Travel: An Austrian adventure
Gentle runs for beginners, amazing views and local delicacies – Bernadette O'Leary gets to grips with the slopes in Rauris
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 (raurisertal.at).
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