Travel: An Aus­trian ad­ven­ture

Gen­tle runs for begin­ners, amaz­ing views and lo­cal del­i­ca­cies – Ber­nadette O'Leary gets to grips with the slopes in Rau­ris

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - HELLO! -

Nes­tled in the Alpine re­gion of Aus­tria, in the Rau­ris val­ley on the eastern side of the Hohe Tauern Na­tional Park, is the idyl­lic vil­lage of Rau­ris. Sur­rounded by snow­topped moun­tains against a back­ground of clear blue skies, it’s truly breath­tak­ing. It’s very easy to see why this is called the ‘Golden Val­ley of the Alps’.

We walk along the cob­bled streets and soak up the at­mos­phere and its fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory. For cen­turies, gold­min­ing was the sole fo­cus of life here. In its hey­day, around 10% of the world’s gold pro­duc­tion was fo­cused in the re­gion. You can try it your­self at one of three dif­fer­ent gold-pan­ning sites, sift­ing fine sliv­ers of gold from the wa­ter (rau­ris­er­

While pan­ning has since been swapped for pist­ing, not much else has changed. The tall spire and clock tower of the me­dieval parish church of Saint Mar­tin and Saint Jakob stands out against the mag­nif­i­cent Ho­her Sonnblick, the high­est peak over the val­ley.

Fam­ily-run Rau­ris is a charm­ing vil­lage with tra­di­tional

cafes, bars, bou­tiques and a clutch of smart four-star ho­tels and nu­mer­ous chalets. We’re stay­ing at the pic­turesque four-star Rau­ris­er­hof at the edge of the vil­lage, a fam­ily-run ho­tel which is built in the tra­di­tional style. The view from our ho­tel room is spec­tac­u­lar, while break­fast is a gourmet de­light of fresh juices, a spread of fresh fruit, lo­cal cheeses, cold cuts and a va­ri­ety of breads and pas­tries.

A very con­ve­nient free ski bus, which runs ev­ery 30 min­utes from 9am till 1pm, stops out­side the ho­tel and within 10 min­utes you’re at the Hochalm­bah­nen Lift gon­dola sta­tion. We hire skis from the Karl Maier Skischule, which is con­ve­niently si­t­u­ated next to the sta­tion. It’s great for fam­i­lies with young chil­dren, as you can just ditch your skis after a hard day on the slopes. And while the adults head up the moun­tain, a bunny hill for chil­dren and begin­ners is next to the sta­tion.

The ski area – Rau­riser Hochalm­bah­nen – is

beck­on­ing as we hop on the ski lift that swiftly takes us to an el­e­va­tion of 2,175m above sea level. While the views of the sur­round­ing moun­tains are mag­nif­i­cent from up here, the broad net­work of tree­less slopes are very wel­com­ing for begin­ners.

Out on the slopes

Our in­struc­tor is Harry Maier, a cousin of the two-time World Cham­pion slalom skier Ul­rike Maier. Hav­ing spent two hours learn­ing the ba­sic tech­niques, we’re ea­ger to prac­tise our new skills on the wide, gen­tle slopes. Far from the hus­tle and bus­tle of the mega ski re­sorts, this is an ideal place for fam­i­lies and begin­ners. More ex­pe­ri­enced skiers can take the Gipfel­bahn gon­dola to Sch­warzwand. Ex­pect spec­tac­u­lar views of the Hohe Tauern moun­tain range be­fore you de­scend one of its three chal­leng­ing blue runs down to Heimalm at the mid­sec­tion.

On your de­scent down the moun­tain, there are friendly bars – invit­ing you to drop in for a well-earned re­fresh­ment. Stiegl is the lo­cal beer, while Grüner Velt­liner is a pop­u­lar Aus­trian wine. The nu­mer­ous restau­rants of­fer lo­cal del­i­ca­cies and, of course the wiener schnitzel is un­miss­able.

In ad­di­tion to down­hill ski­ing, there are 30km of cross-coun­try trails in the area. The Kreuz­bo­den tobog­gan run prom­ises sled­ding fun for chil­dren.

And, if it’s ro­mance you’re after, take a horse-drawn car­riage ride through the Rau­ris val­ley while wrapped up un­der a snug blan­ket.

The last gon­dola back to Rau­ris leaves at 4pm and we head back for a re­lax­ing swim and sauna at the spa in our ho­tel – a haven of calm and tran­quil­lity after a full day of ski­ing. The swim­ming pool looks out on to a white win­ter won­der­land. Fine din­ing at the Rau­ris­er­hof is a gourmet de­light, with re­gional spe­cial­i­ties such as or­ganic Tauern lamb, and there’s a great buf­fet for chil­dren. We round off the day warm­ing up in front of the log fire, sip­ping on our drinks in the cosy cock­tail bar.

The gon­dola takesyou to the slopes

Not for the eas­ily scared!

Let horses whisk youthrough the val­ley

Stay at the Rau­ris­er­hof

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