Weaving back down the mountain pass from Val Thorens, our heavenly-high base in the clouds for a week, a clear blue sky, I feel happy, yet so sad to leave the perfect ski conditions behind. May was less than two weeks away and yet at the highest resort in Europe we were skiing powder as fluffy as cotton wool, on almost empty runs. Just over two hours back to Geneva., our Jam Transfers Mercedes minivan speeding us back to the airport in luxury. The journey is as picturesque as any postcard; the lush green meadows in stark contrast to the snowy peaks fading further into the distance. Continue Reading
Skiing is my passion, something that I’m keen to pass on to my little boys. So, we ski as much as possible. So I look hard for family skiing, rather than paying through the nose for expensive, formulaic, boring hotels, I always do my research. Move away from the tour operators and you come across independent hotels, all competing for business, so they really go out of their way and it shows.
Heidi Hotel is family-owned and run and caters to families in a way not seen by the UK market. Parents, grandparents and grandchildren travel together. Childcare all day every day for babies through to teens.
There’s real relaxation for adults in their spa – the choice of treatments, steam, sauna and of course pool with mountain views for both adults and babies and a level of facilities that you would expect in a nursery or at school, all at a price that doesn’t break the bank. The hotel offers all-inclusive prices which means no unpleasant surprises when you come to check out.
Heidi Hotel in Falkerstee is one of the original Kinderhotels or children’s hotels. It’s 2 hours from Salzburg set in Carinthea, southern Austria, an area characterized by mountains and lakes with lots of high altitude skiing.
The Heidi Alm at Falkertsee is the perfect place for young skiers and beginners. You literally have the piste in the back garden.
The Köfer family has been running this very special place for many years. It feels like a family home. Warm and cosy, spotlessly clean and nothing is too much trouble. You immediately feel at home here. Traditional, yet not outdated and exceptionally clean.
There are room configurations for every family. From 20m square single rooms through to 78m square three bathroom, three bedroom, three apartment. Our room with south facing balcony, separate children’s room with bunk beds (and safety sides) was perfect. The bathroom complete with double sink and step for the little ones. Amenities galore; little robes, pool bag and rucksack for the trips out or to the pool or spa or even for that trip to the (free) washing and dryer. There’s also a baby room complete with microwave for preparing baby food.
Food is plentiful here and quality top notch. From huge buffet breakfasts including fresh fruit, sliced meats, fish, cheese, yogurt and more to the waffles and egg stations preparing organic eggs to order. Loads of herbal teas, a state of the art coffee machine which is available to use at tea time too. You cannot go hungry.
You come home from a mornings skiing to lunch – a good choice of wholesome food, fresh salad fruit and dessert, followed by more homemade cakes plus a savoury at tea time. Dinner is a chance to relax and enjoy a sumptuous meal. Food is a serous business here and products are locally sourced.
Children get their own menu here and from 5.45 can eat with kids club ready for the evenings activities downstairs. The hotel is perfectly sized and a safe space; you can feel comfortable letting older children find their way to kids club on the lower ground floor.
Our daily Heidi newspaper in the morning alerted us to the weather and the day’s activities – yoga, mindfulness or pony riding and skidoo. Private saunas or fondue and gluhwein. There’s a floodlit toboggan run too and plenty of activities for non skiers. Walking here is a heavenly pursuit.
Be aware, this isn’t somewhere you will be taking part in big group activities, this is an intimate hotel where if you so wish, the activities are there for you. It’s a personalised experience that you can only get from a well run independent hotel and what sets Heidi Hotel apart from the mass market.
Convenience is also key to an easy ski holiday with little ones. Here, the ski room is just steps away from the piste where the smallest children are picked up each day by skidoo to take them to ski school at the bottom of the slope.
The Ski School Falkert is located just below the hotel and takes children from age 3. Games and songs and childcare on skis keeps the little ones happy on their nursery slope.The ski school, ski shop and equipment hire is all located together just below the hotel. Life couldn’t be any easier for a family ski trip. Simply rent your equipment and go. No queues, no fuss. Focus here really is on family.
The more seasoned skiers amongst us explored the ski area. With Bad Kleinkirchheim and Turracherhöhe just a short drive away. The Pertl Ski School run by the very charming Leonard, was particularly good, our instructor the trainer to trainers and the World Cup team kept baby ski school offering lots of really fun learning activities for little ones on skis. Bad Kleinkirchheim hosted the 2018 World Cup, so there’s challenging pistes, just no long lift queues. That’s the beauty of skiing in lesser-known resorts.
It really is possible to relax here. Something not easy to find in a hotel that specifically caters to families but somehow on the continent it works. 1875m above sea level slap bang in the middle of the Carinthean mountains, the only thing to do is enjoy. Afternoons, although of course they can be spent skiing are really set aside for a slower pace of life in the mountains. Kids Club makes sure that there’s plenty of time spent outdoors in the fresh air before heading indoors to play games or get creative. One afternoon our children got to drive their own skidoo, another they went pony riding.
Everything is on site. Kids club has separate space for toddlers, children and teenagers and my kids never got bored. There is a full program of activities throughout the day all included and properly supervised. Really fantastic in a smaller, characterful hotel.
There’s a pool complete with waterslide, a baby pool and a children’s sauna. Steam rooms, fitness and even spa treatments for kids. The spa itself offers a huge choice of top quality wellbeing and beauty treatments.
The Köfer family has a huge social commitment to the region and the hotel is also environmentally friendly, something that is more and more sought after by travellers. This makes them exceptional alongside an enviable position in 250 hectares of nature. Winter brings plenty of snow and summer brings alpine bliss, fresh air, and adventure in an extensive National Park. From fishing to feeding the animals to time spent in the adventure park, Heidi Hotel is a destination in itself winter or summer.
Keep packing simple. Nobody stands on ceremony here. Stay comfortable and chic with a limited number of luxurious cashmere sweaters – easy-to-wear and cosy and warm too. For anytime but especially for a winter holiday, I love Willow Cashmere (5% of their profit goes to Child Rescue Nepal), paired with a simple pair of jeans, my absolute favourite being my latest pair from Next – the Petite Slim and Shape style are beyond fabulous and fit like a dream. LGR sunglasses, hand-made in Italy complete the look. They offer a range with side-flaps perfect for the mountain sun.
For kids, make sure that they have slippers for indoors, a usual European practice and so much more hygienic. I swear by Richter, an Austrian brand offering the highest standards and lots of choice for growing feet. For cosy nights, invest in some Calida pyjamas – a Swiss brand that we always pick up on the continent. Soft, stretchy top quality cotton jersey; the best you can buy – I’m still wearing my favourites twenty years on, much to my husband’s amusement!
Base layers are key for the outdoors. Head to Manbi for all the skiing essentials at reasonable prices. A Coolcasc helmet cover will keep your little ones within sight! Helmets are obligatory for kids now in Europe. I’m also loving the choice of goggles at RX Sport. They have become our go-to for everything sporty for eyewear and the team there really know their stuff.
My Travel Tips
We flew from Gatwick direct to Salzburg with BA. Well worthwhile is the valet parking option at the airport. Simply drive into the short term car park, drop your keys and go. A no-brainier when travelling with kids.
To really make things easy, get your luggage picked up and checked in at your home the night before you leave with Airportr. They partner with the big airlines and offer you luggage-free, thus stress-free travel. They can also deliver your bags to your house upon your return. So you can drive there and back without worrying whether you can fit your luggage in the car! A true game changer in my eyes.
Prices from €1799 for 7 nights, 2 adults, 1child with child ski course and 2 ski passes, full board. Heidi Hotel +43 4275 7222. Click on the link for more on travel to Austria and here for the region of Carinthea.
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. Continue Reading
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! Continue Reading
Spring skiing with family is always some of the best skiing. right sunshine, lots of eating out on terraces and the best of both worlds with warm temperatures and good snow if you choose wisely.
We are just back from Flachau. A great, small resort, fifty minutes from Salzburg airport in the Salzburgerland, it forms part of the much bigger and easily accessible area of the Ski Amade. 270 cable cars and lifts, 684 kilometres of pist, modern lifts, a great selection of runs and high altitudes with a glacier and excellent snow-making facilities if needed. It’s as snow-sure as you get for April. So, kitted out in Emmegi for the adults and the superb Mini A Ture for the kids, off we went. We skied the last week of the season and saw some wonderful snow and good weather to boot. The biggest worry- making sure that you wear high-factor sunscreen!
As you may have noticed, I’m always in Austria! It’s because they do family hotels like no other. I know nowhere comparable where you can safely leave a baby in the hotel and ski to your hearts content, safe in the knowledge that they are being looked after to the highest of standards.
The Family Hotel Felsenhof sits just outside Flachau. Run by the charming Kohlmayr family, it’s a haven for families both in winter and summer. Flachau itself offering a huge number of summer and winter pursuits too. In the hotel, top-notch childcare for age 1 and upwards from 8.30-5, six days a week and two kids’ dinners, all included in the price, it’s the best way to holiday with children.
The hotel is welcoming, cosy and relaxed but also modern and luxurious in an understated way. A stunning new swimming complex – small but perfectly formed and designed by the owner’s architect sister, it houses both a pool for adults with water jets and waterfall and one for kids with a separate family sauna too.
Focussing on wellness for all the family – there are numerous treatments for the younger guests too, the spa is exactly what you would expect from Austria. Every type of sauna, infrared cabin, massages, facials, packs, bath and scrubs, sanarium, gym, Ayurveda and lots more.
In the winter, leave the older kids to be picked up and dropped off at the end of the day by the capable teachers at Ski School Flachau. Alexander took to his group and teacher immediately. She even kept in contact with my via WhatsApp. For the adults, just jump on the ski bus directly outside the hotel and a short journey takes you to the lifts. There’s also a ski carousel and free ski hire for much younger ones directly at the hotel. Hopefully next year our two year old will be there! All just makes things easy for the parents. It’s is what they do best here.
For the youngsters left at the hotel, there’s a funky 200m2 kids arena, complete with baby lounge and ball pit. Then, there’s a climbing wall, table football, air hockey and more for older ones.
A playroom beside the restaurant is just another cleverly thought out addition. Every night the kids buffet opens early and offers healthy, yet appealing choices along with a free baby bar offering baby food and milk and everything needed to prepare 24/7 for the smallest guests.
All the equipment is there for you, including buggies, baby baths, changing mats and bottle warmers.
Outside the hotel, a massive enclosed playground with trikes and cycles, a trampoline and more. I couldn’t get my children out of there and luckily in the great spring weather, we almost felt like we were on two holidays; both summer and winter!
Free bikes for adults with baby seats already attached, summer really is as good as winter here. Access to riding for adults and kids alike plus a farm, this place is a dream! Activities are endless from golfing to archery to high rope courses. I hope that we will return one day to experience then at first hand.
Back at the hotel, there’s accommodation to suit every traveller from single rooms to ones sleeping up to seven guests. We were in a gorgeous, modern, family apartment. With a separate bedroom for the kids, super-powerful shower and double terrace, it was our little haven. Flat screen tv’s and cleverly-designed sliding doors, using all the space to its best. Wifi is free too.
A holiday isn’t a holiday without good food. The 3/4 board option is truly great value. Think groaning buffet breakfasts with choices of cold meat and cheese, eggs, hot food, cereals, mueslis and lots more.
Hot and cold drinks available all day for free, another afternoon buffet complete with a hot dish, cakes and salads for late lunches and a table service at dinner with mouthwatering choices from the daily changing four/course menu. All included in the price. Each days there’s either a dessert or starter buffet as well as a huge salad buffet. Foodies are spoilt for choice.
The week flew by. Mornings skiing whilst baby Gabriel was content in kids club, out for walk in the sunshine (suncream always applied!) fed at lunchtime, his sleep then a snack and lots of play, he really took to the lovely girls looking after him. They are a credit to the hotel.
There over Easter, the little ones all got a huge bag of goodies and an Easter Egg hunt too. It’s the thoughtful touches that really sets this hotel apart and I knew that I’d chosen well. We were genuinely sad to leave.
We dropped our skis and paraphernalia back off to the lovely Marcus and his team at Flachauer Schistadl – I highly recommend them for value and service. This lot go out of their way to help. Marcus even dropped our shoes back at our hotel to save me a journey on the first day. Lovely people!
Then it was homeward bound. Flying Monarch is a dream. Salzburg airport is also small and efficient, so you are out in minutes. The flight, ground staff and cabin crew all made the experience painless. ‘Like flying back in the 80’s’, I was told by a very helpful member of staff on the phone pre-flights, when I needed help changing seat bookings – and he indeed was right. We weren’t herded on like cattle, or squashed in and service really was with a smile and even a joke. Pricing was also much better than the competition so check them out next time you fly anywhere.
Back at Gatwick, a call to another newly-discovered, brilliant service; help-me-park and our car was waiting for us literally outside the doors of the terminal. I have become a convert to driving to the airport. Always valet parking though. You are in control of both the speed of the driver and when he turns up! help-me-park were courteous, friendly and professional and instead of meeting in the car park as many do, you are met directly outside the terminal upon arrival and departure. Bon voyage!