Ski in, ski out with the family
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Ski in, ski out with the family

Skiing enthusiast Caron Bluestone and her family spend a memorable week in an Austrian mountain resort

The Gradonna Mountain Resort surrounded by its chalets
The Gradonna Mountain Resort surrounded by its chalets

You can’t beat Austria for family skiing. With more than 400 resorts, the competition is fierce, so facilities and high standards come at a fraction of the cost of the usual suspects. A passionate skier of more than 40 years – even with my young ones in tow – I know my stuff and I abhor spending on sub-standard food in soulless hotels during school holidays. It’s vital to get it right first time.

We spent our week in Kals am Grossglockner in East Tyrol, a resort with a tiny village at the foot of Austria’s highest peak. Set in the Hohe Tauern National Park, a 2.5-hour scenic transfer from Salzburg, the Gradonna Resort and Spa is a destination in itself. A hiking paradise in summer gives way to a veritable winter wonderland and the largest ski area in East Tyrol.

Our home, with friends – we ski each year with another family – was a cosy, luxurious chalet, set in the grounds of the Gradonna Mountain Resort. A four-star superior ski-in, ski-out resort with a difference. Set in the forest, the hotel, with its exceptional spa and facilities, also offers a range of stunning chalets.

Caron with family and ski instructors

A hybrid experience where you really can have the best of both worlds: your own space and freedom to choose when and where to eat. You can order in, order groceries or eat in the hotel. The hotel also has a wonderful grocery shop where you can stock up on local foods, organic cheeses and anything you might need, at prices that are fair.

The Jewish princess in me has never been a chalet kind of girl – my mother always preferred a hotel over having to worry about catering or cleaning during our family ski holidays. Obviously, things have changed since those days, but some habits die hard.

At the Gradonna, though, we found our true ski nirvana. Not only can you ski to and from your front door, but you also have your very own ski room. No pushing and stressing to get ready in the morning. Simply go downstairs where you will also find your own infrared cabin and washer and dryer. Space galore for everyone’s outdoor paraphernalia and suitcases (Jews don’t travel light!). A luxury mountain home on the slopes. Bliss.

Gourmet food at Gradonna

The chic cubic chalets are true delights of modern architecture. Constructed using local wood, they blend seamlessly into the landscape, giving guests the feeling of a real connection with nature. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring in the outdoors, with breathtaking views of the mountains and the peaceful forest. Both bedroom floors, each with two double bedrooms and modern bathrooms, were separated by the living area. Perfect for sharing, with a full kitchen and enormous table on one side, comfy sofas and woodburning stove on the other, and a sunny balcony.

The hotel building takes pride of place on the sunny plateau, among its chalets. A formidable, modern, wooden construction that spans the mountain, it gives optimal views for all guests, wherever they may be. The outdoor spa pool steams invitingly in the snow and there is a zen-like indoor pool and separate children’s splash pool and water slide. The spa offering is all-encompassing and, as a self-proclaimed aficionado, although I had chosen a simple full-body massage and foot reflexology, was blown away by their quality.

Snow boots are a must. Given the altitude, you are walking in snow to and from the hotel. What I feared might have been an imposition was, in fact, exhilarating and much-needed after overindulging at every opportunity.

Food at the Gradonna comes with a high accolade; the restaurant is rated in the esteemed Gault Millau guide. Breakfast buffets are replete with fresh organic produce to suit every palate and diet, with fine dining and sumptuous spreads at night. Oenophiles will love the cellar; children will adore their separate dining room.

A restaurant with a view

Other features include a modern and inviting kids’ club, separate teenage area with outdoor climbing wall, plus a beginner’s ski lift. The Alpinsport Gratz ski shop is stocked with top quality equipment and everything you might need, from sunscreen to walking boots, and the service is fast and professional.

Skiing here has something to offer every level. I recommend lessons with Markus and his brilliant team at Ski School Kals – the instructors know the mountain inside out and are a joy to learn from. They truly go the extra mile to make a totally memorable week.

 

TIPS

Skiing with kids means plenty of equipment and not all skiwear is created equal. The best one-stop shop by far is Little Adventure Shop. Their offering is curated with quality and value in mind. For our Covid tests we used Halo, which offers fast, app-based results. We flew from Heathrow using Blacklane for airport transfers, a great service that gives the option to change bookings free of charge within the app, up until one hour before a journey.

A four-bedroom Chalet Klassik at the Gradonna Mountain Resort starts from EUR633 per night during the winter season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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