Christmas came early this year, at least in Unken, Austria, at the Kinderhotel Post for Family Pregnantcitygirl it did.
We have just spent a wonderful week skiing. The best pre-season snow in five years. Pure powder pleasure. The best conditions in years. The best snow I’ve skied in years! Enough said!
This was a lovely week to spend at the near-perfect Unseld-family-run and owned hotel. Back at the Kinderhotel Post in Unken. There, in the summer where we swam in their own lake and cycled and played in their numerous outdoor playgrounds, we were back to see how the hotel fared for a winter break.
It’s five minutes down the road from three separate ski areas, the largest being Almenwelt Lofer, small but perfectly formed and more of which later! So ski gear packed – it’s cold at Christmas – Olang snow boots for mum and the kids – perfect grip, snuggly feet, Supatherm base layers and Salice goggles and our gear is sorted.
At the hotel, some things didn’t change – the kind and capable staff, the outstanding food – mostly sourced from local farms, emphasis on organic and interesting, gourmet dinners, created in the kitchen under the watchful eye of Florian Unseld.
Facilities here are outstanding as is value for money. Gourmet full board as per the summer – that means on top of sumptuous buffet breakfast; fresh fruits, meats, smoked fish, cheeses, choices of yogurts, cakes, breads homemade jams, five types of honeys alone, you get prosecco, a fresh orange juice machine, salads and then hot buffet and table service for omelettes and more or less anything your heart desires. A highlight was a buttery-soft, melt in your mouth, leg of ham, ready and waiting to be cut by the guests, with a state of the art machine more likely to be found in a butchers shop!
Lunch, then high tea are buffets and dinner is a gourmet table-service affair. The pleasure here is that foodies will be more than satisfied. Every meal balanced with thoughtful salad buffets that include choices of seeds, half a dozen oils and vinegars, desserts, soups and more. The kids are catered for separately with their own section and menu each day and an ice-cream bar that almost never closes.
Everything is carefully thought out. Small cutlery and dishes that children enjoy – the usual culprits like pastas and rices but always with fresh meat and fish, homemade sauces, vegetables and a crudité plate, plus more adventurous options. This isn’t plastic food but it’s food that children want. Each dinner they get their own homemade dessert too.
Unlike in some hotels, soft drinks are included. State of the art coffee machines, luxury, loose herbal teas and a favourite of mine – homemade ginger and lemon water. There to be used all day. No cheap alternatives, rather the best you can get. Although we are growing out of the need for it, there’s also a full baby bar – collaboration with Hipp Organic brings unlimited baby food and formula for every age group, bibs and all paraphernalia are included. And everything you need for children is here and spotlessly clean- it’s the only way to when catering to lots of families.
Dinner here is an adult affair. Each night we fed the kids at 6pm when their buffet opened, then packed them off to kids club to enjoy their evening whilst we enjoyed ours.
Kids club, food, fun and skiing all in a luxurious, comfortable and practical environment is what sums up the Post Family Resort.
Gabriel ate lunch with kids club whilst we skied, carefully supervised by the wonderful team. It’s tempting for frazzled parents to let the children enjoy twelve full hours a day of included childcare. We didn’t of course – I felt far too guilty. I needn’t have though as the activities and staff are top, top notch.
For the newbies and the very young, there is skiing on site. Each morning a program full of thoughtful activities. The little ones get taken out in the snow to play. From eighteen months old, the toddlers can start to get used to the snow with plastic skis, a snow go round and toboggans galore, on the hotel’s own ski run. A magic carpet (like a conveyor belt) ferries the kids up the hill as does a rope lift for the children on the ski course – 2 hours a day organised in house, where children can start to learn to ski. Everything is organised through kids club so the parents who decide not to watch can leave their precious little cargoes in safe hands.
Kids club takes babies from weeks old. The care that they give puts even the most demanding patent at ease. This is their job, their priority and the basis of the offering at the hotel.
We took our proficient six year old onto the mountain and left Gabriel most mornings to play then eat then sleep before picking him up refreshed and ready for a swim or a run around the extensive (and spotless!) soft play underneath the hotel. One day we all went tobogganing, another we skated on the hotels own ice rink for the ice disco and ‘Christmas Market’ where mulled wine, chestnuts and salmon smoked directly on the open fire were much appreciated added extras. This place has class too. That’s important to me.
You would think that a hotel for families would be nightmare of screaming and mess but relaxation and luxury rules. That’s what happens when you choose independent hotels over chains.
As the week progressed we lost our children more and more to their newly-made friends and kids club. All the more time to relax. This time around I spent a blissful 80 minutes in the spa having an Ayursan. A full body Ayurvedic experience that left me more relaxed than I’d been in a very long time. My expert therapist, Karala used a silk glove massage to exfoliate, open the pores and stimulate circulation before a full body massage with expertly massaged with sesame and citrus oils to brings out impurities before applying a rich moisturiser to finish. I was pampered to within an inch of my life!
The spa in the Hotel is a huge highlight, it’s an Austrian speciality. Hammam, saunas, steam rooms, I’ve baths- you name it – they’ve got it!
Every room at the hotel is built with a purpose in mind. Always super-practical. Our family room had a shared bathroom with both huge shower and bath, interconnected between the kids room, complete with bunk bed and sofa bed (don’t underestimate the nights that an adult will need to sleep in it!). ‘Our’ room, complete with balcony and separate lounge area and separate wc topped it all off. Feeling at home, away from home is key to the success of the best hotels.
So what for skiing? I’ve been an avid skier all my life, mostly twice a year at least and since the age of four. I’ve skied in all the glitzy, top resorts too so I have good comparison. With my children though I’ve happily stuck to smaller, less well-known areas and gone for the Kinderhotels. All independent hotels offering standards of childcare and facilities that we in the UK can only dream of and that includes skiing. Many of these are in smaller Austrian resorts where the pace is much slower which means less crowds, less aggressive skiers on the slopes and the best conditions for little ones to learn and play. In Austria, kids go skiing with school so they know exactly how to do it!
The Kinderhotel Post is five minutes from the slopes. One pass covers three different ski areas. Unken and Heutal are best for complete beginners but Lofer, with 10 lifts worked for everyone. Two cable cars, three chair lifts (with heated seats!) four drag lifts and a massive long conveyor belt for real beginners too. Lofer itself is a small, pretty village with a few shops and tea rooms. Worth a little wander too.
My recommendation for newbies on skis is to go private. With private lessons there’s no waiting your turn and progression is much quicker.
Ski School Herbst is one of two in Lofer. They are a one stop shop for ski rental and lessons. Owned and run by the super -kind and friendly Herbst family, their equipment is top notch and their teachers are locals – something that really appeals to me. Keeping the local economy afloat in these picturesque little villages in both summer and winter is really important.
Each morning my six year old went off with his teacher Kevin and we went off with Waldraud, our teacher. Lofer is small enough for everyone to know everyone and the atmosphere is really friendly. Kevin made Alexander extremely happy, teaching him jumps, skiing in the fun park and even taking him on a skidoo – I was mildly jealous- Herbst runs a group ski school too for the very young to the adults so the facilities that they have are exceptional group or private. At the top of the cable car is a snow playground complete with rides and of course their mascots – oh to be young again! Waldraud knew everyone on the slopes and was the nicest instructor we could hope for. Having grown up on the mountain as a summer guide and a winter ski instructor, we were in knowledgeable company. It was a true pleasure spending the two hours a day with her. She was fun, kind and pushed just enough. This trip, thanks to her, I actually managed to ski thick powder. It’s not often you get to ski on virgin snow and I’d never had any practice but she encouraged us all and even Mr Pregnantcitygirl had a go. Waldraud was responsible for a real advance in my technique. Thank-you! Kevin, being half my age was perfect for Alexander; with just enough discipline to keep him in check without feeding him bags of sweets unnecessarily!
The hotel gives you passes to be able to eat in any of the mountain restaurants at lunchtime – something that is truly welcome and not offered everywhere. The mountain offers quite a few great options.
No queues, easy access (we rented a car and parked at the bottom of the cable car each day for free), skis and boots kept at Herbst overnight.
Afternoons were spent in the steaming outdoor spa pool or relaxing in the lounge, activities there if you fancy – we did the wine-tasting, the sommelier and wine cellar are exceptional at the hotel. So, for skiers and non skiers alike, this is easygoing, family skiing at its best.
Arriving home at Heathrow this trip wasn’t as painful as usual either. We drive as we don’t live far away and we tested a true game-changer on this trip. We travelled luggage free using Airportr. Now there are a few services around and this isn’t a totally new idea but most companies that send luggage ahead need days to pick it up and return it. Not AirPortr. These clever people have tweaked the service and continue to innovate. They have partnered with BA and literally offer check-in from home the night before you leave. So, your luggage goes with you on your flight.
Just before bed the night before we were leaving, a smart black van pulls up (2 hour slot allotted with regular email updates and a simple online system that allows changes to times or number of pieces of luggage – you really feel looked after), an extremely professional gentlemen comes in, tags and puts our suitcases in tamper proof bags , checking them in with our passports and off our luggage goes.
This is in the process of being innovated but just a note due our arrival, we picked up our bags, took the lift fish one floor and the AirPortr rep met us and secured up our bags leaving us free to drive home without lugging everything back. Delivered home the best day at 10am I was happy not to feel the pressure to unpack the minute I returned. I can’t wait until these guys start delivering from door to door – it’s going to godron soon. They are consummate professionals and the service changes travelling for ever. Not surprising that BA snapped up the opportunity to partner with them.
On the way out we drive to the airport; no relying on taxis being on time or driving too slowly! We go straight to the short stay car park, a stones throw from the terminal entrance. I booked a meet and greet service online through the company with the highest reputation –Heathrowparking. These people bring together the best of all the market rates, so that you get the best deal out there. Not only do they offer airport parking but also airport hotel stays too. What is most important though is that as an agent they vet every provider and make sure only the ones with the accreditation and highest reputation are available to its customers. So, your will be met on time at drop off and pick up – a cinch, just call once through passport control and your car will be there to meet you- and you know that your car is kept safely and not stored in someone’s back garden or being driven around the country whilst you are away! Basically, Heathrowparking does the work so that you can book with peace of mind. So important because this business is full of cowboys and whilst you are relaxing in Unken at the Kinderhotel Post or skiing in Lofer with one of the lovely instructors from Herbst ski school, you know that your car is safe! Happy skiing!