Kitzbuhel is “as Austrian as Arnold Schwarzenegger yodelling “The Sound of Music” while cooking a schnitzel and sinking a schnapps”. With its labyrinthine village, mountain views, great skiing and legendary après ski, Kitz has it all. Having never skied before, Lauren Kaye decided to go and see what she'd been missing….
Club Hotel Hofer and Crystal Ski Hosting
We stayed in the Hotel Club Hofer (cue lots of jokes about The Hoff over the course of the week), a 3 star hotel run by Crystal club hotel staff. With 26 rooms, the hotel sleeps between 48 and 59 people and has its own bar – making the hotel a friendly and sociable place to stay.
Location: The hotel is perfectly located in a quiet area of the resort 2 minutes from the bars, restaurants and shops of the resort centre, and within walking distance of both the Hahnenkamm and the Kitzbuhlerhorn lifts. For when we were too tired to walk home after a long day on the slopes (or to them after a long night of après ski), the ski bus also stops across the street.
Food: The food was great, and there was lots of it. Breakfast included a full English, slightly varied each day, and a choice of cereal, fruit, cold meats and cheese. Afternoon tea was served at 4pm offering home made cake, and the chance to exchange stories with other guests about our day on the slopes. Dinner was a 3 course meal, with a choice between two meat/fish dishes, and a third vegetarian option and included a glass of wine. Meals comprised English classics like roast beef with all the trimmings, chicken and leek pie, sticky toffee pudding and plenty of fresh fish. There was an Austrian themed evening where staff dressed up in traditional Tyrolean outfits to match the menu - ghoulash and schnitzel. Upgrade meals were also available each evening for an extra charge.
Rooms: The rooms are traditionally decorated and though basic, were very clean and comfortable. My only criticism would be that it was quite noisy, and we could hear everything that went on outside of our room – not great if you wanted to sleep past 8am. Ok, I know we should have been up and on the slopes by then….
Crystal Ski Staff: The Crystal staff, both working at the hotel and our rep, the legendary Rich, were awesome and we were well looked after all week. The hotel staff were not only friendly and professional, but you felt like they really wanted you to enjoy your stay. Rich was on hand on our first day of ski school to give us a friendly push in the right direction and continued to be visible all week to answer any questions and give out invaluable tips like the overnight storage lockers by the Hahnenkamm lifts (prompted no doubt by concern about the damage I would otherwise probably cause around town carrying them around every day!). As well as being around during the day, Rich and the other Crystal resort reps ran a full programme of optional activities ranging from bar crawls and karaoke, to bobsleigh, tubing, a weekly quiz, and of course, guided skiing. For a first timer like me, the support of the Crystal staff was great and meant I was able to concentrate on enjoying myself. Which I did in abundance, of course.
Fellow Guests: The hotel generally attracts groups and families, and I met some people who were returning for the 3rd season in a row. Even with two thirds of the hotel taken by one large group the week we were there, we did not feel like the odd ones out and the bar area run by the lovely Stuart meant we all knew each other by the end of the week.
The Resort and nightlife
When we landed in Salzburg, the sight of the Alps glistening in the sun was like nothing I had seen before. And when we got to Kitz an hour and a half later, my childlike excitement was at fever pitch. The resort did not disappoint – the beautiful Tyrolean village made me feel like I had stepped on to the set of The Sound of Music (minus the children running round in curtains).
One of the great things about Kitzbuhel is the diversity of activities on offer, even when the resort is under 3ft of snow. There is an “Aquarena” featuring a 25m pool and waterslides for the inner child in you (or for the children travelling with you), and a “Sportpark” with facilities including ice rink, curling sheets, indoor tennis courts and an indoor climbing wall.
There is no shortage of après ski entertainment in Kitz either, with everything from cocktails in Café Bergsinn, to live music at The Londoner or O’Flannigans, karaoke at Das Lichtl and everything in between. For a mug of gluwein in the sun when you come off the mountains, hit the beanbags at Streifalm. After midnight, head to Chizzos or Highways, but be warned, with Jagermeister and Flugel practically national drinks, this is the point of no return and you are unlikely to get away with more than a couple of hours sleep before hitting the slopes again (or maybe that was just the influence of the couple of northern monkeys I met?!). For families and couples, the bars in the hotels around the resort provided a tamer alternative.
There is also a large number of restaurants catering to all tastes in the resort centre and of course on the slopes. Recommendations I received included Huberbrau Stuberl, Chizzos. Thai Imbis and Barrique. For something a bit different, head to Alpeniglu which is situated on the Hahnenkahmm mountain at 2000m for dinner served on tables made of snow and ice.
The Skiing (and snowboarding)
For a beginner like me, the resort was perfect with wide open nursery slopes at the bottom of the Hahnenkahmm gondola to ease me in. For the more experienced skier, there is a total of 168 kms of piste facing all directions to get your teeth into, including the infamous “Hahnenkamm Streif” which more proficient skiers can test their speed and skill on.
For snowboarders, the Kitzbuhler Horn is one of the most popular areas in Austria and features a board park with enough jumps to satisfy even the most adventurous.
Without enough experience to form my own opinion, I asked Rich our friendly rep how he rated the skiing in general and he told me “Kitz is a great intermediate resort with a good variety of runs. The blacks aren’t too difficult, and there are both wide open red and blue runs and some slightly trickier, more technical ones to challenge intermediate skiers”.
I made use of the Crystal First Time Ski package, which included 6 days lift pass, equipment hire and 4 hours a day tuition with the Red Devils Ski School who were great. By the end of day 3, I was (not quite) skilfully mastering red runs and (very) skilfully amusing my classmates by impersonating our fabulous instructor, Andy, yelling out “Skiing is fun sport number one!” as I hurtled past them in a (semi) controlled manner.
Hours slept: not many
Shots of jagermeister and mugs of gluhwein consumed: too many
Skiing hours: a very respectable minimum of 5 a day
Bowls of ghoulash eaten: I had my year’s quota
Enjoyment of ski experience: 10/10
I had an absolutely fabulous time – Kitz was great as a resort, Club Hotel Hofer was welcoming and I have definitely caught the skiing bug. I just can’t believe I waited 32 years to give it a real go!
Book your tuition / equipment hire / lift pass in advance – not only will it save you money, but it will also save you a lot of hassle when you get there (assuming, unlike me, you have a sense of direction and can follow a map to the hire shop).
Crystal Ski (tel: 0871 231 2256 and www.crystalski.co.uk) offers a week half board in the Club Hotel Hofer in Kitzbühel, Austrian Tirol, from £499 per person including flights from Gatwick and transfers. Direct flights from ten UK airports available at a supplement.
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