With cute fairytale kids’ runs, and 214km of slopes for skiers of all levels, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis regularly tops the lists of best places to ski in Austria. I took my son there in March, to see how well it caters for family ski holidays and beginners. It got a big thumbs-up from both of us. The resort is, after all, a specialist Alpine ski destination for families. But the seasoned skiers in our group were also impressed with how far their techniques were tested by Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis’ more challenging ski slopes.
Serfaus Fiss Ladis and the Austrian National Tourist Office hosted us on a press trip. They covered our travel costs and expenses. We stayed at Hotel Bär Kinderhotel, which you can read more about here.
Check out our video to see some highlights from this ski resort in the Austrian Alps:
Three Tyrolean villages make up one of the top ski resorts in Austria
Nestled high on a plateau above the Inntal Valley in Austria, Serfaus, Fiss and Ladis are close to what you might imagine when you think of a pretty Tyrolean mountain village. Serfaus, the largest of the three, was our base for the three nights of our stay.
As we drove into its quiet streets, tiny tots scuttled on sledges on the village green, transformed by winter into a wide expanse of crunchy white snow. Pretty, traditional-looking chalets were topped with puffs of cloud-white snow on their honey-coloured rooftops. When we walked up the steps into our accommodation, Hotel Bär Kinderhotel, we had a clear view down to the 12th Century bell tower of St Georgen Kirche. It was a charming scene.
Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is set at 1,200-1,400m, in the Samnaun and Ötztal mountains to the west of Innsbruck. Fiss, the oldest of the three villages, has 600 years of history to its credit, while Ladis, the smallest, is sometimes described as the prettiest of the trio. We didn’t have time to see Ladis, but Serfaus was impressively quaint, using traffic-calming measures to stop vehicles from ruining the ambiance. Visitors are only allowed to use cars in the village when they arrive and leave.
Travelling round the ski resort
Instead of cars, visitors get around the resort by whizzing through tunnels on the Dorfbahn, the world’s smallest hovercraft underground train, and the one which is at the highest altitude. The Dorfbahn wasn’t unlike some of London’s more modern tube lines. But merry chatter replaced uncomfortable silence, and everyone held skis. It was super-clean and well maintained, with twinkly Swarovski crystal baubles dangling over the escalator well. You don’t get that on the Jubilee Line.
Years of solid investment have left Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis with a network of modern lifts. 68 gondolas and chairlifts mean that the ski area is fully accessible from all three villages. Staff were plentiful, with helping hands to make sure families with young kids, buggies, and wheelchairs all got safely on and off the lifts.
Skiing at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
The season length at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is typical of an Alpine ski resort, and the general Austria ski season. It runs from December to April. The negative effects of climate change have meant that snowfall isn’t always as reliable in the Alps as it once was. But of the 214km of pistes at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, 80% can be kept topped up with artificial snow. There was no need to fake it when we visited in mid-March, though. There was metres and metres of the white stuff, and we woke up on the second morning to a fresh dusting of powder.
Most of the ski area is 2,000m above sea level. And with a high point of 2,820m, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is one of the highest ski resorts in Austria, so it’s more snow-sure than some lower-lying resorts. With most of its slopes being south-facing, the crystalline brilliance of all that snow is set off by bucketloads of strong sunshine.
Hiring ski equipment
My son and I were excited to get kitted out for our two days of skiing, and we headed to Patscheider. The bustling shop floor of the ski hire shop rang with the sounds of people stomping along in ski boots, and efficient staff snapping clips into place. We stood in (short) lines to be measured up for skis, helmets and boots. Our height, weight, shoe size and level of proficiency were all taken into account.
A local family, Patscheider’s founders spent time in the USA, learning how ski hire is done over there. They brought back some ideas that were innovative for the Austrian Alps. The service at Patscheider was excellent. The smiley, multicultural staff all looked as though, the moment their shifts ended, they’d be leaping on snowboards, or onto one of the fat bikes for hire in the shop, and hitting the slopes.
Who takes Austria winter holidays in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis?
Although English is widely spoken in the resort, we didn’t run into many other English tourists while we were on the slopes. Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis has attracted a flock of loyal Austrian, German, Swiss and Dutch visitors over the years, with many families returning year after year. Even after repeat visits, the place was unlikely to feel samey. In our two days, my son and I only had time to explore a tiny chunk of the 125,000m² of ski areas especially designed for children.
Children’s skiing at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
The kids’ ski runs were put together with a sense of fun and adventure. Skiing down them was like whizzing around a gigantic mountain playground. Murmli, a marmot, and Berta, a cow, were the resort mascots, and they popped up all over the place, either in statue form, or as giant cuddly creatures on a walkabout, all ready for hugs. You could even buy Murmli and Berta-shaped sweets (candy).
On the Bear’s Slope, we skied through a portal, and zipped through the mouth of a bear, into a tunnel. I lost sight of my son on the Murmli Trail, as he zoomed along the narrow lanes flanked by snow-dusted pine trees. He was too intent on speeding along as fast as he could to stop at any of the climbing frames or wooden statues of woodland creatures along the way, but I think younger children would have loved this beguiling little trail. There was plenty we didn’t try. With Dinowald dinosaur forest, Berta’s Indian World and other themed runs and playgrounds, there was enough to keep children occupied for a whole week or even a fortnight.
Family ski holidays Austria: Ski lessons for kids at Serfaus Fiss Ladis
Kids’ lessons started from as young as three, at one of the resort’s two ski schools. We saw a few groups of brightly coloured little fledgeling skiers, making their way up the super-safe magic carpet lift (there are no tricky t-bar lifts at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis), before heading down the Kinderschneealm, or Murmli Park. These ski areas are both just for children. The eateries, too, catered for kids, with groups of children from the ski schools eating at staggered lunchtimes in the Murmlirest and Starrest children’s restaurants.
When children were ready to progress beyond the green runs in the kids’ area, they could move onto the blue runs next door. The whole place felt very safe for tiny skiers – instructors would stop to help any child they saw who’d taken a tumble, even if they weren’t part of their own group. Without more advanced adult skiers whizzing through it like you find in some resorts, the kids’ area felt very calm.
Childcare at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
For really young kids, all-day-childcare was available, either at one of the hotels (like ours, Hotel Bär), or with the resort childcare service. Under-4s could burn off steam in the Schneebenteurraum or Snow Adventure Room, while their parents spent the day exploring the mountains.
Adult ski tuition
As well as teaching kids, the schools offered tuition in downhill, Telemark and cross-country skiing to adult learners. Our own instructor, Phillipe, was now at University and had been teaching at Serfaus since he was 16. In his Uni holidays he joined the team of instructors, who ranged from young, cheerful women and guys to bronzed mountain men in their sixties. With so many families visiting the resort, teaching was clearly a big business, and the instuctors seemed to have a happy, easy camaraderie.
What’s it like to ski in this part of Austria when you’re an advanced skier?
I’m more of a red than a black-slope skier. But over dinner with my fellow press trippers – a couple of whom were very skilled – I found out that Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis had plenty of challenging slopes for people who ski well. Like the formidable Direttisima slope, with an average gradient of 70%. And at 10km, the Frommesabfahrt was one of the longest downhill stretches in Austria.
There was also good provision for people who enjoy freeriding, with ten different routes accessible from the main ski lifts, and a Fun Slope with obstacles. Instructors in the ski schools could help people develop their jump and tumble techniques.
It’s not just all about the ski in Austria: family fun
Unsurprisngly for a place that catered so well for families, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis had a lot more going on than just skiing. We only had time to ski, but people who wanted an afternoon or a day off from the piste, could try one of the snowshoe hiking trails, or the hiking paths suitable for buggies (which can be hired in the resort). There were segway tours, snowcat rides, snowbike routes…. and a ‘family coaster’ toboggan run, Schneisenfeger. They shut the run because of the amount of fresh snow which fell during our visit, but I have it on good authority that toboggans whizz along the 1.5km route at speeds of up to 40kmph.
If that wasn’t enough for the andrenaline junkies, there were two zip lines, one which reached speeds of 80kmph. A gigantic swing, the Skyswing Fliss, whirled up to eight people upside-down over the mountains. Slightly less high-octane, but still thrilling for the kids, was PLAY in Serfaus, an indoor centre which featured a laser room, soft play, climbing gym, bouldering zone and an interactive play wall.
Places to eat at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
For a ski holiday in Austria, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is a foodie’s treat, with 25 mountain restaurants serving everything from hearty local Tyrolean fare to gourmet international fusion meals. In the few places we ate, schnitzel and fries featured on every kids’ menu, and it proved popular with my son, who ended up ordering it for practically every meal, on a schnitzel tour of Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis.
Serfaus Ski Lounge
My son’s favourite schnitzel was at Ski Lounge, an upmarket restaurant set at 2,000m, with shiny scrubbed surfaces and a delicious panoramic view of the mountains. Clad in Swarovski crystal-embossed slippers that we changed into in the restaurant de-booting area, we ate from a menu that used fresh local ingredients in recipes with an international influence. My pasta was an explosion of flavour, and filling enough to see me through several afternoons’ worth of skiing.
My favourite spot for Alpine cosiness was Seealm Hög. The scent of pine hung everywhere in the large log cabin. For the first time I tried tafelspitz, a national dish of meat, spinach and potatoes topped with grated horseradish. The traditional lunchtime spot was a popular destination for people with children who were too young to ski. People arrived with babies in fat-tyre buggies via the gondola outside the restaurant, just to eat lunch and take in the views.
Other places to eat
Other dining spots that sounded worth a look included the Crystal Cube. The silvered construction at 2,600m reflected the sunlight, so nobody could see inside. But it allowed diners to look out while sipping champagne, taking high tea, or witnessing a wedding – it’s one of the highest-altitude registry offices in Europe. And, for romantic evening excursions, there was the Monte Mare restaurant. After a gourmet sunset dinner, the Masner Express snowcat took diners safely back down the mountain to Serfaus.
Restaurants abounded in the villages themselves. One we tried was Madatschen Inn, a toasty-warm establishment near Serfaus where large hunks of meat grilled on an open barbeque, an accordian player serenaded us with Tyrolean music, and beer arrived in enormous tankards. We dined there on our last evening, and it was a fun way to see out an enjoyable couple of days on the mountains.
Accommodation at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis has enough space to accommodate 15,000 visitors, in everything from converted local farms and B&Bs to self-catering apartements, budget hotels and luxury all-inclusive spa hotels. Unsurprisingly, the resort includes plenty of family-friendly options, including Hotel Bär, where we stayed and which is a Kinderhotel – it only allows people with children to stay there. Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis does, however, also have hotels just for adults who want a bit of child-free time. You can find out more about the different accommodation options on the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis website.
How to get to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
You can reach Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis from several airports in Austria. The closest is Innsbruck (100km), with Memmingen and Friedrichshafen both 180km away. Munich, Zurich and Salzburg are also accessible.
The closest train station is Landeck-Zams. Connecting buses and taxi services run to the resort.
Find out more about the accommodation we stayed in by reading this feature on Hotel Bär Kinderhotel.
If you’d like to read about other Austria ski resorts, check out our feature on Saalfelden Leogang, near Salzburg.
Before we hit the slopes, we tried a family ski lesson at the Snozone, an indoor ski centre in Milton Keynes. Read about it here.
Do you have an tips on the best places to ski in Austria? Do let me have them, in the comments below.
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