Europe, July/August, March/April, May/June, September/October, Travel Guide

Guide to Mayrhofen, Austria

Friday 14 February, 2014
Huge grassy take-offs. Photo: Till Gottbrath

Huge grassy take-offs. Photo: Till Gottbrath

Mayrhofen has all you could want in Alpine flying.


Fly among grassy mountains, classic alpine peaks, sprawling glaciers and steep valleys. Topland a mountain hut in the shadow of the Ahornspitz for lunch. The topography here allows simple afternoon valley wind soaring, or thermals that can send you off on flights across the Alps.

Mayrhofen is at the far south end of the Zillertal valley – it’s classic alpine terrain with long mouth-watering ridges. It’s a lively ski resort during the winter, and is set up for tourism year round. Cable cars and roads allow easy access to the large, grassy launches that surround the immaculate village.

Landing fields are huge – big enough for sailplanes. New air-conditioned trains run up and down the Zillertal valley every 30 minutes, so getting back from flying has never been so cool.

In spring the best conditions are one or two days after a front has passed. With a good lapse rate, expect 8m/s+ climbs. With light winds very big distances are possible. Valley winds start howling with these conditions, so in summer go for a high alpine XC, because as the snow recedes the afternoon valley winds increase.

In autumn it’s possible to fly the main chain of the Alps, with light valley winds producing smooth easy thermals that allow pilots to get close-in to some of the biggest terrain in Europe.

April to June covers the epic spring flying season. June to October brings relaxing thermals and occasional high alpine flying.

Launches: 1,100m to 2,000m in Zillertal and up to 3,250m in Tux
Landings: In Zillertal around 600m, and 1,400m in Tux
Cloudbase: 3,000m to 4,000m

Meet local pilots at the Bruggerstube landing area and get a taxi to Melchboden launch – about €10 a head. Otherwise use the Penken cable car and wait for the low loader chairlift to come around. It takes longer than the taxi ride, but gives independence.

Novice to intermediate pilots should try the 50km Zillertal tour. Intermediate to advanced pilots should start from the Tux valley and break their personal records with a straightforward 100km FAI triangle or the 140km Zell am See out-and-return.

The attack on the Ahornspitz overlooking the village at 2,996m is a summer classic; and don’t forget about a trip up to the Tuxertal valley when it’s more stable lower down.

Innsbruck CTR at the north end of the valley restricts airspace to 2,600m. When the valley wind is strong, take care not to fly on the lee side. Look out for “Süd Föhn” in the forecast; things can get out of hand very quickly. On south foehn days drive an hour to Hohe Salve in Soll. Know the difference between north foehn and south foehn.

Take care when trying to cross the Gerlos pass heading to Pinzgau, because the landing options are limited.

Take your pick from camping at the landing area to a luxury spa, and everything in between. There are plenty of clean, inexpensive guesthouses.

Former British team pilot Kelly Farina has been based there since 1995, and runs thermalling and guided XC courses. See www.austrianarena.com.

Kelly Farina: “I’m in love with this place due to its varied conditions and forgiving, open terrain. Whether eating kilometres in spring or training in the more subtle aspects of the sport on challenging days in autumn, it has it all, including some of the most spectacular and accessible eye-candy the Alps have to offer.”

Mayrhofen has all the traditional alpine sports as well as hundreds of kilometres of well-marked walking trails and several newly built via ferratas. Lure your non-flying partner with the exclusive wellness centres, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants all conveniently located in town.

Visit the caves below the Hintertux Glacier with a guide. Check out the Krimml Falls – the largest waterfall in Europe. The city of Innsbruck is just 45 minutes away.

In general: www.orf.at
In depth: www.austrocontrol.at
In person: Bruggerstube landing area and the Zillertaler flying school post the austrocontrol forecast most mornings

Fly in to Munich or Salzburg, or even Innsbruck, and from there take a train. From Munich consider taking a Four Season taxi transfer – €100 and two hours.

Local club
Local school
Local guide
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