The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

at high al­ti­tude — the top sta­tion at 2,680m is nearly at glacier level.

This is ideal for ex­cit­ing off-piste ski­ing and re­li­able snow con­di­tions in March and April when many other re­sorts run short on the white stuff.

Grauko­gel is Badgastein’s orig­i­nal ski area, now rather over­shad­owed and out on a limb, but for that rea­son it is well worth a visit on a busy morn­ing.

Sure, the chair lifts may not have been mod­ernised since 1947 but its sweep­ing for­est pistes, which hosted the World Cham­pi­onships back in 1958, have lost none of their bite.

At the en­trance to the val­ley, lit­tle Dor­f­gastein’s lifts make what the Aus­tri­ans call a “skischaukel” — an over­the-moun­tain link with the neigh­bour­ing val­ley and its pretty ski vil­lage of Grossarl. PACK­AGE: One week half-board at the Ho­tel Palace, from £628 per per­son based on two shar­ing, in­clud­ing flights from Gatwick to Salzburg and trans­fers, depart­ing Jan­uary 2016 TOUR: Heil­stollen Caves: 30-minute in­tro­duc­tion, €30.50; six-day lift pass, from €244 GUIDE: Half-day guid­ing, €65 PP MORE INFO: gastein.com and salzburg­er­land.com

Us­ing the ski bus shut­tle ser­vice, I headed this way for the strudel and dirndl fac­tor: Aus­trian ski­ing at its most charm­ing, with plen­ti­ful moun­tain huts and well-groomed in­ter­me­di­ate pistes. For me this was a leisurely cruise through de­light­ful scenery.

The two faces of Gastein — young and sporty ver­sus stiff and se­date — some­how go to­gether well.

You don’t have to be a hypochon­driac to ap­pre­ci­ate a soak in the tub af­ter a hard day’s ski­ing, and if the hot wa­ter has spe­cial prop­er­ties that mend a tired body, so much the bet­ter.

Spas are all the rage at the lux­ury end of the ski busi­ness, be­cause for­ward-think­ing re­sorts are be­gin­ning to worry about cli­mate change and seek­ing to ex­pand what they of­fer.

So the old spa busi­ness is in fact good for skiers too.

The heal­ing pow­ers of lo­cal springs brought vis­i­tors from the ear­li­est times; Ro­mans, Paracel­sus, Mozart’s mother and even Kaiser Wil­helm.

Th­ese days it may be more about well­ness and pam­per­ing than the tra­di­tional cure, but Gastein’s medic­i­nal claims have a cer­tain fas­ci­na­tion, even to the ca­sual vis­i­tor who ar­rives with no par­tic­u­lar ther­a­peu­tic agenda be­yond the heal­ing power of an ac­tive hol­i­day.

And so it hap­pened that an aprèsskier with only a sore pair of knees and a lit­tle stiff­ness in the lower back to com­plain about vol­un­teered to sam­ple the pièce de ré­sis­tance of the fa­mous Gastein cure — the Gastein Heil­stollen caves. This ex­pe­ri­ence in­volves a

At Gastein’s Heil­stollen caves, heat and radon gas are part of the ther­apy

View across the Gastein Val­ley

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