Kitzbühel, the world-renowned Austrian ski resort, offers “an intoxicating mix of old-world traditions and contemporary style,” said Jeff Wise in Travel + Leisure. A village of medieval church spires and traditional timbered homes, it has managed to serve as a jet-set magnet for a century without losing either its “down-to-earth, mountain-folk spirit” or a capacity to meet the ever-changing expectations of its wealthy visitors. It’s “a rare balancing act,” and one that’s made Kitzbühel “a place where the celebrated feel at home.”
“You can’t talk about Kitzbühel, of course, without talking about skiing.” It was among a handful of winter resort towns that first popularized the sport, and it annually hosts a World Cup event. Other resorts have more up-to-date lifts, but the culture here doesn’t demand racing from slope to slope. Indeed, “if the Austrians know skiing, they really know après-ski.” At the Hotel Zur Tenne, you can’t rub elbows with Bob Hope or Kirk Douglas anymore, but you might spot Hugh Grant on a random evening, and you’re likely to find the lobby bar “thronged with a tanned and immaculately attired crowd,” cheerfully drinking, smoking, and chatting away.
Two slick new challengers have been built just outside town, and I stayed in one. But I was frequently drawn back to the village, its generations-old family businesses, and its sense of deep community. Eventually, I planned an outing on cross-country skis that I thought might marry Kitzbühel’s two sides. My destination: a mountaintop restaurant called the Panoramaalm. “At once breathtaking and adorable, the restaurant is a traditional Alpine cabin with a low ceiling, rough-hewn timbers, and roaring fireplaces.” I chose to dine on the deck, where, as grand as the views were, the people-watching was even better. “It was a bit surreal to sit in the cold air and warm sun, surrounded by jagged peaks, and be sonically bathed in the up-tempo Europop playing over the P.A. system.” But my mind was filled with questions instead, like, who’s that couple—“a Frankfurt banker and his trophy wife? A de-titled aristocrat and his Serbian au pair?”
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At downtown Kitzbühel’s Hotel Zur Tenne (hotelzurtenne.com), doubles start at $417 during ski season.
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