Do you like to ski? Even if the answer is ‘no’, Saalfelden Leogang in Austria may just have something for you. It’s the largest ski area in the country, not far from the German border, and we’ve been invited to spend a few days there in the early spring. I’ll be finding out just what it has to offer families who enjoy skiing – and those who don’t.
When it comes to skiing, our family’s a mixed bag. D took regular family ski holidays from the age of six, and can whizz down challenging slopes fast enough to outflank a James Bond villain. I’ve been skiing twice, and verge between excitement, and terror, at the thought of hurling myself down what is essentially a very slippery, steep slide. The kids are five and seven, and have only been skiing for an hour, at an indoor centre. So they’re beginners – but I’m sure that, with the fearlessness of children, after a day of lessons they’ll be able to sail past me on the slopes.
I’ll be writing here about Saalfelden Leogang in April, so do pop back to find out how we get on (and you can follow our adventures while we’re out there on Twitter, Instagram and facebook). But in the meantime, here are six reasons why we think it sounds a great place for families.
Saalfelden Leogang has room for almost 8.5k visitors in its hotels and winter chalets. We’ll be staying in the new Puradies, a luxury complex of chalets and hotel suites, with a health spa, swimming pool an an organic farm.
Forget the skiing: I’d be happy, just lounging around in this sauna and gazing out at the beautiful snow-tipped mountains.
Puradies is built from mountain stone, glass, oak and reclaimed wood. You can stay in a private chalet with your own Finnish sauna; or at the hotel, in a family suite with separate bedrooms.
Saalfelden Leogang is set at 786-1,914 metres and its 81 miles are open well into spring. It’s touted as the “coolest and most laid-back ski resort in the Alps” – something which sounds reassuring to a novice like me. The thought of being surrounded by hard-nosed, competitive skiiers is a little offputting. There are more challenging slopes for the experienced skiiers, as well as a race piste; and for the kids there’s a ‘Kinderland’ practice area with magic carpets, children’s carousel, snow igloos and a knight’s castle.
Arts and culture
Regular visitors to this blog will know that we like to take in a bit of culture on our trips. At Saalfelden Leogang there’s a folk museum, mining exhibition, cinema and a full programme of cultural events, so we should find something to keep us happy.
The British love affair of all things Scandi has brought a realisation that skiing doesn’t all have to be downhill. At Saalfelden Leogang there are 150km of trails for Nordic (cross-country) skiing. Some are even tough enough for Olympic athlete Simon Eder and biathlete Julian Eberhard. They range from the challenging 5.8 km trail through Kolling Forest, to the easier 1.8km circuit around Lake Ritzensee, which is floodlit till 10pm. For big and little kids who want to practise the art of Nordic skiing, there’s a new Fun and Snow park with obstacles, small jumps and curves. And if the ski boots are beginning to chafe, there’s snowshoeing and hiking trails, from a blister-swelling 11.8km, to a short half-hour stroll.
Scary stuff for thrill-seekers
Are you the sort of person who likes to go hurtling across a mountain gorge on a zip wire? Well, you’ll find one at Saalfelden Leogang. The 1,600m Flying Fox XXL is one of the longest and fast zip lines in the world. Once it opens in March 2017, you’ll be able to fly across treetops at speeds of up to 130km/h. Yikes. Slightly less scary, but still daunting, is the 6km-long natural toboggan run at Asitz, open after dark and floodlit twice a week. If that’s not enough for you, there’s a ski-jump school, where fledgling Eddie the Eagles can stretch their wings. Aieeee!
Ice-skating and sleigh rides
There are less demanding activities at Saalfelden Leogang. You can go ice-skating on frozen Lake Ritzensee. And if you need a moment to sit down at the thought of all that exhilaration, you can wrap yourself in blankets, rest your quivering legs and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the snowy landscape.
After all the ski excitement, I think I’m going to need it…..
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