The ski resort Krippenstein is part of the “Skiregion Dachstein-West” and located in the Salzkammergut, a part of Upper Austria, north of the Dachstein. The Dachstein massif, Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut are a UNESCO world-heritage-site. But despite that, just some years ago Krippenstein was really unknown. For a while, it did even look that the resort would have to close due to monetary problems caused by lack of customers. It mostly remained a locals paradise while a very few tourists made their way to this unique mountain. It is remote, at least seen in relation to most ski-resorts in central Europe, getting there is not easy. The mountain is not very high elevation and the valley at such a low elevation that there is a lack snow at the bottom of the ski resort during some years. And not only that but there there is only one real groomed run. It is a nice and long one, but well, just one. So what’s so worthy about this place and why is Homeboyski publishing a 3000 word Krippenstein resort review?
More and more skiers, especially freeriders from all over the world are coming to the Salzkammergut to ski Krippenstein. They don’t really come for the view, which still is spectacular with Dachstein to the south and Hallstätter See to the north. But there is something special about this place, and that is the snow. The snow is not better than in other ski-resorts in the Alps and there probably isn’t an above of average number of days with snowfall. But when it snows, oh my…
If a snowstorm comes through from the right direction (which is northwest to north, by the way) just “it is snowing” is no adequate word for the event of incredible amounts of white stuff getting dumped in the area north of Dachstein. And in the middle of this area lies Krippenstein. I have never experienced snowfall as strong as in Krippenstein anywhere else in the Alps and I have been to places which are famous for their strong snowfalls like Arlberg, Engelberg, Nordpark or Andermatt during heavy storms. It just makes you smile even if you are not skiing or snowboarding. Combine that with some nice terrain, lack of crowds and you have a pretty good resort for powder-skiing.
Krippenstein Resort Review: General Info
Krippenstein is different to many other resorts in many respects. One reason is that the infrastructure is not designed for skiing, but for the use during summer and for the Austrian military, which has a base just a bit south-west of the ski-resort.
There is just one important lift, “Dachstein-Krippensteinbahn”. It is a tram with three sections. The first two sections were renewed in 2007 and have pretty modern, comfortable, fast and quite big gondolas. Even on busy days you won’t have to queue for long. If it is very crowded you may not make it into the first gondola which leaves after you enter the station but you’ll always make it to the next one.
The first section takes you from the valley-station at 609m above sea level to the middle station, which is called “Schönbergalm”, at 1350m. There’s a lot of infrastructure here but all the buildings are closed during winter. The second section takes you from there to the top station, which is located pretty close to the summit of Krippenstein at 2100m. The station itself is big and has been a hotel once, but it has been closed for a long time. If you step outside of the station, you can not miss the “Lodge” which is restaurant, hotel and information centre. It is a nice place to have lunch, or a coffee on the terrace with a great view towards the Dachstein or a beer after your ski-day before you make one last decent to the valley. They also serve, hands-down, the best Topfenstrudel (traditional Austrian quark strudel) I’ve ever had. The third section goes down from the top station, towards the Gjaidalm , it has no real use for skiing, but it is a nice old gondola and there are some nice views from it. The Gjaidalm is a private hut, but run in a way that resembles an alpine club hut. It is big, and can get crowded in spring since it is close to the popular skitours towards the Dachstein.
If you ski down on the piste, you will suddenly enter a little village, which is called Krippenbrunn . It consists of a few houses which are all available as accommodation for tourists, and one restaurant and a bar. Krippenbrunn is a popular place to stay at during the season so the restaurant can get pretty crowded at lunch break and in the evening but they offer acceptable and cheap food and drinks.
Tired of dropping cliffs? Try roofs in Krippenbrunn.
There is a special military gondola, which comes from Obertraun and goes through Krippenbrunn to the military barracks behind the Gjaidalm. This gondola is not included in the ski pass and it can not be used as for skiing. You can get single rides on it in the spring and start touring towards Dachstein from the top though.
There is one chairlift at the resort, at the top, which is pretty short and two beginner t-bars, one at the top of the resort, close to the chairlift and one, which chronically lacks snow, down in the valley.
Piste skiing at Krippenstein
As stated above, there is only one real piste. It is a long one, 11km in total. It starts at the top station and goes east for a while, than it turns north and continues through Krippenbrunn towards the valley. It is a nice run, manageable for beginners, but long and demanding enough for more experienced skiers. The snow is usually quite good because it is pretty north-facing and well-groomed. There is another short run from the top station towards the chairlift, which is not really worth mentioning. But you do not come to the Krippenstein to ski on-piste all the time…
Krippenstein Resort Review: The off-piste
There are three really nice and long more or less official off-piste-runs, which are marked with sticks, some shorter variants of them, and countless hidden descents, which are hard to find. Because all of them are north-facing, the snow stays nice and soft for quite some time, especially in the higher parts.
But some words on the special dangers at the Krippenstein at first. The rock in the whole area is limestone, which is heavily karstified due to millennia of chemical weathering. This means that the whole mountain is full of holes and dolines like a piece of Swiss cheese. Some of them are big caves, which attract a lot of tourists in the summer, the dangerous ones are smaller, just a few meters wide. They can be really deep (40m and more) and are basically like crevasses on a glacier in winter, except that because they contain warm air don’t really get covered with snow that well. Falling into one of those holes could be fatal, so you should be very careful if you leave the marked runs. Hire a guide if you are not sure where you can ski safely. Getting lost is also easy if you leave the marked runs.. and that would be very bad because there are huge cliffbands in the area, and slopes which look really good from above may not lead down to the valley. Only a few people ski off-piste, especially on storm days, so there may be no-one to help you if things turn bad. Because of that you should never ski alone and always carry avalanche safety equipment and know how to use it.
Off-piste runs at Krippenstein
The three main off-piste runs, which are marked, but not controlled and not checked for safety, are Angeralm, Schönbergalm and Imisl/Eisgrube (I call the upper part Imisl and the lower part Eisgrube, some people call it upper and lower Imisl).
The combination of Imisl and Eisgrube is the easiest of the three. From the top station, you follow the piste until it crosses the cables of the third gondola section. There is a sign somewhere which shows the exact starting point. The first part is more or less flat and can be bad for snowboarders if there is a lot of fresh snow. There are some sections which are a bit steeper until you reach the start of the Eisgrube, which is a bit east or skier’s right from Krippenbrunn. You can exit here to Krippenbrunn and the piste, and you can also access the Eisgrube from Krippenbrunn if you follow the piste for a few meters until it turns right, and then left pretty soon. Just head straight ahead, instead of following the bend to the left. There is also a sign.
Eisgrube is steeper than Imisl and because it gets skied a lot it turns into a mogul run more or less during the season. It is still great to ski if there is fresh snow (or if you like mogul-skiing), and it is big enough that you will find some untracked parts even some days after a snowfall. You end up pretty low on the piste, from where you have to continue down to the gondola.
Angeralm is a difficult run, especially at the beginning and at the exit. It starts at the top station, just turn left after you leave the building. You can see the upper part of the run from the second gondola section. Its steep at first with some pretty narrow areas, then it opens up in a wide and open slope with scattered trees.
There is the marked run to the left, and an unmarked one further right which requires a traverse to get there and another to get back again. If you ski down, you will notice orange “EXIT”-signs on trees at some point, which all point skiers left. You have to follow them to get to the exit. Do not ski past them. The exit is pretty bad, especially if there is not much snow or if it has been a long time since the last snowfall. It is steep, there are lots of trees and rocks, there is not much snow and it gets skied out pretty bad. If you are not a good skier or snowboarder, you will be in trouble here, at least the first few times. But it is short, and can be sidestepped if the conditions are really bad. After the exit, you come to the lowest part of Eisgrube, from where you get back to the piste and the gondola.
Schönbergalm is an intermediate run skiing wise, but it is really wide and has a lot of variations, which makes it easy to get lost there, especially if it is foggy and you leave or lose the marked run. You reach it with a traverse and a hike of about 15 minutes from the top station.
First, you ski down towards the beginner t-bar, which you cross at the upper end. From there you continue east. In general, there is a cat-track, but it takes some days after a big storm before they groom it properley. If there is no track, you should only go there if you know the way, because there are no marks until you reach the little hut which marks the start of the descent. Again, it is easy to get lost on the traverse in the fog, and there are dolines all over the area, so be careful. The hut at the start of the Schönbergalm run is open, so you can have a break in it if it’s really cold and windy and you feel like it. From the hut you ski more or less directly to the middle station, from where you can get the gondola to the top again. There is a bigger cave a little bit skiers left of the marked run which you can easily visit on your way down. You can see it from the gondola, which makes it easy to find. It may not be really big but it gives a taste of what can be seen at the Krippenstein in summer when the big caves are open for the public.
As stated above, there are lots of runs which are not marked, like Himmeleck, Minigolf, Little Face, Gelber Stein, Gamsjäger nein danke (which is my favourite at least in its name), Krippenbrunn direkt and a lot more. Some shorter stuff from Imisl towards the piste can be seen from the third gondola section, but in general most of the runs are hard to find and not always in good condition. I would recommend hiring a guide if you want to see more of the terrain that Krippenstein has to offer.
Avalanche danger could be considered low in general on the marked descents since they get skied regularly after each snowfall and the runs aren’t very big or steep. They’re also mostly protected from strong winds. But you can never say that anything is safe, so make your own conclusions, or get a guide. Here are just a few things I’d like to point out:
- Be careful at the Start of the Angeralm and Schönbergalm routes right after a storm, there is always windblown snow and the terrain is fairly steep.
- Stick straight to the markings at the beginning of the descent of the Schönbergalm. There are dolines and holes all over, especially to the left.
- Do not ski close to the cliff-faces skiers left in Angeralm and skiers right in Imisl/Eisgrube (especially at the start of Eisgrube), even if it looks pretty good and there are tracks. There are avalanches coming down from the top of the Krippenstein regularly, especially after or during storms, and when temperatures rise.
- Do not ski Schönbergalm late in the afternoon. If you miss the last gondola, you are in trouble, because you can not get down to the valley from the middle station on skis.
- Do not follow tracks which go straight instead of following the EXIT-signs at the end of the Angeralm. There is one possibility to get down there safe (except the normal exit) and it involves a 3m drop. And there is always just enough snow for one or two skiers. You will not find it if there are no tracks, and if there are tracks it is already skied and you have to downclimb it, or to go back up to the normal exit. Both of those options suck, believe me.
Here are the links to the local avalanche-bulletins (you may take a look at those from Salzburger Land and Styria too, because Krippenstein is located very close to the border):
Ski-touring near Krippenstein
A lot of people ski-tours in the area, especially from Krippenstein towards Dachstein. As nice as the tours may be landscape-wise, most of the classic ones do not offer great descents. There are some nice ones, for example down to Hallstatt if there is enough snow, but the plateau between the Dachstein and the Krippenstein is pretty flat, and you skin from the Gjaidalm to the Dachstein ski-resort on a cat-track most of the time. In spring, lots of people take the gondola up to the Krippenstein, skin from there to the Dachstein (you can not reach the summit with skis), ski back to the Gjaidalm on the cat-track and continue from there on the piste to Obertraun.
You can stay in Obertraun or in Hallstatt, but I would recommend staying at the mountain, at the Lodge, the Gjaidalm or in Krippenbrunn. Unlike at other resorts, it is not really expensive (especially in Krippenbrunn) and you will not have to drive to the mountain in the morning. There are ski-buses, but you can not reach the first gondola with them. There is also a kind of a hostel in between Obertraun and the ski-resort.
There is no real après-ski at the Krippenstein. You will meet lots of people in the Lodge, after the last ride up with the gondola and sometimes there are nice spontaneous parties in the Bar in Krippenbrunn. Obertraun is a small village with less than 1000 inhabitants, but if you really want to party you can try the Haifischbar…
Best times to visit
The season starts in mid December and ends at some point in April. I would say that in general, February is the best time to ski the Krippenstein. Since the terrain in the upper parts of the mountain is quite rough and rocky it requires a lot of snow to be really skiable; I would say at least 2m base is needed at the top station. This amount can be reached in January, but not always. In a normal season, there are between 3 and 5 meters of snow at the top station by the beginning of March. Later in the season, it can get pretty warm at the lowest parts of the resort, but still be chilly enough at the top. I had one of my best skiing days in Krippenstein at the end of March, even when I had to carry my skis back to the gondola through pouring rain for about 15 minutes after each run. The higher elevation bit was still really great and you can always avoid going down into the valley by skiing Schönbergalm.
How to get there
You can get to the Krippenstein by car or by train. Do not forget to check the road-conditions if you choose the car! The nearest bigger airport is Salzburg and some cheap flights exist. From Salzburg you have to drive over the Pass Gschütt which can be difficult in heavy snowfall! If it really snows a lot, which it does sometimes in the area, the road from Hallstatt to Obertraun will be closed because of avalanche danger. Very rarely the train connection gets cut off also.
Stuff to do without skis
Hallstatt is definitely worth a visit. It is a really nice village with a long and rich history and culture, lots of nice old houses, some parts of them are build on wooden piles into the lake.
Hallstat during snowfall
The famous big caves in the area are closed during winter, but you can see the small cave in the Schönbergalm descent and you can visit the old salt mines in Hallein and Bad Aussee.
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