A favourite ski area of Austrian world Cup champion Franz Klammer, Bad Kleinkirchheim in Carinthia is picturesque, inexpensive and family friendly.
Known as BKK by the Brits and Bad Klein by the Italians, Bad Kleinkirchheim is perched on the edge of the Nock Mountain National Park. “Nock” in German roughly translates to “lovely green round hill”, which is a very apt description for BKK’s pretty surroundings.
The mountains are dotted with an unusual type of pine tree that sheds its needles every year in the winter, giving them a golden hue.
About Bad Kleinkirchheim (BKK)
BKK and nearby St. Oswald have a population of just 1800 people. The resort has a friendly, intimate feel and is quiet in the evenings. Buildings are a mix of the modern and traditional: part wooden hut and part sleek concrete. The town is quite spread out and it takes a good hour to walk from one end to the other, but there are plenty of cute cafes and shops to visit along the way. There’s also a free shuttle bus running to all the major ski lifts.
BKK offers some of the best skiing in the region, with more than 100km of pistes reaching an altitude of up to 2055m. They have hosted the Alpine Skiing World Cup on numerous occasions, and will once again be hosting in 2020.
BKK’s most famous athlete is Frank Klammer, the Austrian former World Cup Champion and Winter Olympic gold medallist. Fondly known as the “Klammer Express”, he even has a ski run named after him.
The ski season in BKK runs until early April, but spring had already sprung by the time we visited in mid March. The pistes were covered in a healthy dollop of snow, but the town and surrounding countryside were cheerfully green.
If you choose to ski in March and April, the snow is pretty much guaranteed (800 snow cannons operate in January and February), but it starts to get quite mushy from around 1pm.
Kaiserburg: The ski area of Kaiserburg can be accessed by either the Maibrunnbahn chairlift or Kaiserburgbahn gondola. If you take the chairlift, you can start the day by skiing the “Franz Klammer” downhill run, which is a fairly gentle black run with some cracking mountain views reaching as far as Slovenia and the Tyrol.
Apart from at the nursery slopes, Kaiserburg is fairly devoid of blue runs. In fact, more than 75 per cent of runs in the region are red slopes best suited to intermediate skiers. If you are a beginner, then we recommend booking some ski lessons with one of the resort’s 150 ski instructors.
There are few really challenging runs, but this seems trivial when the quality of the skiing is so good. I particularly enjoyed the black and red runs at the top of Kaiserburg II. The red FIS K70 ski route takes you all the way down to the valley through the pine forest.
St. Oswald: To reach the St. Oswald ski area from BKK, skiers need only walk five minutes from Meibrunnbahn to the Sonnwiesenbahn chairlift. The lift pass covers both ski areas, and St. Oswald is a little more beginner-friendly.
Most of the runs here are short and sweet, and in March we were amazed by the glorious emptiness of the slopes. The snow quality at St. Oswald is quite varied, which made for some interesting skiing.
One thing to note about both Kaiserburg and St. Oswald is that the majority of ski lifts are T-bars, which may be tricky for those with mobility issues. However they are relatively gentle versions and there’s usually a lift man on standby to help those who are struggling.
Why go there
The cuisine: Stopping for lunch on the slopes at BKK is a joy, as the food is both delicious and cheap. Most dishes cost between €5 and €15.
At Kaiserburg head to Waldtratte, a lively hut with a life-size yellow model cow on the roof. We recommend the currywurst: Austrian sausage and chips with a generous dollop of tangy curry sauce.
For a more modern dining experience head to Eve Alps near to the top Priedröf in St. Oswald. Their meat is sourced from local farmers from the Nockberge region. Try the mighty beef burger, or if you’re looking for something lighter, the winter salad with scampi, walnuts, cranberries and avocado will hit the spot.
A visit to BKK would be incomplete without trying a Doaswald donut at Nock In: a deep fried flat doughnut covered with bacon, sour crème and chives.
Variety of winter sports: There are a lot of winter activities on offer at BKK besides skiing. Throughout the season they maintain paths for Nordic walking, cross country skiing, tobogganing and snow shoeing. The snowshoe and hiking tours are hosted by national park guides, who provide a history of the mountains and information about BKK’s wildlife and culture.
The X Factor: After a long day of skiing, there’s nothing quite like relaxing in a spa to rest those weary muscles. BKK is famous for its fabulous thermal spas, which are gently heated naturally from a source first discovered in 1492.
Thermal Spa Römerbad was refurbished in 2007 and contains 13 saunas and indoor and outdoor pools with views over the “Frank Klammer” World Cup slope.
Family & Health Spa St. Kathrein was renovated in September 2017 and is the best option for kids. The spa has the largest water surface of all Carinthian spas and includes an 86m long water slide. There is also a wellness pool with panoramic views, a stone pine relaxation room with sun terrace and a separate sauna area.
The 4-star Tratterhof is a charming traditional hotel and a great base for families and couples. It’s just a six-minute walk to the Maibrunnbahn ski lift and 10-minute walk to the St. Kathrein therma spa. Each afternoon the hotel serves a selection of cakes and soups to guests free of charge. The spa is very luxurious, and guests can relax by the pool, in the sauna or a special relaxation room overlooking the alpine countryside.