Growing up in Australia, you wouldn’t believe that I’m a total ski addict and I try to escape to the mountains a few times a year. Well this is very true. We do have ski resorts in Australia (despite popular belief) but they have nothing on the European and North American mountains.
My love for fresh powder, endless ski runs and red wine by the fireplace did not begin in Australia, but on the slopes in North America. I spent two entire ski seasons working at Deer Valley Ski Resort, Utah and also at Copper Mountain, Colorado. So you can imagine that I enjoy a high level standard of skiing as America has some of the best skiing conditions in the world.
Which brings me to writing this post about an amazing ski experience I want to share with you. Last month, I was invited to the Ski Amade region with the Austrian Tourism board to experience the ski slopes in Maria Alm. Despite not knowing where this area was, I couldn’t have been more excited! I calculated the last time I went skiing and it was over three years ago on a trip to Whistler. It was definitely time to go back to the slopes as it’s one of my favourite types of travel adventures.
The Ski Amade region in Austria is a network of 28 ski areas and towns that make up the second largest ski area in Europe. Yes this place is big! Out of all these areas, our trip was taking us to Maria Alm in the Hochkönig region. Hochkönig is home to over 120 km of connected slopes with beautiful manicured ski slopes, 30 km of cross-country trails, toboggan runs as well as numerous winter hiking paths. So we were definitely in for a treat.
Getting to the ski slopes can be a nightmare. One thing I look for when going on a ski trip, is that it isn’t too far from an airport. The shorter the commute equals more skiing time and that makes me a happy traveller. Situated only a 50 minute drive from Salzburg airport, the village of Maria Alm was an easy commute from London Gatwick. It’s a relatively small airport which meant we were out and in our transfer in no time. Norwegian operates a weekly flight from London Gatwick to Salzburg with fares starting from £29.90 one way. All routes offer free on board Wi-Fi (yes please) and inflight entertainment via your device.
Maria Alm is picturesque to say the least. The streets a cobblestoned, the majority of the buildings are made with the traditional wooden designs and there are two rivers that meander throughout the town. Absolute postcard worthy scenery. The town is dotted with restaurants, bars, shopping boutique and bakeries. A little something for everyone.
You are spoilt for choice in Maria Alm with apartments, hotels, or private villas to rent for your ski holiday. There are even “vegan certified” accommodation options to choose from. Well done Austria!
We stayed at the family run Hotel Eder, which was nestled in the middle of the village next to Salzburg’s largest church steeple. To say this was a Wood & Luxe heaven is an understatement. Luxurious wooden interiors was accompanied by welcoming staff and one of the best spas I’ve ever seen in a hotel. You had the choice of multiple saunas, steam rooms and relaxation areas. Yes please! It was also vegetarian friendly with lots of choices at the breakfast buffet including a fresh lemon tea station.
With only a 10 minute car transfer to the slopes, we were off on our first run in no time. Gondolas sweep you up into the depths of the mountains where you have an generous choice of terrain difficulty. The snow is fresh, the runs are groomed and I felt like everyone was well mannered on the slopes. We had a day of fresh snow which added to our skiing experience as I love fresh powder! There were little or no lines for the ski lifts which was really unbelievable. You could literally ski all day long if you wanted to with no interruptions in your schedule. Fresh powder, easily accessible and no queuing is my type of skiing. And the views, well they speak for themselves.
Like most ski holidays, comfort food is in high demand. There’s not much a delicious burger and fries can’t do to re-fuel you for the rest of the day. However, I’ve recently made the choice to go vegetarian so burgers weren’t an option for me. Apart from the burgers, there were plenty of soups, dumplings, pastas and of course schnitzel to choose from at every ski hut we visited. And by the way, these ski huts are the epitome of cute!
At most of the restaurants where we dined (including the ski-huts), there was always a vegetarian option. I even had a vegan salad on one of the days – who would’ve thought you would have vegan options at a ski resort! My favourite lunch was at the Thoraualm ski hut and my favourite dinner was at Alma (pictured below).
The Hochkönig region is the only certified vegan region in Austria which was quite surprising to me as in my travels, Austria and Germany haven’t been that vegan-forward. They have made a lot of effort to make the region vegan friendly even pointing out the vegan friendly ski-huts, hotels, restaurants and inns. On Maria Alm, the vegan friendly ski-huts include Steinbockalm, Tischkerhutte and Wastlalm. For more vegan travel planning tips you can visit the Hochkonig website.
Once the ski boots come off, the fun doesn’t stop. Austrians a very well known for their Apres ski festivities. Enjoy a schnapps and a dance to some Austrian pop music at the bar, or head to the sauna to unwind from the day.
Night time activities also include sleigh rides, tobogganing, or even a spot of night skiing if you didn’t get enough during the day. During our trip we ventured out in the evening for a magical horse drawn sleigh ride through the forest. It was so serenely quiet, with the snow falling softly during the ride. By the end of the experience, we were literally all covered in snow. So my tip would be to wear a few extra layers!
Goggles you say? Yes the goggles were a highlight! Let me tell you why. The Ski Amade region have designed their very own smart ski goggles that can not only tell how fast you are going on the slopes, they can count calories, play music, guide you to your destination amongst many other things. You can rent the goggles from 19 euro a day and they are loads of fun.
The Hochkönig region is one of the prettiest towns I have visited for a skiing adventure. The Maria Alm village is a destination its own right, where you can immerse yourself in the local cultures, customs and of course there’s the skiing. It’s on the doorstep of Salzburg, where there is also so much to discover. Everything you see, smell, taste and touch will be impossible to forget.
Overall, I felt that this ski experience was much more of a cultural experience than any of my American or Canadian ski holidays. The people, the food, the village; it was all a delightful encounter for the senses.
What’s not to love about the fresh snow, the blue skies, the hospitality and let’s not forget the vegan options on the menu. I can affirmatively say that I will definitely be going back to Austria for another ski holiday (hopefully sooner rather than later). This trip was for 3 nights, four days which was very doable due to the location, however next time I would want to stay for the full week (as there is so much to do and explore).
Thank you to the whole team for creating such an unforgettable trip.
What did you think of my experience in Austria? Would you go or have you been before? I would love to hear what you think by leaving me a comment in the box below. Thank you