Win­ter won­der­land

Peta Lloyd dis­cov­ers all her favourite things for an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ski­ing hol­i­day in Aus­tria’s Gastein Val­ley

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

SKI­ING IN Aus­tria is hardly an un­known quan­tity — to many it’s al­most as fa­mil­iar as “do-re-mi”. Af­ter all, Salzburg­er­land’s claim to fame is the cin­e­matic block­buster Sound of Mu­sic, and for me, its ski re­gion— the Gastein Val­ley — does of­fer some of my favourite things that make up a fab­u­lous ski hol­i­day.

Things like: fol­low­ing the spicy scent of glüh­wein into the for­est clear­ing to find a wooden hut with a glow­ing fire…Bang­ing the snow off my boots, fill­ing up on apfel­strudel with lash­ings of cream, while I waited for my toes to thaw…Or snug­gling up un­der thick blan­kets in the back of a horse-drawn sleigh for a tour of the snow-cov­ered coun­try­side of the re­gion.

This mod­ern ski re­sort has a grand in­fras­truc­ture that has grafted it­self onto Gastein and over the past 70 years has trans­formed Gastein’s life­style.

Win­ter has taken over from sum­mer as the main hol­i­day sea­son here, and gen­tle leisure has given way to thrilling ad­ven­ture.

Built across the side of a cliff, with stair­cases for streets, I ad­mit, Badgastein is not the most con­ve­niently laid-out ski re­sort.

Its lower neigh­bour Bad­hof­gastein of­fers a flat­ter ter­rain for curl­ing, skat­ing and other tra­di­tional win­ter sports, and a bliss­fully easy walk to the ski lift.

Oth­er­wise, for down­hill ski­ing and snow­board­ing the steep-sided Gastein val­ley holds its head up in the pre­mier divi­sion of Alpine re­sorts.

More than 40 lifts serve 218km of piste — and that, as Fraulein Maria might say, is a long, long way to ski. Not all in one ski area, but four, of dif­fer­ing char­ac­ters.

The largest is an M-shaped ar­range­ment, with Badgastein and Bad­hof- gastein at each bot­tom end, cov­er­ing an ex­cep­tional range of piste and pow­der ski­ing be­tween 860 and 2,300 me­tres, with good nurs­ery slopes in the cen­tral val­ley and long pistes on either side.

At 10.4km, for a top-to-bot­tom drop of 1,440m, Hohe Scharte Nord claims to be one of the longest down­hill runs in the East­ern Alps, as well as be­ing one of the most beau­ti­ful.

It was a great chal­lenge to ski non­stop at the end of the day and, as I am a true ski-geek, I could link the lift ticket to the in­ter­net to track my up-and­down statis­tics through the day (and could have done so through the sea­son if I had stayed), which is a great app for to­day’s cut­ting-edge snow user.

The slopes are ac­ces­sorised with all the lat­est giz­mos in­clud­ing a snow park with jumps, rails and a half pipe for ac­ro­bat­ics, a self-timed slalom track and a knee-trem­bling sus­pen­sion bridge strung out across the void from the top lift sta­tion. Af­ter you.

At the head of the val­ley, Sport­gastein has amaz­ing open slopes

En­joy­ing Aus­tria’s snowy ter­rain from the back of a horse

drawn sleigh

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