Saturday, 30 November 2019

Winter - Let's Embrace it with a Skiing Holiday - Frozen Pigtails and a Hole in the Leg

Dear Readers,

Up to now we have been examining the virtues of Winter sun.  However, today, as we head inevitably towards the depths of Winter, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.  There are some people who can’t wait for the Winter to come:  namely your Hapless Blogger and her father (think the father from Miranda, and you’re pretty much there, and really, since the mother bears an uncanny resemblance to Miranda’s mother/Margot from the Good Life, that must make your Hapless Blogger, Miranda…hummm – sorry, a bit of a British joke for our readers from other climes).  En famille, we love a skiing holiday, so today, dear Readers, I am going to talk to you about ours, our adventures, and give you some recommendations for family-friendly places to stay.

It all began with the travel agent.  Now, back in the day, as we have discussed frequently before, one used to have to make a trip to the travel agents.  We are firmly back in the mid-nineties…in fact I can tell you exactly when, because war was about to break out in Iraq, so your Helpless Blogger’s father, who is nervous about life in general, was extra worried about us flying from Gatwick to Salzburg…am pretty sure no Iraqi war missiles were particularly interested in a plane-load of middle-class, corduroy-wearing intermediate skiers on their way to their annual, steady-paced holiday and gluwein hangover…However off to the travel agent they went, and a package holiday was duly booked with Inghams (still exists) to the exotic climes of Filzmoos in Austria.

Now, only one small hurdle to get over before we went:  teaching your Hapless Blogger (who in her defence was quite small at the time), to ski.  Now, remember we are mid-nineties.  The quality and availability of “dry-ski slopes” has increased and improved by now.  In fact you can learn to ski on “real” snow at the most impressive slopes nowadays such as the “Chill Factore” in Manchester or indeed, if you’re happening by the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, you can visit the World’s longest…but I digress.  Back then there was no fake “snow” it was just a kind of honeycombed doormat which when you fell over, which of course you do a lot when you’re learning to ski, gets suck in your bottom like doormatty cacti…

Another slight problem was that your Helpless Blogger wasn’t the skinniest of kids, but I suppose, ultimately, that helped with the falling over.  I distinctly remember one of these indoor beauties where I did in fact learn to ski after a fashion…there was a really weird lift that dragged you up, then room to turn twice and you were at the bottom…being a child fond of my food, the thing I remember most was toasted cheese sandwiches and KitKats….oh yes, and a hole in my leg.  I think as a child, one tends to accept things, or certainly I did.  Clearly someone had done my ski boot up too tightly, which must have hurt at the time, and after a few hours of lessons and free practice, it was time for the aforementioned toasted cheese sandwich.  My mother took my boots off and exclaimed at the hole in my leg where some plastic from the boot had dug in so much that there was just a massive, well, hole.  It was pretty painful if I remember rightly, but I still ate my toasted cheese sandwich…After that, my own boots (pink) were purchased.

Enough preamble already, time for the holiday.  As I said, Inghams were our tour operator of choice, and off we went, true package holiday style.  At the airport we were met by the Inghams reps and shown where to check in etc.  The other side, we boarded a coach and off we set, through the mountains of Austria.  We’re going to concentrate on Austria as I know what it’s like and it’s the setting for the ensuing hilarity.  However, of course, one can equally look at France, Switzerland, Andorra, Italy, Germany…the list is endless.  For us, today, it’s Austria.  Here we arrived in our destination village of Filzmoos and thence to our destination hotel of the Hanneshof.  Now, due to the obscenely early start, and this was a theme for most of our holidays en famille, Jolly Hockeysticks was ill.  She took to her bed, and Daddy and I went out exploring and searching for skiis and boots…

Readers, to say that this was chocolate-box perfect would be to do it a disservice.  I have checked on the webcam, and it is pretty much unchanged to this day, so I can send you with confidence.  Honestly it is so pretty.  If you really didn’t want Austria, then a comparable village would be Grindelwald in Switzerland.  However, honestly, it is just beautiful.  Boots, skiis and sticks duely hired, I remember we stopped off in a konditorei called Backerei Sieberer which is still there (have checked).  It does those impossibly beautiful cakes and slices of gateau and the most impressive hot chocolates.

Now to talk about the hotel Hanneshof.  Honestly Readers, having gone to some pretty impressive hotels in my time all around the world, I have never come across such a wonderful hotel as the Hanneshof.  It is legendary in my family and we went back year on year for many, many years.  The hotel Hanneshof is the most welcoming, most warm, family run hotel you could dream of.  Posh?  Not particularly, very comfortable with a lovely swimming pool (they upgraded it, as it did have a black bottom which I found rather off-putting as a child) and cosy bar area.  But it wasn’t that.  It was the atmosphere which made it.  At that stage, not much English was spoken and I hadn’t started to learn German yet, so there was a lot of sign language which went on.  Also, thanks to the fact that it was a traditional package holiday, we had reps and a welcome meeting!  Such fun! 

Something else about the Hanneshof which again, I have never found anything comparable:  the breakfasts.  The biggest buffet with really weird additions such as the left overs from last night’s pudding.  Brilliant if you’re a slightly overweight child whose mother doesn’t allow you puddings at home for pudding, let alone for breakfast.  On a sugar high, we headed for the slopes.  Seriously, though, the food at the Hanneshof is amazing.  Something I didn’t appreciate until later life is how very knackering skiing is, and in reality, there is no way I would have wanted to self-cater and waste time at a supermarket when you’ve paid to be out on the slopes.  So I would strongly suggest you went for half board and took their evening buffet, too.  Such fun with excellent food (we’ve never had sauerkraut like it) and entertainment (very low key but added to the atmosphere).  As an aside, everyone had their own allocated table, and as we were a party of three, we noticed there was a fourth person allocated to our table.  We assumed they were either a mix up or a ghost as we didn’t see them for several days.  Then, up turned Malcolm in his carpet slippers.  What a chap.  We had a great laugh, and he joined in our games of travel monopoly (we often had spectators for this as it seems some of the other guests had never seen travel monopoly before) or pass-the-pigs, another favourite, with gusto.  My parents are still in touch with him to this day, and from what I remember, we coincided future holidays such good company was he.

We also had hilarious trips planned for us by the reps, such as bowling…I think I still hold the record for the slowest bowling in history but no one really cared…there was even schnapps for the children.

Out onto the slopes.  Now I am going to jump through time a bit here:  as I said, we kept going for many years, so fast forward about 10 or so, and I don’t know about you, or if you indeed ski, but I found that there is no point in being precious about it:  one only goes skiing for one or two weeks a year, so naturally, especially as you get older, lessons are very important.  I decided once I was older, that I needed to learn to ski all over again (interestingly enough after a break of a few years after we’d decided to go to a different resort and I got suck on a mountain and Jolly Hockeysticks and I had to walk down…we don’t mention this in our family…).  By this time Jolly Hockeysticks had retired herself from skiing on account of, well, basically not wanting to, and resenting my father for spending money on skiing holidays when she hated the cold and was wondering why she wasn’t in Barbados…but that’s an issue for her psychiatrist, not me.  So I embarked on lessons.  It was a particularly blizzardy kind of day, and one of our favourite lunch spots was the Happy Filzmoos, another hotel right at the bottom of the main nursery slopes.  Happily it’s still there.  We’d agreed to meet at lunchtime, and in I walked, doing that sort of “funky chicken” walk that you have to do in your ski boots, with my goggles still attached to my face.  I had done my hair in pig-tails either side of my head, and basically the goggles had welded themselves to my hair with ice.  Jolly Hockeysticks, having none of it, and with the look of the devil in her eyes, ripped my goggles off my face, taking large chunks of hair with her…

The point is, lessons, in my opinion are essential.  As an adult, even if you knew how to ski as a child, you have to learn all over again because as a child you are fearless.  Once an adult, you have a healthy respect for broken bones and sheer drops.  However, this didn’t stop me.  I think, and I don’t know if you’ll agree with me, dear Readers, if you’re going skiing in Europe, not just Austria, unlike the likes of America and Canada, where the slopes are more man-made, you cannot guarantee that every slope is exclusively blue or exclusively red as they are natural.  Filzmoos is what one would class as an intermediate resort.  Certainly not a beginner’s resort but probably not enough for a really extreme skier either.  It’s great for your average Joe, as you can do some really great touring skiing too.  The exciting thing with Filzmoos slopes are that they are completely natural and hold all sorts of little excitements round every corner, such as fail to stop at the top of the next slope?  Enter a mogul field, lovely.  Or, skid on a patch of ice, hurdle over an adjacent slope, fly between people ascending the next slope on a drag lift, shoot over the next slope Bridget Jones style, and end up in a forest.  That may or may not have happened…Daddy said it looked pretty impressive.  He also says my skiing is like my driving:  too fast and slightly out of control…

Let’s face it, a skiing holiday may not be for everyone.  Certainly not Jolly Hockeysticks, but it is for some.  If you love your skiing, love touring over to other villages which you can do really easily.  If you love picture postcard perfect views, great food and a wonderful atmosphere, then look no further.

I tried to book through Inghams just to give you an idea of costs today, but the Hotel Hanneshof is fully booked through them!  So I went to and had a look and for a double room with balcony, breakfast and dinner for 7 nights 8-15 Feb which is a perfect time to go, it’ll cost £1,258 for 2 people.  Flights are about £123 each.  So it’s not out of the way, and guess what, dear Readers, you’ll have a wonderful time!  Just watch out for black mogul fields if you’re not looking for them…


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