It seems like a long time ago that we arrived back at Gatwick. Car picked up at Valet Parking, – a great tip for families, by the way- you drop of in the short-term car park, seconds from the entrance and pick-up again ready to speed home, from a much more convenient location than if you were parking yourself- our Samsonite’s all unpacked, out come Alexander’s Mini a Ture ski suit and boots, my Olang snow boots and my brand new Ray Ban Aviators that I picked up at Vision Express just before the trip. Paraphenalia all put away for next time.
We’re just back from this year’s ski trip. Hopefully one of two if I can get Mr PCG to find the time. This is my second review of a href=”http://www.kinderhotels.com”>Kinderhotel– a little known concept in the UK but an absolutely amazing one that our European counterparts have been keeping to themselves for far too long. Kinderhotels offer a concept which simply exceeds anything we know to be holidaying with kids. Hotels which offer facilities that you would only dream of for families without the feeling of staying at Disneyworld. All hotels are independent, mostly family-owned and run and all offer exceptionally high standards.
Hotel Rudolfshof is a gem. I want to say from the outset that I fell in love with the hotel and especially the wonderful Hermann family, two generations of which run this hotel to make it the best it can be. It’s in Kaprun, close neighbour to Zell am Zee and home to the glacier that can be skied ten months a year – Kitzsteinhorn. Together they make up the Zell am See -Kaprun ski area. With 138km of slope, easily connected by ski shuttle buses, free to all ski pass holders. There is ample skiing for all levels but this is a great family resort with plenty for beginners and intermediates.
I’ve skied for over thirty years; been to most of the known Swiss and French resorts worth visiting, done Italy and the other more well-know Austrian ones but a first to this snow sure resort, brought here by the hotel rather than the skiing (more of which, later).
Just an hour’s easy transfer from Salzburg Airport, in the Salzburgerland, past snowy valley landscapes, through the small town of Kaprun and we arrive. The Rudolfshof sits on a hill a very leisurely and picturesque 10 minute stroll from the village. (The hotel has a handful of toboggans for guests of which we made use pulling Alexander down then back up the hill much to his glee.)
A four star hotel with (less than) four star prices but with a five star offering, the Hermann family has made their hotel an absolute winner. Ticking all the boxes with ease and excelling in every way with a personal touch that makes it a very special place and makes guests feel so welcome. One thing I have found about Austria; standards are high so expect really good value for money. So, where I might not go for anything other than a 5* elsewhere, in Austria, I know that that isn’t necessary. Skiing doesn’t have to break the bank after all. Plus, passes and ski hire are also much cheaper than say France or Switzerland.
The hotel is typically Austrian in design. Perfect for an authentic mountain break. Cosy with lots of wood and tastefully decorated bedrooms all with balconies. What they do well here is offer plenty of room/suite configurations for families, some for up to six people. Cleverly designed with separate rooms and spaces for kids. Expect everything you need for all ages too from cots and prams, organic baby food and bottle heaters, through to bunk beds and a teens club. They have thought of and provide everything.
As a last minute booking we stayed in a double room with a very comfortable (sofa) bed that was perfect for Alexander. It worked well for us, was spacious and comfortable with plenty of thoughtful storage, always important with ski stuff, but I’m looking forward to going back to try one of the other rooms as it’s really where hotels like these stand out for families.
On one of the lower ground floors ( all with windows to outside – the hotel is on a hill!) you will find a small spa and sauna along with a really lovely pool with massage jet and babies pool. We had some lovely swims, the pool all to ourselves, looking out to the snowy landscapes beyond. There is an option to have lessons too with Freds Swimm Academy taking babies from four months old.
A very big draw for this hotel of course is Rudi’s Kids’ Club. This is no afterthought of a club. Spread over a sizeable area indoors and out, as well equipped as Alexander’s school – they cater for babies as young as three months to children of sixteen. Split in to Baby Club, Mice Club, Eagle Club and Tenny club, staffed by qualified professionals in each age group, the standard of care is exemplary with high adult/child ratios.
Childcare is free from 9am until 9pm except during certain ‘baby weeks’, when tired parents can drop off from 7am and go back to bed for a lie in! This may sound alien to those of us worried about leaving our precious little ones but believe me, this is my second visit to a kinderhotel and one thing that will astound you is how brilliant the childcare actually is.
Every little detail is covered in ‘passports’ that get filled in before leaving a child for any length of time. Babies and children are fed, watered, changed, walked, rocked, cuddled and played with, all whilst parents do their own thing. There is an outdoor petting zoo and adventure playground (hands washed afterwards!) and for Alexander’s age group a small softplay indoors and a brilliantly-stocked arts and crafts area amongst many of other things you would expect.
So, to the skiing. It isn’t ski-in, ski-out, however, don’t dismiss it, I’m lazy and it worked for me even with a three year old and his skis as well as mine to think of. The hotel runs a regular ski bus to and from the three main ski areas which are really nearby, with kid’s ski school literally two minutes away. They also partner with Ski school Oberschneider offering toddler skiing at Bobo Club from age 2.
With slides, a pirate ship and an iceberg, as well as ‘magic carpets’; special conveyor belts which introduce the little ones to ski lifts, this again is a concept that will be alien to most Brits – teaching kids to ski with facilities and care on another level! So impressive. Teachers all speak perfect English and are experienced in each age group. Ski School Video. Check it out here.
Each morning at 8.45 they pick-up the kids (sometimes literally!) and ferry them to ski area until lunchtime when they are brought back and fed (at the hotel, with the instructors). Lechnerberg is the ski area where the ski school is based, just behind the hotel. Apart from the snow park for the little ones there are also two easy drag lifts on a nice wide slope, perfect for beginners. A lovely little restaurant for drinks and snacks and the ski school/shop. Also, the all important and very clean (phew!) toilets. So, logistically and amenity-wise you can’t ask for more when skiing with kids.
For the intermediate and the good skiers, without even venturing to Zell am See only 6km next door (where the Areit area offers another 77km of skiing), there are two great ski areas – Maiskogel – a great little mountain that is suitable for beginners too and of course the Kitzsteinhorn glacier; 3000m above sea level, it offers some wonderful skiing as well as views all the way down to the lake. Plenty of places also to stop for a Gluehwein and a huge snowpark for the boarders out there.
As a skier, I believe you can always benefit from an instructor, whether it be to increase confidence and ability (Mr PCG) or to iron out old, bad habits (me!). We rented all our ski gear and booked our lessons at the Skidome just behind the ski school. Prices are good and the equipment is also top notch so worth killing two birds with one stone.
At the Oberschneider Ski School, a special mention has to go out to Jason, our confidence building instructor (one of the best ever according to Mr PCG and a winner for me as he told me I was the best he had skied with all season- I would have paid extra for that comment!), also to Sylvia, whose patience with the little skiers is admirable from wiping noses to feeding raisins to taking them to the toilet (and that’s before the skiing even begins!) is admirable.
Back to the hotel, because I chose on the basis of the hotel rather than the resort; I wanted a high standard Kinderhotel (they have 4 smileys, one off top) a four star or more, specialist ski school for toddlers and a quick easy connection from the airport. The Rudolfshof hit the mark. Another thing of great value is that their pricing is for full board. Any snobs out there, think again, this isn’t all-inclusive as you may know it but a concept that is quite normal in Austria to some extent.
The Hermann Family and staff work extremely hard to offer some of the best food I’ve eaten on a winter holiday. Serving fresh, seasonal, regional and where possible (a vast array of ) organic produce the restaurant has been awarded a Green Chef’s Hat, a prestigious award in Austria for serving healthy wholefoods. Not only will you find most produce is organic but also juices and wines too.
Everyone is catered for from babies needing organic purees to picky toddlers through to gourmet parents with a highlight for me being the extensive cheeseboard each night. Breakfast starts the day with a huge buffet, typical Austrian with meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, organic muesli, seeds, yogurts, you name it, it’s there. Breakfast is a meal that they do well in Austria.
From the kitchen come eggs of course and the most delicious pancakes (thin or thick – we went for American with raspberries or banana every single day- I just couldn’t resist! They also cater for all allergies and not by offering you packets of gluten free biscuits but rather baking a loaf of gluten free bread. Good food really is a focus here.
Lunch is a simpler affair but that’s just what you need. It’s self service with fresh salads, bread, a soup and a a hearty main both meat and vegetarian. If you want to, you may take advantage of the cling film and make sandwiches to take for lunch on the mountain, for once you don’t need to feel guilty ‘stealing’ from the buffet for the kids!).
As for dinner, each night there is a delicious five course menu both for vegetarians and meat -eaters alike (extensive fresh salad bar and cheese always on offer). With two or three choices per course, we ate like kings. If this isn’t enough there is also a menu that doesn’t change daily with many options for adults and kids that you can choose from any day or any course you like simply indicating the size of the portion. It was very difficult deciding what to eat with so much choice and such well executed dishes. I wont go on, but suffice to say, as a true foodie and a bit of a food snob, the food we ate on this holiday was a real highlight and wonderful value for money too. Oh, by the, I nearly forgot the ‘snack’ that is served between three and five. Both savoury and sweet dishes along with salads so if you fancy a snack at tea time…
Aside from the amazing food, the spotless comfortable bedrooms, the brilliant kids club and lovely pool and spa, the standout at this hotel is the family and staff. Nothing is too much and the service is impeccable and extremely friendly – a balance that can be hard to find but here, every effort that the Hermanns put in pays off and then some. I want to go back for this alone and that is really saying something. A home away from home!