With the glorious Alps only a short distance from Vienna, many locals head to the slopes every winter. Austria's ski resorts are known to be friendly, affordable and high-quality, with a lively après-ski scene. Although the resorts of Hochkar and Stuhleck near Vienna can't be compared to the larger ones further west, the transport, rental and lessons are easily arranged, and a fun day trip to the snow is perfectly feasible. Snow is guaranteed from December to March.
At the very eastern end of the Austrian Alps, 180km west of Vienna, Hochkar is the main skiing area in the region. This area gets some of the highest snowfall in Austria and with slopes at altitudes of between 1,380 and 1,808 metres there are enough pistes of varying difficulty to keep skiers of all levels happy. There's 19km of groomed pistes, plenty of freeride possibilities, nine lifts, a KidsLand and a large snow park for snowboarders and daredevils on skis. When you’re ready for a break, there are seven ski huts. An adult day pass costs €36. Driving to Hochkar takes just over two hours: take the A1 towards Salzburg, exiting at Ybbs onto the B25 to Göstling an der Ybbs. The bus to Hochkar (Blaguss Reisen, tel. +43 1 61 09 00, www.abzumschnee.at) departs Vienna's VIB on weekends at 07:00, departing Hochkar again at 16:30; a bus ticket costs €48,50 for an adult, and includes the day pass. Hochkar, Göstling an der Ybbs, tel. +43 7484 21 22, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.hochkar.com.
The Stuhleck ski area, 100km southwest of Vienna, offers a huge variety of winter sports facilities, and is especially attractive to snowboarders. Between 770 and 1,780 metres above sea level it has 24km of ski slopes of all difficulties, eight lifts, snowboard pistes with a funpark, cross-country ski runs, toboggan runs, snow-tubing, romantic horse-sleigh rides, 10 ski huts and restaurants, and endless hiking trails. The snow park is the best of its kind in eastern Austria, with two 6-15 metre long kickers with a perfect long and steep landing, and a good variety of rails, boxes, jibs and wooden obstacles. There's night skiing on one slope as well as in the snow park. An adult day ticket costs €38,50; a 3-hour evening ticket is €23. Driving to Stuhleck takes 90 minutes: take the A2 towards Graz, exiting at Seebenstein onto the S6 to Spital am Semmering. The bus to Stuhleck ( Blaguss Reisen, tel. +43 1 61 09 00, www.abzumschnee.at) departs Vienna's VIB daily at 08:00, returning again at 16:20; a bus ticket costs €49,80 for an adult, and includes the day pass. Stuhleck-Semmering, Spital am Semmering, tel. +43 3 85 32 70, email@example.com, www.stuhleck.com.