I have two rules when planning a ski vacation. Rule #1: Try to go to the French Alps (Avoriaz, Val d’Isere, La Clusaz..) because the apres-ski is the best (can you smell the cheese fondue?!) and my children can practice their French while skiing. Rule #2: Do not go to the French Alps if the Parisians are on vacation at the same time. To put it mildly, the slopes might be too crowded … I’m French, so I am allowed to say so. With rule #2 in mind, we’ve discovered a few pretty resorts in Austria. I wrote about Bad Gastein here and Uebergoessene Alm here. This year, we went to Kitzbühel, in the über picturesque Austrian Tyrol (lovin’ that ü!).
Kitzbühel .. what a gem! Not a small hidden gem (like Bad Gastein was), because the village has been around since the middle ages, and the well versed Viennese and Munich crowds seem to know a lot about it. But to be honest, it’s quite under the radar given all that it has to offer.
A picture perfect little village with colourful medieval houses, pedestrian streets and horse carriages. Church bells ring and provide a serene soundtrack all day long (here is my little video the day when it snowed so much). You can see mountain peaks wherever you look at, in particular the beautiful Hahnenkamm standing above the village. And there is a certain relaxed elegance throughout. Qüiet & Qüaint, just the way I lïke it.
On the practical side:
Kitzbühel is very well connected: 50′ from Innsbruck airport, 1h from Salzburg (we flew with BA from London) and 1h30 hour easy drive from Munich airport (plenty of flights everyday). We chose not to rent a car, and took a taxi / mini van instead as Rasmushof, the hotel we stayed at, was walking distance to the village and the ski school.
The English-speaking ski school Element 3 is süper well run, and geared to both very young and older children. The teachers were fun to be around, coming from Scotland, Netherlands, France… Ski lessons ran from 9:45am until 3pm, leaving a bit of time to ski with the children before or after. And there were never more than 6 children per teacher. That said, little Lior complained quite a lot on his first days that they were so so so soooo long and I ended up picking him up at lunch time the rest of the week. Another bonus point for Element 3: the race (and medals!) day is on Thursdays, so you can potentially go back home on Fridays and avoid the high week end plane fares.
All in all, it was a winner ski week for the whole family, not least because we had so many good laughs with our friends!
We booked our holidays a little late and we were lucky to find a room large enough for us five at Hotel Rasmushof. Its big advantage is the location, right in front of the ski school Element 3, directly on the slopes and a 5′ walk to the village. Oh, and the food was excellent. That said, they coud make more effort for families staying with them .. If we are to come back, I’d ask for these family rooms: 337 & 338, 335 & 336, 123 or 124..
Check out these hotels too, although I did not visit them: Sonnbergstuben sounds like a fun place with the owner singing at dinner time for the guests! Hotel Gamshof is the only small charming hotel that I found inside the village, Pension Hinterseer looked like good value for its location, Hotel Kitzof is the fancy design hotel in town. And these chalets run by Maierl-Alm are so beautiful with a remote feel, yet very near the town of Kirshberg, near Kitzbuhel.
I should start by saying that I am a huge fan of Austrian breakfasts (similar to German and Swiss), a perfect balance between healthy and nutritious, and of Austrian desserts!! While we ate mostly at our hotel at night because we had booked half board (I would not necessarily do it again), we had a few yummy meals outside. On the slopes at Bei Tomschy (right at the arrival of the gondola from the village), at Maierl-Alm (see above), at Sonnbühel (lunch is a treat .. and then, there is the über treat of dinner, arriving in the dark throughout the woods..very special!). And we had excellent pizza at Centro in town (you might have to queue). This part of Austria is near the Italian Alps and you’ll find a lot of influence in the cuisine. Mama mia… those gnocchis served in a broth..!
– The gondola starting from the village run every night until 11pm. It’s so much fun to take it up the mountain in the dark, and have dinner at the top at Bei Tomschy (great spot for lunch too).
– You must have the Kaiserschmarrn dessert at Hotel Ramushof whether you stay there or not. Out of this world.
– Get your ski rentals from independent ski shop owner Michael at the entrance of Kitzbühel. Michael takes care of his material like no other, and will also deliver it to you.
– I fell badly on my butt the very first day (don’t smile) and headed straight to ostheopath Patrick Hinterseer that night. It really helped. And because I was hurting so bad (yeah right), I had to have a massage with Jürgen Obersteiner at Ramushof. I wish I could ski and fall (softly) everyday to see him again (+43 664 1319 155)
– Our friends took us for a session of Archery at Bogensport Gigl after a day of skiing. Not easy to find but the children loved it. This place is so well done!
– The cherry on the cake: many ski chairs have heated padding!!
Trivial Pursuit #1: Did you know that Red Bull was invented right in Kitzbuhel? Well, now you know:) It was actually invented on the slope where Lior had his lunch every day with the ski school! I wonder how many he had…
Trivial Pursuit #2: The Hahnenkamm mountain above Kitzbühel hosts the annual World Cup alpine ski race, and its most famous slope, the Streif, is considered the most difficult one on the world circuit. No, I did not try it.