Zell am See-Kaprun is found in the Austrian Alps, about 150km south-east of Munich in Germany. It is one of the lesser-known Austrian resorts but benefits from an early season start due to its location near the Klitzsteinhorn glacier at Kaprun. The season usually starts in October and goes through to April.
The town of Zell is built between a lake and a ring-shaped mountain. There are plenty of gladed runs with beautiful views over the lake and the medieval town, and there is a great terrain park at Kaprun, however low-snow seasons can make for patchy riding at Zell given that the resort is quite low and gets quite a lot of sun.
Zell am See-Kaprun is about a one and a half hour drive from Salzburg, in northern Austria, and around a two and a half hour drive from Munich, Germany. The drive from both these cities is a beautiful drive through the Austrian Alps.
From Salzburg train station, you can also take a train directly to Zell Am See train station. The train from Salzburg also takes around one and a half hours. Train tickets are available at www.oebb.at/en or www.thetrainline-europe.com and a one-way trip costs around 22 euros.
You can take a flight into Salzburg (W.A. Mozart Airport) from any major European city if arriving internationally.
The town of Zell am See is located on the giant and pretty lake of Lake Zell. There are three small town areas in the area of the resort. These towns are connected by buses as well as a train line.
Zell am See is the main town with bars, supermarkets, shops and restaurants. It is quite small, but has a nice, medieval centre, free of traffic, which gets relatively busy in winter. The setting of the town is quite charming right next to the lake and some of the views are typically Austrian Alps.
Zell is both a summer and winter tourist town, and is actually geared more towards the summer season which is when the majority of tourists arrive. Summer has plenty of cool festivals including a jazz festival and a harvest festival.
Zell am See is more of a family resort with a quieter vibe and a small nightlife, so your season will not be a huge party season.
The second town is Kaprun which is located in the southern area of the region and is comprised mostly of hotels and lodges. There is a second set of lifts and runs here.
The third town is Schüttdorf and is a midway point between Kaprun and Zell am See, around 3km south of Zell. It is also mostly comprised of accommodations. There is a gondola here to take you up to the mountain of Zell am See.
Saalbach is another resort nearby to the north, easily accessible by bus in about 25 minutes, and well worth a few day trips during the season.
Zell am See has a total of 138 kilometres of on-piste runs. There is a fair amount of terrain to explore for a seasonal worker including both Zell am See and the Kaprun glacier, but the runs are not particularly long. Zell is mostly exposed near the summit, but heavily wooded down lower.
Although the trail map has quite a lot of black runs, they are the type of groomed black runs for people who like ski racing. As such, there is not much in the way of big mountain riding at Zell am See and the on-piste black runs are not particularly steep. There are a lot of on-piste cruisers for those who like to carve, but off-piste is limited. The runs at Sonnkegel are best for wide-open spaces and cruising.
Zell am See has quite a lot of wooded runs lower down on the mountain and you can find some nice tree lines, especially on the back side. Zell am See also has night skiing to give you extra hours on the slopes over the season.
Kaprun is where you will find the Klitzsteinhorn glacier. It is a short bus ride away and is not connected to Zell am See mountain. Kaprun has got the better steeps, but even up on the glacier there is not a whole lot in the way of big mountain riding. Also, the Kaprun lift line up to the glacier gets intensely long on some days during the season, especially if the snow is not good at Zell.
There are over 200km of cross-country skiing trails in the area if you want a break from the downhill, some of which have lighting for night-skiing.
Because the resort is quite low-lying, snow reliability is not great. Almost all the runs get hit with a lot of sun, and can get quite patchy in low-snow seasons. There is a lot of snow-making at Zell to assist Mother Nature.
The Klitzsteinhorn glacier has snow on it year round and is fact ski-able year round. Kaprun therefore has nicer snow than Zell and it snows quite a lot up on the glacier.
The resort gets down to around -15c at its coldest.
There are some quite nice parks in the area for seasonal workers to explore. Kaprun has three different terrain parks with kickers, rails, and jumps for any level.
The centre piece of the park is the half-pipe which is 160 metres long and 6 metres high.
Schmitten at Zell am See lays claim to the world's longest Funslope, which is a 1,100 metre obstacle course mostly designed for beginners and intermediates.
Finding a job at Zell can be difficult unless you speak German, unless you are in the ski school. Most jobs at Zell go to Austrians and most of the tourists who come to the resort are Austrians.
There are also a few Dutch working at Zell each season along with a handful of English ski and snowboard instructors.
The tourist office at Zell am See may be able to assist with finding work. Their contact details are:
The tourist office at Kaprun may also be able to assist. Their contact details are:
You could try www.ams.at/sbg/ if you are able to speak German for jobs in the region.
Due to tight working visa restrictions in Austria, you will likely need a European passport to work at Zell unless you are able to get a working holiday visa as a New Zealand citizen. See Work a Ski Season in Austria for further details.
If you arrive in town, you might be able to find a cash-in-hand job but be prepared to spend some money while looking for such a job.
If you want to work in the Zell ski school, you will need your Austrian instructing certificate. See Work a Ski Season in Austria for further details on transferring your international certificate.
Zell offers 10 day ski instructing courses where you ski 8am - 4pm each day and then are offered a job at the end. You need to speak German to partake in the course. This is great as you become part of a community from the very beginning of the season.
The best time to apply for a ski school job is around September but you can still apply and get a job in November. Zell does often struggle to fill all the instructor places, to the point where the resort hires university students who have qualifications to come in and teach just on the weekends.
Staff accommodation is offered for mountain operations and those in ski school.
Ski school staff are put into an old hotel. You live either one or two to a room, with a bathroom and kitchen in each apartment. There is no common living area. You will likely spend a lot of time in other people's rooms, drinking and chatting. Staff accommodation is around 8 euros a night.
There is a supermarket in town but it is super expensive. If you have a car, you are better off driving down the road to Piesendorf to the cheaper supermarket. No buses go to Piesendorf unfortunately.
Nightlife is not huge at Zell. There is one main street which has just a handful of bars. These bars are quite fun but it's definitely not the best nightlife in Austria. The resort of Saalbach-Hinterglemm is much better for nightlife. It is a 25 minute bus ride away.
At Zell, the Pinzgauer Diele bar is quite fun and goes quite late, while O’Flannigan’s is an Irish, sports bars. Ginhouse is nice for a quiet drink, while Villa Crazy Daisy gets loud and is another late-night place.
Pinzgauer Hütte (‘wonderful venison’) is a restaurant located away from the runs and involves a ski-doo back and is fun to try during the season.
In terms of après-ski, the Berghotel is a nice place near the top of the mountain with live music and dancing.
During winter, you are sometimes able to walk across the lake once frozen, while there are walking tracks up to Schmittenhöhe also.
About 50 kilometres west of Zell am See are the Krimml Falls. This waterfall is incredible, especially with a snowy backdrop, and falls from a height of 380 metres. It is worth a visit during the season.
Also to the west of Zell am See, about 25km, is the small town of Mittersill. It's an historic town that has a very cool castle, the 900 year old Felber Tower, and a museum on the history of the Hohe Tauern Park called the Hohe National Park Zentrum.
Train trips to Salzburg and Kitzbühel are also a great way to spend a few days off during the season.