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

Channel 4’s ‘The Jump’ – You have to love this!

I’ve been watching The Jump (now in its 3rd series) on Channel 4 for the last few weeks.  There has been a lot of criticism in the press due to the extreme danger that the ‘celebrities’ are exposed to but I find it all highly entertaining.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-jump

If you haven’t seen it yet, each week an assortment of Z-listers (Brian McFadden, Arg from TOWIE, Heather Mills, Sid Owen, Sarah Harding, etc) line up to compete in various snow sports (ski jumping, snow cross, ski slalom, skeleton, etc).  They receive some training beforehand and are then let loose on the snow/ice – it’s absolute carnage with bodies being removed from the slopes after each event!!  Graham Bell is one of the experts on hand.

http://graham-bell.com

There have been so many injuries on this show that there seems to be hardly any of the original line up left.  But these celebrities have signed-up for this programme and know the risks.  As the show has been aired before, presumably they are aware of the injuries that previous contestants have suffered? Apparently, celebrities are queueing up to take part.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/celebrities-queueing-up-join-tvs-7409503

I do wonder why athletes would take part in this though.  It’s all very well for a ‘reality TV’ or soap star contestant to get injured as this won’t have a long term impact on their ‘career’  – but when athletes such as Rebecca Adlington, Beth Tweddle and Steve Redgrave (previous series) get injured, there must be repercussions for them – why would you take the risk?  Fair enough, most of these athletes have retired now but they are presumably still highly active people with some involvement still in sport. Beth Tweddle has suffered a particularly worrying back injury.

But as for the rest of the contestants, let the games continue!!  Personally, I love watching this each week as it broadcasts live from areas in and around Innsbruck in the Austrian Tirol – one of my favourite places in the world!   It is very pretty to watch and is frequently snowing – it just makes me want to sign-up for my next ski holiday!!  I am also extremely envious of the fabulous hotel that they are staying in – it looks like a castle/ a beautiful Austrian Schloss – I want to stay there!

‘Reality TV’ and Soap Stars risking serious injury (and possibly death) live on TV each week in the beautiful Austrian Tyrol – what’s not to like!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIS Alpine Ski World Cup / Eurosport

I’ll admit that I’m a total Ski Bore and can talk about it and watch it for hours on end (it’s my husband’s fault as he got me into it).

If like me, you can’t wait for the BBC’s Ski Sunday to come around again in January (and then it’s only on for about 5/6 weeks), you need to watch Eurosport.

http://www.eurosport.co.uk/winter-sports/

This is available on most Sky TV subscriptions and shows lots of different types of European sports.  But at this time of year, it is dominated by Skiing as the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup starts each year in late October and runs until March/April the following year – so you are never short of fabulous ski events to watch!

Competitors attempt to achieve the best time in four disciplines: slalom, giant slalom, Super G, and downhill. The fifth event, the combined, employs the downhill and slalom.

The World Cup is held annually, and is considered the premier competition for alpine ski racing after the quadrennial Winter Olympics. Many consider the World Cup to be a more valuable title than the Olympics or the biennial World Championships, since it requires a competitor to ski at an extremely high level in several disciplines throughout the season, and not just in one race.

Races are mainly hosted in the Alps, with regular stops in Scandinavia and North America.  This keeps me entertained all through the winter – but unfortunately watching world class skiers doesn’t seem to improve my technique much!!

http://www.fis-ski.com/alpine-skiing/

Ones to watch this year are:

Lindsey Vonn (USA) – now she has recovered from serious injury, which kept her off the circuit for one or two seasons, she seems to be an unstoppable machine again.  She was dating Tiger Woods of all people (didn’t she see all the stories about him)!  Surprise surprise, they’ve broken up so her skiing will hopefully be great this season.

www.lindseyvonn.com/

Aksel Lund Svindel (Norway) – another skiier recovering from injury. But this year he’s back and is a class act to watch.   He’s already on top of the leaders board so far this year!

http://www.aksellundsvindal.com/

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2016 Ski Holiday Booked – Italy this time!

It was a relatively painless process this year.  We are a core group of five (of varying abilities) who ski (and argue) together.  There is usually much debate and wrangling over where to go.  We were surprisingly well behaved this year and unanimously decided on Sauze d’Oulx  in  Italy – it ticks lots of boxes for us.

We are breaking with tradition (as we normally favour Austria).  Having skied in Italy twice before (Canazei & Courmayeur – see my first blog for a review of Canazei), I know that Italy is a more laid back version of Austria – with better food (sometimes)!  Although Italy can’t match the Austrian après ski.   Having said that,  Sauze d’Oulx is supposed to be huge fun with great night life, cheap food & drink and fantastic skiing – so I am very hopeful!

We have booked with Crystal Ski and we got a good deal – price included a week’s ski pass and ski hire.

http://www.crystalski.ie/ski-resorts/italy-ski-holidays/sauze-doulx/

Our friends, ‘the independent travellers’ are doing their own thing and and have booked flights into Turin on Ryanair.  They are flying back from Milan – both airports are close to Sauze d’Oulx which can be easily reached by public transport.

We are going on January 23rd (to get over the January Blues) so the big countdown starts now – I’m so excited!

Here’s where we’re staying:

http://www.hotelrelaisdesalpes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again – Ski Season 2015/16

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I love this time of year!  The ski season has started and I’m looking forward to Christmas.  But where to ski this season?

Crystal Ski http://www.crystalski.ie  and DirectSki http://www.directski.ie  have launched their new brochures for the 2015/16 season.  I love the new graphics in the Crystal Ski brochure and Direct Ski have a great 1980s ski vibe in their new campaign.

The Irish Independent had a really good ski supplement a few Saturdays ago – if you are looking for ideas.

http://www.independent.ie/life/travel/ski/

Recommended Ski Review Websites:

Some great ski websites for reviews on resorts, latest news, general information, etc, are:

http://www.wheretoskiandsnowboard.com

 

http://www.welove2ski.com  (This is a good site for checking out snow forecasts/conditions).

http://www.skiclub.co.uk

I normally ski in Austria because I love the Après-ski and pretty alpine villages, but a few years ago I skiied in Canazei, Italy. This is a lovely, pretty little resort in the Dolomites.  Check-out the review that I wrote for the RTE Travel site at the time.

http://www.rte.ie/lifestyle/travel/features/2009/0226/140692-canazei/

Anyway, I will be back very soon to give you more ideas and info…..