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Land of slope and glory!

Caron Bluestone enjoys a family-friendly skiing adventure in the Austrian mountains

From a very young age, I was introduced to the mountains. My parents honeymooned in St Moritz and as a family we never looked back. 

My father adored going there, dragging us all up for the first lift and packing us off to ski school from a very tender age. Needless to say, we all caught the ski bug.

The most popular places have just begun to open again for the 2018-2019 ski season and by January will be teeming with visitors. School holidays in most European countries can make for mayhem; long lift queues and crowds.

For us, with two young children and an interest in getting us all skiing with ease, the better-known resorts have lost their appeal.

But there is one concept on the continent that has yet to be discovered in the UK and that is the idea of family, or “Kinderhotels”.

These properties are independently-run authentic hotels with the advantage that  they offer real holidays not just for the children of the title but for the parents as well.

My personal favourite destination for skiing is Austria and we were lucky enough on this occasion to stay at the Kinderhotel Waldhof in Grossarl, just an hour from Salzburg.

Jews first started arriving in the area when Salzburg was under Roman rule, but the community never fully recovered after the Second World War and today the local synagogue has just 100 members.

Nevertheless, during our visit we found ourselves among many Jewish tourists who come to these parts looking to enjoy a skiing holiday.

We stayed at the Kinderhotel Waldhof, which was refurbished in 2017 by the charming Prommegger family.

It is a four-star property, but in Austria, where accommodation standards are extremely high, the rating indicates more than it might elsewhere.

The hotel also offers more than 60 hours of exemplary childcare a week, including taking babies from two months old, as well as a collection of clubs and activities for children.

For the adults, there’s a serious spa for serious indulgence and food that would make a Michelin inspector proud.

All-inclusive prices in family-friendly rooms mean the value for money here is superb and most importantly the hotel is not mass market.

Sitting in a sunny valley opposite the two cable cars serving the mountain is a ski school and ski hire shop run and owned by Austrian World Cup winner Toni Gruber and his partner Gerhard, with top-quality equipment available for those heading for the slopes.

The ski area, located around five minutes by tractor from the hotel, is perfect for families and includes a fun park, a great variety of cosy mountain restaurants. It links directly to the neighbouring mountain village of Dorfgastein, where even more wide open slopes abound.

Grossarl, extending up to 2,033m, offers variety, modern lifts and more than enough facilities for every level of skier, as long as you aren’t looking for the scariest, vertical drops.

That said, Toni Gruber’s ski school did manage to push me to my limit once or twice, which is exactly what I needed.

Gruber, the 2017 world para-skiing champion, has the crème de la crème of instructors.

One of them, our private teacher Ernesto, was part of the Austrian performance ski team in 1988.

Caron enjoys the slopes of Grossarl, Austria, with her family and a stay at Kinderhotel Waldhof

Spending the week with him improved our technique significantly. He was a superstar, a local and for once an instructor with enough experience to give confidence to the most nervous skier.

Our six-year-old also improved significantly with private lessons from a variety of Toni’s teachers, all of whom he loved.

For the very young and beginners, the Kinderhotel Waldhof also has a nursery slope with lessons on site, complete with magic carpets and snow-go-round. Little ones from around the age of two can get a feel for skiing, first at play and then on skis. Then, in the afternoon, the toboggans come out!

It’s hard to do justice in a few words to what’s on offer here. We in the UK have no concept of luxury hotels that cater to babies and children.

Here, wipes and nappies come as standard, there’s every type of high chair for occupants from the newborn to tots who can manage with cushions and a whole menu and buffet devised for children, with half portions of adult food or extra menu options available as well.

Then there are the facilities. I could barely tear my children away from the soft play, the sports hall – which incorporates a climbing wall  – or the craft room!

Backing it all up, our family room, complete with mountain view and terrace, was split into two rooms with dividing doors, which was perfect for putting the little ones to bed early with the included night light and blackout curtains.

The room was warm and stylish in the Austrian way, with a modern bathroom and separate toilet. It was no wonder we all slept like babies.

The true success of places like the Kinderhotel Waldhof owes much to the quality and attention to detail.

This ranges from the play corners situated in the restaurants, so parents can enjoy their meals long after the little ones have finished, to the groaning buffets for lunch and breakfast, with every imaginable taste for grown-ups and children catered for.

At dinner, for example, there are plenty of kosher-friendly fish and vegetarian dishes available. It is soon apparent full board Waldhof style means the good food never ends.

And while we were visiting for the ski season, the experience is just as fine here in the warmer months, with the outdoor play area overlooking a picture-perfect valley.

Caron stayed at the Kinderhotel Waldhof in Grossarl, where prices start from £2,720 for two adults and two children on an all-inclusive break. Details: kinderhotel-waldhof.at

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