Well, we’re off skiing. Whoopee!! I love skiing and have skied all my life. My parents went skiing on their honeymoon so I think it’s in the blood. I started at five and given that Alexander has now reached the ripe of old age of two and nearly a half I thought that it was about time to get him used to the white stuff – they say; the earlier the better.
So, you want to take a toddler on a skiing holiday. That’s pretty easy, I don’t know many hotels that don’t take them! But you want your toddler to have his own holiday experience and be catered for to the same high level that you as an adult expect on a luxury break? That, in my mind didn’t exist until a German mother of a child in Alexander’s class at school mentioned the name Kinderhotels to me and more specifically the Hotel Alpenrose in Lermoos, Austria. Okay, it’s no St. Moritz but the skiing in St. Moritz isn’t great for beginners anyway. There are also no chic shops, no hugely expensive tea rooms, no nightclubs and very little apres ski, BUT having done my research and heard glowing reviews from a family not dissimilar to our own in terms of needs and taste, a trip to the Austrian Tyrol, the Zugspitzarena and most precisely to Lermoos was planned.
The Zugspitzarena is a term used to cover the highest summit in Germany and the highest on the Austrian side too with its surrounding area. Its peak from which you can see four countries overlooks seven quaint, traditional Austrian villages all with their own ski areas, with Lermoos being the biggest. They are all however interconnected and when you buy your Top Snow Card you get access to the lifts and the buses and trains that connect them. You are also just twenty minutes down the road from Garmish, a cosmopolitan German ski resort that formed part of Munich’s bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. So, if in need of a little action, you don’t have far to go!
It’s the day before we jet off from Heathrow to Munich ( Innsbruck is a similar 1.5hr transfer away). I am at home having my last -minute, pre-holiday beautification. The lovely people at Milk Beauty who come to you when it suits you, managed to fit me in for a gorgeous OPI pedicure and the obligatory waxing (the hotel has four pools if you count Pirate Land – more of which later!). A lot of last minute rushing around, packing far too much, then packing even more and we are ready. One word of warning. DO NOT TAKE NAPPIES!! The hotel provides them in every size including the swimming ones. Yes, you read right. And wipes and cream too. I couldn’t believe it either but just one of the astonishing offerings at Kinderhotels.
For the newbies, here’s a bit about my pick of the gear. You need goggles (UVEX are good), warm snow boots (we have some really cool, stylish Italian Olang ones), ski suits of course and do not forget the sun cream (Piz Buin has been a staple of mine since very young on the slopes). On the fashion side, if looking for a suit for a toddler then the creme de la creme is Mini a Ture – the Danish company makes lux suits for freezing weather conditions with clever little details like back fastening jackets. They also make gorgeous matching accessories. Lastly, for socks and undergarments the go-to brand is Falke (very important for in-boot comfort).
I also like to travel in style too so this year, replaced my old tired carry-on with two gorgeous new pieces – a Brics Life Holdal (in fact the very same Italian leather bag that Wills and Kate are often seen carrying) and a Tumi Voyageur International which is supposed to be perfect for a two day trip and fits as cabin baggage, or for a family with a child, you just cram in the one million little things that seem to need to be with you on the plane! Either way, at least you look the part even if you lose your cool struggling to keep your two year old in check! For check-in luggage, I swear by my Samsonite Cosmolite. They literally weigh nothing so that you can cram them full of clothes without worrying about weight allowance.
At last, packed and ready to go we chose an unusual but refreshingly reasonable, easy and luxurious way to get to Terminal 5 a twenty minute black cab from Get Taxi away. They have an app of course- who doesn’t! No more smelly minicabs for me!
Out safely at the other side, a scenic transfer to the hotel and we arrive in what I can safely say is children’s heaven. Now, I am not one for lots of brightly coloured plastic and screaming kids, I am also not up for compromising and what met us upon arrival in the most picturesque valley and petite village was a luxury four star superior hotel with a huge difference – it’s a Kinderhotel or a Childrens hotel . Be aware that Austrian standards are high, very high. So a 4****s will easily feel like 5* and I am the biggest hotel snob going.
I’m not quite sure where to start because in some ways I don’t want to let everyone in on this little secret. There was hardly an English family to be seen, not that we felt out of place because everyone speaks English, but this sort of place really didn’t even exist in my dreams let alone in the British travel press so please don’t tell everyone!
The hotel itself is a mix between modern eclectic and traditional Tyrolean warmth for that added winter coziness. The two marry well. The entrance hall is filled with a huge futuristic fish tank and hanging seating pods with brightly coloured pieces of child-friendly modern art and spotless granite floors that are forever being cleaned (I love the hygiene aspect!). Move further in and you come to a (safe) water feature which the little ones love. Then comes the Tyrolean warmth. The bar and lounge area with a plethora of different seating areas from sofas to cute wooly rocking horses and sheep to raised seating areas with tables and chairs all overlooking the outside space where you can eat lunch or tea or just grab a coffee and a cake. They even have a separate dining room just for kids where there are supervised meals each day if you so wish.
The hotel is pretty enormous with ninety rooms with the smallest catering to a family and the largest to a harem. It doesn’t feel it though and despite occupancy being high, we always felt relaxed and not at all cramped for space, especially in public areas. They have Wellness Suites too which we nearly stayed in, Austria takes its wellness very seriously you know. When a hotel has a spa, you will see that it won’t just be a couple of dowdy treatment rooms hidden in the back somewhere but a go-to destination in it’s own right and at the Alpenrose is no different. Instead of our own wellness suite I opted for an authentic ayurvedic foot treatment. I won’t bore you with the detail but a quick flick through this will give you an idea of what you can expect!
I digress. Let’s get back to what is just so exceptional about this experience. So, we arrive. Our room is a small family room with south facing balcony. It has a separate kids bedroom with bunk beds. Not just any old bunk beds but ones with removable sides. This was the first time Alexander slept in a bed and he actually liked it crawling into bed on his own at night after a hard day at play. As I mentioned, everything that a family needs has been thought of and most importantly is provided at no extra cost. From baby wipes and shampoo through to a big box of Lego in the room which we had to hide at bedtime, to a step in the bathroom and children’s toilet seat. They really have thought of everything. Also, in every public toilet (decked out with automatic self-cleaning seat -yay!) there is a changing station with nappies in each size, wipes and a bin.
I had never, ever seen this sort of thing before. Maybe in some plastic kids amusement park where everything is a bit old and smelly but not in a luxury hotel where the granite toilets are futuristic and cool. The amazing thing for me though is how the hotel manages to keep a balance between grown-up and child. No mean feat. Also, as a bordeline OCD for cleanliness, I have to mention that everything is spotlessly clean- something that is of the utmost importance in a hotel where there are so many babies and children around and they know it.
Once unpacked we were off to the ski shop downstairs. I was keen to get Alexander decked out for his first ski lesson the next day. This was my real reason for choosing the Alpenrose, part of the group of Kinderhotels. They offer ‘baby ski school’. A completely unique offering; they have a snow garden complete with baby ski lift (a moving walkway up the very gentle slope), carousel, snow making machine and lessons every morning complete with Bobo the ski school penguin mascot who comes out to dance and sing midway through before snack break. I have to admit, Alexander was definitely the youngest although the age ranged from 2.5 upwards ( the older ones also had their own separate lessons on the mountain) and it wan’t easy keeping his helmet, gloves and skis on all at once but it was fun, he loved the music and got a really good feel for skiing too.
Apart from skiing, there’s the small area of babyclub, kids club and teen club to address. Childcare is free and they take babies from seven days old ( although who leaves a seven day old is beyond my comprehension!). I say small but I just don’t know where to start.
There is a whole world dedicated to kids of all ages taking up one floor of the hotel. That’s without counting the go-cart track in the underground car park. Everything in the hotel in all inclusive which means that from 9am until 9pm if you so wish you have childcare. The only way I can explain the kids club is to liken it to a school dedicated to play and fun. There’s a full sized soft play with a five storey slide, bigger than in my local leisure centre, a baby room with cradles, baby playmats and all the paraphenalia needed. Then there is a baby club where Alexander went. Every toy he could wish for, eating and changing facilities ( they give them lunch each day if you want them too) and then other rooms with a climbing wall, a computer games room, a craft room, a lego room, a story telling corner.
It’s jawdropping. Has to be seen to be believed. They even have a tagging system so that children can’t escape through the very well manned reception and two door entry system. They took him to ski school for us plus for walks with the older ones ( age 3 and upwards is mini-club territory and the slightly younger ones can join in with most of their activities too if you want them too).
Apart from inside the kids club, there is a separate theatre, dressing up room with a theatre-sized wardrobe for the older ones to really put on shows, a teen room and of course all the obligatory pool and table tennis too. We also didn’t need a pushchair because lo and behold the hotel has a room full of them in every conceivable shape and size! If this wasn’t enough to keep Alexander happy, his eyes lit up when he saw the bouncy castle (discreetly placed outside – I can’t believe that I am actually singing the praises of a hotel that has a bouncy castle let alone want to go back!), an outdoor area where mini cars and bikes can be ridden and two truly original features in an indoor Pirate Land which is basically a pirate ship water park sitting in very shallow water complete with water slides and sand area where you get to dig for treasure (that you exchange for go-cart tokens) and last but by no means least, outside on the hotel roof there is a wooden land of little houses and dragons where kids can run around and play too.
We took Alexander in his swimming costume and we couldn’t drag him away. If I’m honest, I would never step foot in a children’s pool (germs!! I know, irrational) but here, it felt so clen and it was never busy that I actually started to enjoy myself on the waterslides too.
So, despite this being a children’s hotel, what I really wanted to highlight is the way that it doesn’t feel like a zoo or like you are living in a school for a week. All meals are included and the food is of a really high standard with fresh salad buffets every day, amazing cheese(yumm!)buffets and a separate children’s buffet for lunch and dinner along with plastic plates and cups. They even provided foil, plastic bags bottled water and mini juices for packed lunches at breakfast. No more stealing from the buffet!
You go down to eat and the place setting for Alexander had colours and a colouring-in menu every meal but despite the presence of children, It never seemed to be noisy in the dining room. Perhaps a function again of a huge space separated into more intimate dining areas. They also have a very serious wine cellar with wine tasting a regular feature and Riedel decanters and wine glasses of a quantity that would make an oenophile blush and made me want to stash one or two in our luggage! One word of warning, go on a diet before you go or be prepared for some serious exercise in the gym because we ate and ate and ate.
I think why the hotel works so well is that the space that they have and the way they have used it means that the kids activities are not all right under your nose. There is ample outdoor leisure space for adults alike and the fact that things are set on many levels means that you get all around uninterrupted views of snowy peaks and comfortable sofas and outdoor furniture to laze out in the sun reading. If that’s not enough there is of course the obligatory indoor to outdoor pool which is amazing to swim in with the steam coming off it and a huge jaccuzzi too. Again, never too full that even I ventured in.
You have to see this place to believe it. Luxury and family works. One word of warning, don’t come here if you are just a couple. You won’t get enough out of it. Wait until there are three or four or five or six of you and then see what we haven’t managed to do in this country and to my knowledge has been done elsewhere either. I feel a business idea coming on!
Pros: True 5* luxury with all the facilities that you could imagine. Superbly maintained. World class childcare and facilities. Great value for money. Cable car directly opposite hotel.
Cons: Lots of children including babies (although well behaved!) – this is a family hotel. Skiing geared towards beginners and intermediates – advanced skiers may get bored. No nightlife or real shopping in the village.
Daily flights are available from London Gatwick and twice weekly from Bristol and Liverpool to Innsbruck with www.easyjet.com from £60 return. British Airways (www.ba.com) operates five times a week from Gatwick airport. Affordable resort transfers are available through www.transfer.tirol.at.