OLD SCHOOL ALPINE CHARM
Old School Alpine Charm - Luxury Travel Magazine
Old School Alpine Charm
|By: Beatrice Spence, Issue 44 – Spring 2010|
|SINCE AUSTRIA INVENTED APRÈS-SKI, YOU’D EXPECT TO FIND THE NIGHTLIFE JUMPING IN KITZBÜHEL, AUSTRIA’S BEST-KNOWN AND FANCIEST WINTER SPORTS RESORT. BUT AS BEATRICE SPENCE FOUND OUT IT’S THE 24KMS OF BLACK RUNS THAT ATTRACT THE SERIOUS SKIERS.|
|We travelled to the medieval city of Kitzbühel by car and drove through a snowstorm on the autoroute. After a quick admiring walk through the streets of Innsbruck’s old town (an hour from Kitzbühel) and a delicious lunch of Bratwurst (sausage) and Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) we headed back on to the autobahn heading towards Kitzbühel. |
The town is centrally located at just over an hour’s drive from Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Munich airports. We knew we were heading in the right direction as numerous black Audis, BMWs, Range Rovers and Mercedes’ with ski racks passed us at an easy 150km per hour. Note: despite the international status of Kitzbühel as a ski resort the small-type sign indicating the turn off could easily have been missed. Kitzbühel also has an international train station with connections from most European capital cities.
With just over 8,000 all-year-round inhabitants Kitzbühel is a small village, home to world-class sporting events that are more typically hosted by international cities with populations in the millions. As well as the famous Hahnenkamm downhill races held each January, the old town of Kitzbühel also hosts triathlon, polo and tennis events. The town is well-equipped to host the numerous crowds that descend on it for these events with over 7,000 beds available and over 20 four- and five-star hotels. Nonetheless, if you’re intending a visit around the period of the Hahnenkamm races, early bookings are advised as the hotels do book out. The races began in the early 1900s and is considered one of the hardest, scariest and the most technically challenging of the downhill races with its incredibly steep descent.
The old town of Kitzbühel is full of boutique top end shops along the cobbled stone pedestrian-only areas and the buildings are all painted a variety of pretty pastel colours. The fashion-conscious parade their Prada ski suits and purchase the latest Chanel skis as all the leading designers are represented in the centre of the village. Austria apparently invented the après-ski and with a choice of outdoor bars, nightclubs and even a casino, the keenest partying snow bunnies are catered for. In summer cafes and bars spill out on to the streets.
We were visiting for a weekend ski break and the snowstorm we encountered on our drive there lasted until the day we departed. The temperature hovered between -10 to -20, clearing to perfect blues skies and lots of powder as we left. Despite the challenging skiing conditions (i.e. going down unknown, ungroomed black runs without being able to see your hand in front of your face) we had a fabulous ski weekend. With a total of 170km of ski runs, 67kms dedicated to beginners, 79kms for intermediate and 24kms of black runs, this is a resort that caters for everyone.
However my impression was that if you’re really at the very beginning of your ski career this may not be the resort for you as it is challenging, if not impossible, to avoid the numerous narrow cat tracks that link many of the runs. If you are a powder hound Kitzbühel will do it for you, with 55km of marked off piste runs. There are enough runs that you can ski all day without ever needing to do the same run twice. We followed the ski safari which started on brand new eight-seater chairlifts with built-in heating and protective shelters and ended up on a two-seater chairlift from the fifties which was well, slightly terrifying. However you do need to be far away from the main areas of the runs to find these and thankfully Kitzbühel tourism assures me that the last few remaining are fast being phased out. For snowboarders the terrain is great with good snowparks catering to all levels.
|THE GRAND TIROLIA GOLF & SKI RESORTis a five-star hotel which opened at the end of 2009 and is located just out of the centre of town. It has its own private 18 hole golf course and a golf club house created by US star designer Kyle Phillips. The hotel is the latest addition to IHM Inteco Hotel Management Company, which prides itself on running five-star hotels that engage with the culture of the location. The hotel’s three restaurants are directed by Chef Bobby Brauer who has been awarded with a Michelin star in Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin. Half board is included in the tariff and weary skiers, polo players, and hikers will enjoy the exquisitely crafted five-course meals inspired by traditional Austrian cuisine. The hotel’s architecture, interior design, and overall ambience combines the old world Tirolian charm of an alpine ski resort with the comfort of the modern five-star hotel with all the mods cons. The hotel also has a wellbeing spa with a sauna and pool available to guests. A highlight of my visit was a sauna after a day’s skiing, followed by a swim in the pool which flows outdoors so that you are swimming surrounded by snow capped fir trees, steam coming off the water.|
|ADDRESS:WEBSITE: www.grand-tirolia.com |
|RATES: From A$356 during low season for the room (2 persons) including half pension (breakfast and one other main meal). From A$411 during high season.|
The presidential suite is 300 m² with a special butler service.
|Etihad has direct flights to Munich via Abu Dhabi from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines also have flights with stopovers from Sydney. Once you arrive in Munich there are a range of car hire options from Avis, Europcar and Hertz for pick up from the airport for the one hour drive to Kitzbühel. |
|WHEN TO GO|
|To take full advantage of this ski destination travel between December and February is recommended. To experience famous Hahnenkamm downhill races January is the month for you.|