Fifty-two miles south of Salzburg, surrounded by the imposing Austrian Alps, with their broad slopes and wide runs, is the piste-perfect ski resort of Grossarl – an idyllic winter sports mini break in a picture postcard setting.
The hotel to call home is the 4 star-superior Grossarler Hof, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group. They opened in 2009 and already have a host of awards and accolades.
Committed to nature and tradition – 21st century style
On approach, the chalet-style hotel looks traditional, but the spacious interiors, governed by native timbers, ooze elegance, charm and contemporary style, creating the typical cosy Austrian feeling. The views from any window are breathtaking thanks to the 360˚ majestic scenery and it’s well placed for the ski lifts to the top of the mountain which are literally a snow-ball throw across the road.
With only forty-nine rooms and suites, this family-run hotel is quiet, comfortable and modern. The rooms are authentically decorated and spotlessly clean – all have spacious balconies. The owners have taken no shortcuts here – it’s a continual delight of candles and open log fires, plus all the mod cons laid out for 21st century living like free Wi-Fi throughout, in-room iPod and MP3 adapters, surround sound stereo and Nespresso coffee makers. The Grossarler Hof has a couple of well-designed spacious family suites – there’s even a children’s playroom.
Ask for a View to the Ski Lifts
For a gourmet experience in regional cuisine, there’s the Grossarler Hof’s elegant Alpine-styled restaurant and their rustic Jagastub’n, a popular à-la-carte restaurant dressed in linen tablecloths, rustic wooden chairs and benches, a tiled stove and hunting trophies. Game and venison, complemented by fresh regional side dishes, is the Chef Walter Viehhauser’s specialty. His cuisine reflects the history of the region where the art of preparing game and venison has been perfected over the centuries. His culinary creations are accompanied by a superb Austrian wine list. It smells good, it tastes good, it functions well – complete with friendly, unobtrusive staff.
Should you be traveling with children, you may want to consider combining a skiing holiday with the festive season and include a few non-skiing activities, like a gentle horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Hohe Tauern National Park, tobogganing by moonlight, visiting the Riesen-Schneeiglu (a giant snow igloo), taking a snowshoeing tour or visiting the traditional Grossarl Mountain Christmas Market (Nov 27 – Dec 20) craft stalls selling nativity figurines and attractive objects made of glass, ceramic and straw. The roasted almonds aromas will draw a crowd, as will the baked apples and mulled wine which are an accompaniment to the harmonious sounds of choirs and brass bands. Then there’s the nativity plays, feeding the deer and carol singing in the parish church. Children will particularly like learning about how to bake bread in the children’s bakery and mailing their Christmas wish list off to Santa Claus from the children’s post office. But if it’s aching muscles you’re nursing, the Grossarler Hof’s Erlenreich Relax & SPA awaits with a selection of saunas, infrared cabin, steam bath, Kneipp foot basins, whirlpool, equilibrium relaxation area with water beds and soothing UV light therapy.
Do the Skikeriki experience – guided skiing at dawn along empty slopes with a mountain-top breakfast.
At breakfast, a newsletter with the day’s weather forecast and proposed activities awaits your scrutiny. Mine promised a morning yoga session and later a wine tasting which would be held in the atmospheric vaulted cellar. Before heading off to the slopes you’ll be asked to preselect your dinner, which in itself is a task as you’ll want it all. With half board winter rates starting at €137 pp (two sharing a double room including almost full-board), it’s extremely good value.
In a world where everything’s getting bigger, bolder and dare I say, blander, this is a little gem that offers genuine hospitality and a one-of-a-kind experience.
• Two nights in the Grossarler Hof and one night at their tranquil Mooslehenalm Lodge, inclusive of breakfast, his-and-her wellness spa treatments and a private dining experience at the lodge (€360) – available, subject to weather conditions from June to October only.
• A two night half board stay at Grossarler Hof inclusive private catch-and-release fly fishing instruction along the 17km long Ache River, with a picnic breakfast at the river’s crystal clear pond (€293).
• A three night half board stay from 15-18 October at Grossarler Hof inclusive of culinary and musical celebrations culminating in the Grossarl Jägerball on 18 October (€395).
• To celebrate the lead up to Christmas (27 November to 20 December) the Grossarler Hof offer three-days of advent concerts, Christmas markets, a trip to the theatre and for youngsters there’s the Christmas post office and cookie making classes (€411).
Skiing in Grossarl
• There are 80km of perfectly manicured slopes; five gondola lifts, two 6-seater chairlifts, three 4-seater lifts, two double chairlifts, six tow and beginners lifts, 23km blue ski runs, 49km red ski runs and 8km black ski runs;
• The resort is a member of ski amadé, Austria’s largest ski region.
• 760km of ski amadé pistes available to anyone wishing to venture further afield. A single ski pass gives you access to 360 pistes, and a free shuttle service takes you to the neighbouring ski areas.
• There’s a snowboard fun park with halfpipe and snowboard runs.
• Snow is guaranteed from December until April.
• There are three skiing and snowboarding schools.
• There is one cross-country skiing school.
• Ski rental and sports equipment testing station.