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5 steps to apres-ski heaven in the Austrian Alps

5 steps to apres-ski heaven in the Austrian Alps

arlberg 1800RESORT is nestled among slopes of picturesque St Christoph, Austria

Is it just me, or does hot chocolate taste better when you can see snow?

The thought recently occurred to me in the quaint St Christoph, Austria, wrapped up in a heavy blanket on my private balcony, clasping my drink with bare hands. Staring out at the white mountains, I had a mini travel epiphany.

My existence at that moment was the polar opposite to cocktails on the beach – the ever-elusive image of what a ‘perfect vacation’ is. And yet, there was nowhere else in the world I’d rather be. And still I came back with a tan.

arlberg1800_Suiten_2-copyright-Kniejski

I was staying at the luxurious arlberg1800 RESORT and the Arlberg Hospiz Hotel therein. It sits prettily among the Tyrolean mountains in the tiny town, near the larger St Anton. Here, apparently, I was to master the art of skiing. From scratch. In a very short amount of time.

Weeks of worry preceded my visit. And not without due cause: I’d gone full on Edina Monsoon while snowboarding in Val d’Isère six years before.

SKYFALL-Photo-Credit-David-Churchill

But milling around that beautiful resort – drinking red wine before an open log fire; stocking up on rich, carb-heavy dishes – I realized, my lack of skiing ability didn’t matter.

Because that sense of otherworldly relaxation and comfort is what winter sporting holidays are all about. Perhaps it comes from the altitude (arlberg1800 RESORT is 1800m, or 5905ft, above sea level, hence its name). Or being surrounded by such staggering, fairytale-esque natural beauty everywhere you look.

Goodbye to @arlberg1800resort. #arlberg #ski #travel #instatravel #gaytravel

A photo posted by Gay Star Travel (@gaystartravel) on

Spoiler alert: I ended up learning the basics of skiing. And I’m proud I gave it a go. But most of all, I’m glad I didn’t let being slightly sport-averse put me off such a special trip.

Here’s my guide to the perfect ski experience at one of Austria’s loveliest alpine retreats, both on-and-off piste…

sking

1 A day on the slopes

If you’re looking for somewhere to ski in Europe that’s painless to get to from London, head to St Christoph. There’s a direct flight with easyJet from Gatwick to Innsbruck, the nearby state capital of Tirol. (It’s then two hours by car). Our journey was organized by alpine specialists Kaluma Travel, who center luxury ski holidays around the guest’s enjoyment.

A short one hour and 20 minute car journey later, I was at the arlberg1800 RESORT, and borrowing equipment from the on-site sports shop Intersport, just minutes from my room. Before I knew it, I was fully kitted out, on my little practise slope opposite the hotel, and ready for my first-ever skiing lesson.

My instructor was patient and knowledgable, and I had fun, although it was challenging. The crucial point is, skiing newbies can pick it up pretty quickly if they’re willing to work at it. Best of all, it was great to be out in the fresh air, under a cloudless sky, frolicking around on powdery snow.

More advanced skiers can enjoy access to 340km of pisted slopes from St Christoph, which is connected to Lech, Zürs, Stuben and St Anton. A new chair lift is a mere stone’s throw from Intersport.

swimming_pool

2 Unwind at the spa

We’ve established that hot chocolate tastes better in cold climes.

Similarly, the more your body aches, the greater the levels of holiness a massage can reach.

spa

My therapist seemed well aware of this during my straightforward, but well-executed back massage, in the resort’s relaxing 2000 m² spa.

The beautiful complex also includes steam and sauna rooms, and a decent-sized pool.

ARLBERG-1800-SUITES-Photo-David-Churchill

3 A good night’s sleep at the hotel, or in one of its suites

My comfortable room, complete with balcony overlooking the village center, was perfect for my needs.

But upon exploring some of the resort’s 17 newly-designed, loft-style suites, I found myself wishing I’d visited with a huge group of friends, to fill one of them up with fun and laughter.

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These spaces feel akin to stepping into the world’s most tasteful interiors magazine.

Every detail – textures, furnishings, kitchenware – has been meticulously chosen to create a style experience beyond compare.

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4 Take in some culture at the contemporary art gallery and concert tall

Despite its remote setting and lofty height, the village is a burgeoning arts capital, owing to the arlberg1800 Contemporary Art and Concert Hall.

These sleek, glossy spaces were designed by architect Jürgen Kitzmüller, cover 1000m², and are embedded partly inside a mountain. Since opening in 2015, it’s attracted culture vultures to the village all year round.

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Past performers in the curving, wood-paneled concert hall, which cost €26m [£22m, $28m] and seats 200, include Chris De Burgh, The Lighthouse Family and Art Garfunkel.

The center’s ultramodern appearance compliments the chic interiors of the suites. I couldn’t help but imagine the resort’s aesthetic evolution since its inception as an inn back in 1386. It’s now been owned by the Werner family for over 60 years.

Hospiz-Alm-Kaminfeuer-restaurant

5 Dinner (and breakfast, and lunch) at one of the resort’s many dining options

According to BUPA, moderate downhill skiing burns 400 calories an hour. Meanwhile, uphill cross-country skiing (I don’t even..) burns up to 1000 an hour.

Suffice to say, three, or five, meals a day are essential when skiing. I was ravenously hungry when I sat down to platters of perfectly roasted meats and fresh salads at the rustic Hospiz Alm on the first day.

wine_cellar

The lunch and dinner menus are full of rich Austrian dishes and ingredients: Schnitzel, hemp bread, beef broth, tyrolean duck and goats cheese ravioli currently feature.

But downstairs, in a cellar accessible via a slide, is the restaurant’s greatest selling point: its wine collection. Gigantic bottles of eye-popping value even adorn the ceiling.

AHH_Alm_Abendessen_2601

In truth, we didn’t have a bad meal anywhere in the complex. The dining rooms are all opulent but homely, and once again, the extensive, rabbit warren-like wine cellar was fascinating.

Service was flawless – many of the staff can be seen wearing traditional Austrian attire, which is always charming. This pretty much summed up the experience for me: authentically Austrian, but finished to an impeccably high standard. And always, I felt completely at home.

For more information, visit arlberg1800resort.atWith thanks to Kaluma Travel, Intersport Arlberg and Tirol. Flights and transfers provided by Kaluma Travel. Ski and boot hire provided by Intersport Arlberg. Lift passes provided by Tirol.