Family skiing in April can be some of the most glorious skiing. Sunshine in the mountains is so strong that without the chill in the air, it’s almost summer!
For those of us who prefer winter to summer pursuits, April is just another chance to get some extra family skiing in. If you choose your destination wisely it can be the best of the year.
We were off to Austria. With two bags sent from February’s resort direct to Hochgurgl we chose to lighten the load by using Airportr. To those of you not in the know it’s a service that’s comes to you the night before your flight, checks in your bags and takes them away. They go on your flight and you pick them up off the carousel at the other end. Airportr work with British Airways at the moment but I believe they are expanding both to delivery at destination and to other airlines. Their service is utterly professional – you need to be there with passports to check in your luggage from home- and works like a dream. I trust them implicitly. You get emailed throughout with updates and luggage is secure. It’s a game-changer in the family travel arena. It feels like going on a train or tube journey; just turn up and go. This service takes all of the hassle out of traveling. So, bags checked in we simply walked through passport control with our buggy and handed it in at the gate. Genius!
We chose The Riml in Hochgurgl, because it ticked all the boxes for spring family skiing. Extremely high altitudes, the deepest snow cover I’ve had the pleasure to see in years, it’s kid’s club and the massive luxury of ski-in/ ski-out. It sits just behind the nursery slopes and bang in front of the chair lift and cable car.
A short flight in to Innsbruck, a small, regional airport that you can be in and out of in a matter of minutes, then it’s a scenic, 90 minute drive through the Ötztal Valley to the hotel situated at 2200m above sea level. For those not in the know – that is extremely high. Apparently the highest 4* hotel in the Alps! We arrived just on time for a delicious lunch on the vast, sun-drenched terrace overlooking the slopes.
The hotel is a four star but honestly I can’t see why it isn’t a 4* s (superior) or even a 5*. Having undergone an extensive refurbishment last year, adding a glittering floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled spa area, reserved for adults only, on it’s roof and some wonderfully luxurious rooms. In 2013 the modern and striking lobby and reception area were created. The Riml family is continuously striving for better and the guests reap the rewards.
The rooms are always well thought out in family hotels. On the continent where it’s usual for grandparent to come too, hoteliers expect to cater for every connotation of family. Babies come as standard and are provided for as a matter of course.
At the Riml, there are rooms and to suit everyone. From two bed, two bath to singles. Some are modern, others are traditional. I personally love traditional Austrian style. I find it really cosy during the winter. The pièce de résistance are the balconies.
Our large double room was perfect for the four of us. Extremely confortable bed (a must!) double sofa bed and a cot which we removed as the boys shared. We has a more traditional decor but importantly a modern bathroom with a bath and powerful shower- hot baths after a skiing are imperative! Storage is also key and we had loads of it; very important given the amount of paraphernalia needed on a family ski trip. Our balcony was sunny until 6pm and the sun so hot that sunbathing in bikini on the deckchairs provided was called for!
I’ve written separately about skiwear but for newbies I cant emphasise enough the importance of appropriated kit. Spend that little bit more on quality and it will last you years and through being handed down to siblings. For the kids, helmets, skis and poles are best rented as they are heavy, expensive and grown out of quickly. When it comes to clothing, keeping kids comfortable is key to them finding a love for the snow and ultimately skiing! Look for breathable fabrics that keep them warm or cool, depending on their own temperature. Three brands that I rely on are Spyder, Isbjørn and Olang (for snow-boots), Salice for goggles for the tiniest faces. PS the unmissable helmet cover is by Coolcasc! All of these originate in countries that know true cold weather! The ski suits offer brilliant hidden seams that can be cut to gain two inches of growing room hence another season’s wear.
The beauty of the Hotel Riml is having everything on site. The massive basement ski shop makes equipment rental a breeze, especially important with little kids in tow. With discounts for guests you would be a saint not to be tempted into buying something. They stock all the best luxury brands and a brilliant selection of clothing. My only real outing to the shops that trip! The ski room in the basement is steps away from a lift opening out directly onto the slopes.
I haven’t stayed in ski-in/ski-out in a while and barely remember the true luxury of sleeping on a piste! Cable car and chairlifts within sight of our bedroom window, Obergurgl -Hochgurgl offers 119km of wide-open, varied skiing and jaw dropping, panoramic views from the top of Wurmkogel to the Dolomites in Italy and beyond.
The Hotel Riml works together with a brilliant local ski school, Vacancia, offering private lessons. I feel that one on one lessons are worth every penny if you can afford them. Most of us Brits don’t get many ski hours in a year and the best way to improve quickly is when the focus is only on you. Our instructor and guide Carlos was the best introduction to the area we could have hoped for. Taking us to the best snow at the right time of day and working on technique too. Pointing out the different areas and also knowledgeable about surrounding resorts and history we couldn’t have been better prepared to ski alone the last few days. Children learn very quickly and are fearless but a good teacher makes learning fun. Our son Alexander improved leaps and bounds with his instructor Cecilie. Each day we’d meet for a drink and a break all together. The biggest test of an instructor apart from feeling safe and improving is whether you like spending time with them. I can safely say that we never ran out of things to talk about together. Vacancia ski school, I take my hat off to you.
For absolute beginners the ski kindergarden complete with magic carpet – a small conveyor belt transporting the smallest children up the small slope is right at the Hotel lift door. We put Gabriel on skis 3 times this year and he’s only 2. My ultimate pleasure is watching my children progress. Granted we needed lots of sweets to encourage him but he had a lot of fun and that’s what it’s all about!
What I love about Austria is that it’s one of the best places to go to a spa. They are serious about wellbeing and generally prices aren’t exorbitant. The indoor pool at the Riml looks directly out to the snowy peaks beyond with children’s pool and family sauna next door.
The ‘Sky Relax’ area on the roof with glass walled saunas, salt water steam room and ice fountain is simply sensational. For research purposes only I tried the Pine and Arnica massage. Ildyko, my therapist was kind and expertly melted my stress and aching muscles away.
there are many hotels with more facilities for kids in Austria but when you find the luxury of ski-in/ski-out and a truly luxurious offering overall as long as you have a brilliant kids club you are all set. Energy is spent on the slopes and in the pool.
The Riml what they do have is superb. Supervised Childcare from 9.30 until 4.30 then again from 7-9pm. Betty and Nikki in kids club were outstanding. The children were well cared for and enjoyed their time with them immensely. I’d drop our 2 year old at 9.30 and he’d play happily until lunch when they would feed him and put him to sleep, ready to be picked up refreshed to ski or swim at 3.
After children’s early dinner the kids would go happily to paint, draw or create little masterpieces, letting us adults eat in peace. I was more than impressed with the folder full of art that Betty handed me at the end of the week. That’s when you know that the children are actually stimulated rather than simply placated.
We had to limit the games room with all the video games in the basement. Lots of fun to be had though for the older children!
Golfers, be prepared for 700m2 of indoor golfing heaven.
The Riml boasts the largest indoor golf facility in Europe. It is simply ‘wow’. Never have I seen such an offering! Golf simulators, a putting green and lessons from a pro are all there for the guests to enjoy. The Putt-in Sports Bar overlooks the green.
We are a big foodie family. Whether skiing or lying in a beach, I look forward to my meals!
Half board here at the hotel includes a sumptuous breakfast buffet with table service for hot food – fresh juices – including more unusual ones like carrot and pomegranate, ten types of bread, salads, fruits, meats, cheeses and fish. A good breakfast sets you up for the day.
Here you also get high tea with sweet and savoury food for those returning hungry after a long ski and then a gourmet 5 course dinner each night.
Quality if produce is key organic and healthy choices as well as some fantastic local specialities – the Kaiserscharrn ( traditional pancake-type dessert) is to die for. Lastly, oenophiles will be love with the wine-list and it’s value for money. The dining room is simply stunning. The views from our table making every meal special.
We didn’t eat out on the slopes at all, instead being lucky enough to be able to return to our own hotel’s terrace; on the slopes in comfort – a real luxury that only a ski-in/ski-out hotel can offer.
The weather was fantastic and the week flew by. As usual, I wished that we could stay longer. Unbelievably, the day before we left, more thick powder snow arrived, followed by clear blue skies. Wonderful spring weather (be careful, use a really high factor sunscreen), coupled with snow that only high altitude skiing can provide, made for Easter holiday skiing heaven.
The Riml is a hotel that is sophisticated yet relaxed, catering to discerning families looking for luxury and comfort, coupled with exceptional skiing.