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This little-known (by Americans) resort town in the Austrian Alps Ziller Valley offers R&R, adventure, and even nightlife.

By Nikki Goth Itoi

A friend and frequent traveler to Austria recently offered two points of advice for traveling in the Austrian Alps: explore on a whim some of the hidden Alpine valleys and villages, but don't plan to stay in Mayrhofen.

Years ago, he had wandered into the Ziller Valley and arrived at this bustling town, only to find it overrun with thousands of sales representatives from Amway Corporation. It seems Amway likes Mayrhofen so much, it brings its employees to the town for two months every spring and another two months in the fall.

It's an arrangement that can make finding a bed in Mayrhofen a challenge, even in off-seasons. But Amway aside, Mayrhofen is a treasure in winter and summer alike, and worth a visit by anyone seeking Alpine serenity, outdoor adventure, or some combination of the two.

An easy two and a half-hour drive from Munich or Salzburg, the Ziller Valley begins at the town of Jenbach (population 6,000), and runs south following the Ziller River between the Tux Alps and the Kitzbühel Alps. At the end of the valley sits Mayrhofen, a town of 3,000 residents that grew from its origins as a summer haven for Viennese city folk to an 8,900-bed skiing and hiking resort.

The town handles its flood of year-round visitors remarkably well, thanks to an 11-employee tourist office which sends out some 300 brochures a day to prospective guests. They manage to do so while catering to the needs of thousands of current visitors, and also insuring that the town preserves its traditional flavor by sponsoring frequent Tyrolean evenings at the Europahaus convention center and other venues around town.