drinking water. Just a little further along the valley is Kaprun, which is guarded by a 12th Century castle on a hill before the village.  Kaprun sits at the base of the Kitzsteinhorn, the only glacier in the province of Salzburg, which rises to a height of over 3,000 metres.  Its height guarantees ‘100% Snow Certainty’, which means that it can be skied as early as September and as late as May, (9 months of the year!).  The village also has its own slopes at Maiskogel accessible by chair lift from the village, or the Maiskogel cable car. This family-friendly skiing area offers modern lifts and numerous snack huts and the back slopes of Zell Am Zee are visible across the valley.

 

The base station for the Glacier is just 6km up the road, and has 2 gondola stations for the fast ascent up to Langenwied, from there you transfer to the Schmittenhohebahn with its new gondolas designed by Porsche, which take you up to the Alpincenter. This is a big modern building housing a ski hire shop, Ski school offices, restaurant/cafeteria, and well appointed conveniences. This was the snow-front when I was there. From the Alpin centre there is a chairlift to take you up to the glacier slopes and then there are ‘t’ bars to take you up to the top and the terrain park, or a cable car will do the journey in one lift.  Although it was unseasonably warm and very sunny when I was there at the beginning of November, the snow quality was superb, and I got to test some of the new season’s skis on very well prepared pistes!  (If I could give any advice to skiers considering purchasing new skis it would be an emphatic ‘try them first!’ rather than believe the manufacturers or marketing team’s hype!) Kaprun is used by many National ski racing teams for pre season training, and the British Alpine ski team were there at the time, so we wish them well for the coming season!

 

Kaprun has a good selection of 3 and 4 star hotels, and lots of fruhstuckpensions, or bed and breakfast guest houses, which offer great value, and are regulated by the tourism department. I stayed at two of these which were faultless. There are restaurants and bars in the village to suit all tastes, and some of the hotel restaurants are open to non-residents, with the average price of a large beer cheaper than France at €3.50-€3.80. There is a small casino in the village, shops and even some chic designer outlets! On the edge of the village is the new Tauern Spa wellness complex, and the Maisiflitzer, an all-year tobogganing track with tight corners, long straights and five  swirly roundabouts. You can choose your own speed but those who love a bit of speed can race down into the valley at up to 40km/hr!

 

While I was there the locals had a snow dance, which happens each year, in traditional Austrian dress. The women wear traditional Dirndl dresses and the men wear leather shorts and hats decorated with cigarettes, sweets and miniature spirit bottles! Even the young women wear traditional dress along with tattoos and piercings! They start at a hotel at one end of the village and gradually make their way from hotel to hotel through the village to the  Pavillion in the centre, accompanied by a 10-piece oompah band with substitute horn players and virtuoso trumpeters, then they all start singing!

Let’s hope it brings plenty of snow!