Skiing in The Hof (Bad Hofgastein) – Feb 2017

In early February, five of us headed off to Bad Hofgastein in Austria  – not to be confused with its bigger, more beautiful neighbour, Bad Gastein further up the valley.  More on that below…

Bad Hof is situated in the beautiful Gastein Valley, approximately 1 hour 30 mins from Salzburg Airport. (Although our outward journey took a bit longer due to weekend traffic and the small matter of our Crystal Ski bus colliding with a parked car!!  There was a bit of a ‘disagreement’ between the two drivers but we moved on eventually!  All very amusing afterwards but not at the time!)

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View from our hotel room in Bad Hofgastein

We travelled with Crystal Ski and stayed in the Salzburgerhof Hotel.  The hotel was a 3 star and very comfortable  – located in a great spot in the middle of the pretty town.  Our 1st floor room was perfect with a balcony overlooking a lovely square, with a fabulous view of the mountains.  The food was classic, no nonsense Austrian grub!  Lots of dumplings and cheesy things.   I’m a vegetarian and they managed to feed me well enough (and I’m quite fussy).   The staff were lovely and the ski bus to the main gondola stopped right outside – or it was a ten minute walk (without ski boots on).

Après-ski (We found it …eventually)

Bad Hof was great – but I had one (mediumish) problem.  Where was the après-ski??  It was VERY QUIET!!  This is unusual for an Austrian ski resort and I was surprised because it’s reasonably big, full of skiers.  I expect cheesy Euro pop everywhere and crowded après-ski bars.  In fact, this is the part of my ski holiday I love the most!  So if that is your thing, then Bad Hof isn’t for you!!   However, being the seasoned party animals that we are, we managed to squeeze some fun out of the place, so don’t let that put you off.

Our favourite bars were the Weinstube Zum Boten right opposite our hotel – friendly staff and lovely and cosy.  They let us gate crash a 30th birthday party on the first night, so happy days.  And the trendier Gastein Alm (across from the main gondola.

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Waterfall in Bad Gastein

On two nights, we headed to the bigger resort of Bad Gastein (ten minutes in a taxi and approx €50 between the five of us).  There is more apres ski action here but I have never seen or walked up such steep hills!!  It makes the Hovis advert look tame! Cruelly, most of the good bars are at the top of the hill (Mount Everest springs to mind).  So by the time you get to the bar, you are half dead and really deserve your drink!!

We went to the Silver Bullet  which is a massive bar full of drunk Swedish & Danish people (great fun!) and Haeggbloms Bar (full of hormonal adolescents, so we didn’t stay there too long).

Bad Gastein is an absolutely beautiful town.  It has an air of faded splendour about it with gorgeous period hotels situated on dramatic slopes along the valley.  On our last day, we were all skied out

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Interior of Kraftwerk

(not as young as we used to be) so we spent a few hours exploring.  It didn’t disappoint.  If you are visiting Bad Hofgastein, you must make the effort to visit here too.

I don’t know where we got the energy from, but we decided to walk down a precarious stair way (covered in snow & ice – the stair way of death) right to the bottom of the valley.  I’m so glad we did because we found the most wonderful bar/restaurant called Kraftwerk  – no not the 80’s German electronica act – it means power station in German.  This place was AMAZING!! I’ve never been anywhere like it
before.

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Giant magnets inside Kraftwerk

As the name suggests, it used to be a power station (c.1914) and it doubles up as a museum/bar/cafe.  It is at the bottom of a dramatic waterfall which flows through the centre of the town (and was used to power the place).  It was a brilliant bar.

 

It reminded me a bit of the old Frankenstein films as the place was full of dials and magnets.  But unfortunately, once you walk down to it, you have to walk back up!  But trust me – it really was worth it.

The Skiing!

The skiing is great but Bad Hofgastein is no place for beginners – so be warned!  It’s mainly lovely long red runs and some of them are more like blacks.  There is only one official black run in the resort but some of those ‘reds’ would definitely test you!  It is quite a big area and so will easily keep good skiers amused for the week.  When you’ve out skied the slopes around Bad Hofgastein,  the ski buses (very frequent) can take you to the surrounding areas where you can ski some more (e.g. Doftgastein, Bad Gastein, Sportgastein….)

The Spa – Alpentherme Gastein

There was a typical Austrian/German spa in the town, the Alpentherme Gastein. Apparently it’s a brilliant one and world famous, but you have to be naked to use it! OMG! One of our friends went along for an afternoon thinking he could turn up in his trunks…but oh no!  They spotted him and demanded that he stripped them off – which he did in front of his fellow spa users!  I’m sorry, but there is no way I’m going to be naked in front of a load of strangers – or worse in front of your friends!!

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Weitmoser Schlossl

The Schlossl

No ski holiday is complete without a fabulous schlossl – and Bad Hof has a very pretty one (Weitmoser Schlossl).  It is a ten minute walk from the Intersport Depot near the main gondola and you can go there for coffee/apple strudle or dinner.

We spent a beautiful sunny morning sitting outside on our last morning, while we were waiting for our transfer back.  A few hours later, we were back in rainy old Dublin!!

 

 

 

Although Bad Gastein is really beautiful, it is too big and the hills in the town too steep to walk around all week – so it lacks the Austrian ski village cosiness.   I was glad we based ourselves in Bad Hof Gastein.  It’s also really pretty but smaller – so it has more of that cosy Austrian ski resort feel to it.  And it’s easy to jump on a bus or get a taxi to Bad Gastein.

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Me in my trendy goggles – I love them
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All smiles until we walked up the hill…

 

 

 

 

February 2017

Ski Resorts I have Known…

AUSTRIA

Even though I’m going skiing in Italy this January, my favourite place to ski is still Austria.  The villages and towns are unbelievably pretty and the Apres Ski is unbeatable. The downside is that some of the resorts are not very high up so the snow record can be a bit hit and miss – thank God for snow cannon.  Here are some resorts in Austria that I’ve been to over the years:

Westendorf – this was my very first ski holiday and is where I learned to ski.  I have a soft spot for this place.  It is a pretty little village but despite it’s small size, the apes ski is a hoot.  I have fond (hazy) memories of the Wonder Bar (say no more).  It is also a good place for beginners as it has lots of gentle slopes.

westendorf

Mayrhofen – I liked it so much I went here twice – unfortunately, on my first trip, I broke my leg on the first day and spent the rest of the week in an Austrian hospital!  But it didn’t put me off!  It is one of my favourite resorts as it seems to have it all.  Fantastic nightlife (the Ice Bar by the main gondola is a lot of fun) good skiing a pretty town with lots of shops.  They have an annual comedy festival called Altitude which attracts big UK comedians such as John Bishop and Sean Lock.

http://www.altitudefestival.com

They also hold a big music festival each year, Snowbombing.  This year Fat Boy Slim and The Prodigy are playing.

http://www.snowbombing.com

Kitzbühel – this has to be one of the most beautiful Austrian resort.  It has a wonderful medieval centre and is steeped in history.  It used to be an old silver mining town and so it’s quite wealthy.  Again, the nightlife is good and the skiing is great.  Each year in January, the world’s most famous (and terrifying) downhill ski race is held here – The Hahnenkamm is considered to be the toughest race on the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup circuit and it is thrilling to watch.

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St Johann in Tyrol – this is quite close to Kitzbuhel but is smaller and quieter.  It is a pretty little town and is a cheaper option to Kitzbuhel – you can still ski in the same area and go to Kitzbuhel on day trips.

Zell Am See – this place is stunning.  Again, I liked to so much I went twice!  It sits on a big lake which gets frozen over in the winter so you can ice skate (but I haven’t been brave enough for that – I always worry that the ice will crack!)

The best bar on town is the Crazy Daisy where you can buy t-shirts with the famous slogan, ‘Don’t eat the yellow snow!”.

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Saalbach – This town is famous for it apres ski and it is certainly one long party here.  If you are looking for somewhere quiet, so to St Johann!

St Anton – this is one of Austria’s most famous resorts and it is a fabulous place.  The skiing is great and the apres ski is incredible!  There are two world famous bars in town, The Krazy Kangaroo and the Mooserwirt. If you enjoy dancing on tables in your ski boots, singing along to cheesy Europop, this is the place for you!!  It is definitely a ‘things to do before you die’ kind of place.

http://www.mooserwirt.at/en/apres-ski.html

Obergurgl – What a great name!  This place is much quieter than Saalbach and St Anton.  It is great for families and the best thing about it is its altitude.  This is the highest parish in Austria so the snow is pretty much guaranteed.

Schladming – This is a really interesting place.  It is bigger than your average ski resort and although you can travel here with Crystal Ski, there are very few Irish or British skiers here.  It is very much a resort for Austrians and Germans and is huge on the  FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Circuit as it hosts the annual Slalom Night Race.   We had a great week here and survived a schnapps tasting night at a lovely little place in the town centre that makes it own schnapps (I forget the name now, but then I can’t remember much from that night!).

http://www.planai.at/en/planai-up-to-date/events/nightrace

 

 

Great YouTube films from Crystal Ski

No, I don’t work for them, but I think these Crystal Ski YouTube films are great.  Crystal Ski are part of the TUI Group and so have a huge marketing budget and I think they have put it to very good use here.

I particularly like this one below – Apres Ski in the City.  It made me laugh!! (Oh I have been there – many times!!)

And this one is great too – The Ski Explorers:

https://www.youtube.com/user/crystalholidays

Roll-on January 23rd – Sauze d’Oulx is calling!!!

Apres Ski Comes to Dublin (Part II)

As promised in my earlier blog, I wanted to give you my view on Dublin’s Christmas Market and Apres Ski Bar in Custom House Quarter.  I visited this on Wednesday night and we were lucky with the weather as it was ‘in-between’ storms Clodagh and Desmond!!  It was a calm hiatus before the next battering.

The market looks very pretty against the dark December night, with lots of twinkling lights on the stalls and a HUGE Christmas Tree.  But having visited many markets in Europe (mainly Germany) I’m afraid it doesn’t compare.  See link below to my view of the Dusseldorf Christmas Market which I visited a few years ago.

http://www.rte.ie/lifestyle/travel/features/2008/1202/140307-dusseldorf/

The Dublin market looks beautiful but the stalls are limited and mainly sell food.  When you visit the German markets, the majority of the stalls sell fabulous, traditional Christmas decorations that often can’t be bought anywhere else.  And the wonderful smells of mulled wine (gluhwein) stands  are everywhere.  I think there is a big gap still in Ireland for a market that can truly match the wonder of German/Austrian markets.  But then, the Germans invented the Christmas Tree so they know what they are doing in this department!!  Here are a couple photos of the Dublin market – the tree is beautiful and it’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

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Christmas Market at Custom House Quarter, Dublin 1

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Giant Christmas Tree at Custom House Quarter, Dublin 1

The Apres Ski Pop Up Bar (iBelieve) is a lovely festive place to go for a few drinks and food.  It looks great with beautiful Christmas trees and Hurricane Lamps (we need those right now!).  We ordered a hot, spiced cider and a mulled wine.  Both were excellent and certainly did the job.  But again, it doesn’t really compare to infamous Austrian Apres Ski bars that I have been lucky enough to visit over the years.  No one was dancing on the tables swigging Jägermeister and there was no cheesy German/Austrian Europop – but you might think that’s a good thing!

http://www.ibelieveinchristmas.ie/i-believe

But as places to go in Dublin over the festive season, they are good options and definitely get you in the mood for Christmas.  Not many shopping days left to go now (Yikes!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Après Ski Comes to Dublin (Pop-Up Bar)

There is currently a lovely Christmas Market at Custom House Quarter, George’s Quay, Dublin 1 (Nov 26th – Dec 23d).  It includes a gigantic Christmas Tree and an Après Ski Pop-Up Bar!!

http://www.ibelieveinchristmas.ie/apres-ski

I have sampled many Après Ski Bars and Christmas Markets across Europe so I will try this on Saturday (Dec 5th) and let you know my verdict!

There are lots of festive events in Dublin this year – see link below for a list of the activities.

http://www.dublinatchristmas.ie

 

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(Source: Rise of the Guardians: http://www.fanpop.com)