It felt a little churlish to be leaving London in April. The sun was just starting to warm up the flowerbeds, coaxing out tulips and daffodils. But, as we whizzed past waterfalls, brooks and mountains on our hour-long journey from Salzburg to our destination of Hotel Puradies in Saalfelden Leogang, part of the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn, I knew we’d done the right thing.
Springtime in England is pretty. Springtime in the Austrian Alps is breathtaking. You get to enjoy the birdsong, blossoms and warmth of the valleys. And up in the mountains, until mid-April at least, there’s still enough snow to keep the cablecars whirring and the pistes jumping.
Here’s a little video of our ski adventure:
Arrival at Hotel Puradies
In the small town of Leogang (population: 3,000) our Taxi Bachmeier driver delivered us to the door of Puradies, a new 4-star luxury spa hotel. Puradies is ski-in, ski-out during the winter months. By the time we arrived (April 1), the snow in the valley had melted, leaving a green pool of emerging grass around the hotel, and daffodils on its terrace tables. The reception staff took our bags so we could unwind outside. We snuggled up in soft grey blankets, listening to the birds’ goodnight chorus while sipping our welcome drinks of Prosecco, beer, and juice for the children.
We stayed in a family suite, which was a far cry from the cramped confines you find in some ski hotels. We walked in to find a bright and spacious, wood-scented apartment. There was a separate toilet and large bathroom, complete with his-‘n’-hers sinks, a bath and a delicious waterfall shower. D and I slept in the master bedroom, which opened out onto a balcony with heart-stopping views of the mountains and valley. From their cosy bunkbeds in the corner of the living area, the children overlooked comfy sofas, a TV (there was one in our bedroom too), a mini-fridge and a tablet with hotel information. We found bags of storage space: five wardrobes, including one with a safe, and another that was practically big enough to have been marketed as a London studio flat.
Hiring equipment at Sport Mitterer
After a night of sleep fortified by mountain air, and a huge breakfast of pastries, organic teas, eggs, sausages, yoghurt and fruit from the buffet, we took a five-minute lift with the hotel shuttle car to Sport Mitterer at Steinbergbahn. The sports shop kitted us out in clunky ski boots, and skis to suit our height, weight and ability.
Just like all the ski lifts at Saalfelden Leogang, Sport Mitterer seemed sleek, shiny and new. As well as ski gear, row upon row of bikes – fat, mountain and racer – lined up to attention, ready for purchase or hire. There was none of the whiffy odour you get in some ski hire places. Our equipment was sturdy, high-quality, and looked no more than one season old.
Altenberger ski instructors
Atu and Roli, our ski guides for two mornings, came to meet us at Sport Mitterer. The guides were from the Altenberger school, which teaches groups of up to six children, and offers childcare for those over two. Atu and Roli were long-term Leogang residents, living there all year round. In the summer, Roli switched from professional ski instruction to his other calling: massage.
Learning to ski at Leo’s Kinderland
Atu worked with children in both the winter and summer seasons, and it showed. He spent two mornings patiently helping five year-old Gwen and seven year-old Austin progress up the slopes in Leo’s Kinderland, from the almost-horizontal first run, where they learned to do the ‘big pizza’ snowplough, to the fourth, which had flags set out in a slalom, to help with turns. Both children warmed to Atu’s quiet charm. When it was time to say goodbye, Gwen clung to him like an eel.
Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn
On that first morning, Roli took D up to the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn, while I stayed and practised in Leo’s Kinderland. The Skicircus links up 270km of trails, so it’s one of the largest ski areas in Austria. When I felt confident enough to tackle a mountain run, there were plenty to choose from: as well as the 20km of adrenalin-boosting black runs, and 110km of red slopes, 140km of the Skicircus runs are blue.
Hendl fischerei mountain hut restaurant
After an hour of ski exercises with the laid-back, enthusiastic Roli, then striking out on my own, we all met for lunch at the cool Hendl fischerei mountain hut. Check out the views from the restaurant:
Hendl fischerei’s menu was basic and flavoursome. No children’s dishes, but our two shared a portion of ‘Huwie’s special grilled chicken’, which came with a hunk of bread. We dined to the sound of lively dance music, next to hip ski aficionados catching up over a glass of sparkling rosé.
Relaxing at Hotel Puradies
In the afternoons we went back to Puradies, where D and I did a tag-team: one of us would hit the spa, and the other would play with the children in the clubroom. During peak season there’s a kids’ club. It wasn’t running during our stay, as the Austrian and German schools didn’t break up until the following week. But the clubroom was open all day, and Austin and Gwen recovered from their mornings of lessons by colouring, playing on the climbing wall, balancing on wobbleboards, making bracelets and watching Dr Who re-runs on the wide-screen TV.
Dining at Hotel Puradies
In the evenings, D and I enjoyed a lavish six-course banquet, while the children were offered kiddie-friendly options: sausage and chips, schnitzel, chicken nuggets. The waiting staff noticed that our picky daughter was sending back some of her meals practically untouched, so they gave her the option of plain spaghetti, with little bowls of cheese and butter so she could dress it herself. This prompted much excitement from her, and relief from us.
A family ski trip CAN be easy
Travelling with kids isn’t easy, and skiing takes the challenge to a new level. There’s heavy equipment to lug around. The children might not enjoy the sport. Even if they do, it’s incredibly tiring. But, like any family travel, if it goes well it’s the stuff of happy team memories. Being taught to ski has more benefits than just equipping youngsters for holidays in the future. Our two were bursting with confidence after their mornings at Leo’s Kinderland. And staying in a place as comfortable as Puradies took away a lot of the stresses involved in a family ski holiday.
I’ve written more about Hotel Puradies here, and here’s a little video I made showing our suite, and the breakfast buffet. Do let me know what you think!
We stayed in Austria as the guests of Hotel Puradies and Saalfelden Leogang. All views are my own. Except the views of the mountains, of course. They’re free to anyone who makes it to Saalfelden Leogang. The nearest airport is Salzburg, with Innsbruck and Munich also close by. There are more details about getting to Saaldelden Leogang on their website.
Before we hit the slopes, we tried a family ski lesson at the Snozone, an indoor ski centre in Milton Keynes. Read about it here.
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