Two and a half years ago I fell down while skiing and fractured my shoulder. Personally, I blame it on getting distracted by a kid that I had to dodge and not at all on my mediocre skiing abilities. Since then, I have dreaded getting back onto the slopes. Stewart has been insisting for some time that I get back at it and, after a while, he convinced me that we should go skiing in Austria for my birthday weekend. Since I hate birthdays, I usually find a way to be inaccessible to family and friends and have a good excuse not to answer (skiing is a perfect one, the phone stays in the pocket and you can’t answer while skiing or you fall), so the trip sounded ideal.
After multiple hours of research, Stewart managed to come up with a skiing area no one I know had ever heard of, but the hotel he stumbled upon, a Small Luxury Hotel, looked adorable, despite having a name which was impossible to remember. Hotel Jagdgut Wachtelhof (full review on separate post) is located in Hinterthal, in the ski area broadly known as Ski Amade, a network of 28 ski areas and towns and supposedly the second largest ski area in Europe. We were in Hinterthal, in the Hochkönig region, where they have 120 km of connected slopes with high speed lifts (with heated seats in some cases).
We arrived midday Friday, and, after checking-in at our adorable hotel, went to lunch at Almbar —there are not many options in Hinterthal. We thought the food was mediocre at best and became slightly discouraged with our choice. We also quickly realised that we were amongst the very few English speaking tourists in the area and most people around us were German, Dutch or Austrian.We had dinner at our hotel and had a refreshingly good meal, with friendly service in a delightful Austrian lodge setting—is it possible every inch of wall space is covered with horns and antlers?
The next day I took an all-day ski lesson to regain my confidence; we stopped at a cute mountain restaurant for lunch where we tried Kaiserschmarrn, a shredded pancake served with apple sauce. I am a total convert and this now ranks as one of my all-time favourite desserts (and could also be the best breakfast). We were told that Austrians often carb load on them before running a marathons. I decided that being back on skis was my marathon!
That evening we dined at Amelia’s Corner where we had amazing service and absolutely delicious food. I wish there was an Amelia’s Corner in London as it would be the type of place I would crave going back to again and again. Their beef tartare was one of the best dishes I’ve had in a while. We loved it so much that we booked it to go back two days later (https://www.facebook.com/Amelias-Corner-Hinterthal-342084215968750/).
Mikaela, the manager, suggested we should try Zachhofalm for lunch on the mountain the next day as we were looking for charming and tasty food on the slopes. It was the perfect choice, Stewart ate a great Wiener schnitzel and I ate their specialty pasta (was this the giant balls?).
The next day we ate at Steinbockalm which is at the top of the lift right above Hinterthal and the ideal place to sit, relax and people watch on a sunny day. The food arrived absurdly quickly, but my cheese spätzle was memorable. Sadly, I ran into Mikaela at lunch and she said that they had run out of food on Easter Sunday and Amelia’s Corner would be closed that evening. Damn—if we had known, we would actually have gone back on consecutive nights!
We chose to eat at Jufenalm. The restaurant is a 10-minute taxi ride (a.k.a., 30 Euros!) on a hill with the most stunning view and lots of reindeer roaming around. Their specialty is meat grilled on a cone shaped hot plate, but we didn’t know you had to order a day in advance. We ordered it, but the waiter failed to mention and showed up with a toast dish instead. After several discussions with staff and management, Stewart settled on another meat extravaganza dish and I ate spinach dumplings with cheese. The manager ended up giving us free Schnapps and a dessert to compensate. For the discontinuous start to the meal, the food ended up being tasty and hearty.
We had three days of fun skiing and tasty food, but, despite the area having over 120 Km of terrain, each mountain peak has very few runs (usually just one blue, one red and one black), so you can get sick of the same runs and have to take a different lift to another peak. I don’t think there would be enough terrain for a week’s worth of skiing, but it is a great place for a long weekend or four-day trip!
P.S.: the google translate app came in handy as sometimes they just have food menus in German and not many people speak English fluently enough to explain the differences between a dumpling and a spätzle etc…
One example of a lovely translation at our hotel…. the spa menu lists a veal massage? What exactly does that mean…?
In sum: this was my first time skiing in Austria and it won’t be the last. We may explore new areas in the future such as Kitzbuhel.