Austria’s alps are a skiing holiday delight come rain, snow or sunshine

We certainly should have been sitting pretty on our ski trip to Zell am See.

Skiing at Zell am See.
Skiing at Zell am See.

This chocolate-box Austrian resort overlooks a picturesque lake and is surrounded by breathtaking Alpine scenery.

We were set fair only a short hop from Salzburg airport in the comfort of the luxurious, family-run Tirolerhof Hotel, complete with pool and an array of spa treatments, and the prospect of a delicious meal every evening after a day on the slopes.

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There we were, ready to roll, boots, skis and helmets expertly fitted by the friendly staff at Bründl Sports and stored at their shop right under the main City Xpress gondola.

Picturesque Zell am See. Image: Samantha Mo

All that remained after a top-notch breakfast at the hotel – anything you fancy from continental to cereal to full Austrian to an omelette brilliantly and speedily cooked before your eyes on the griddle – was to get to the lift, get up the mountain – and ski.

That morning, though, there was just one problem.

While Crystal Ski and the hotel and resort workers had all done their bit to set us up for maximum enjoyment on the pistes of the Schmittenhohe ski area, Mother Nature had not read the script.

It was chucking it down. Not snowing. Raining. Horrible.

The Hotel Tirolerhof. Image: Samantha Mo

Of course, having got ourselves all the way to the Alps, it wouldn’t do to sit inside moping about the weather. And, in any case, ski clothing is made to handle anything mountain weather can throw at you.

On top of that, some of us were booked for lessons, in a couple of cases learning to ski from scratch, so there was no excuse.

The friendly and infinitely capable instructors from Zell am See Ski and Snowboard School certainly made it worth their pupils’ while, brushing aside all excuses about inclement weather and inability to put on a pair of skis, let alone stay on them, and in a couple of days had the novices swishing with some confidence down the nursery slopes, often still upright.

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The rest of us had the delights of the Zell am See-Kaprun ski area at our disposal, with its 408km of pistes, enticing mountain restaurants and stunning views across the Alps and back down to Zell itself and the lake.

Zell am See sits on Lake Zell, which you can’t always see. Image: Nikolaus Faistauer Photography

At least we would have, were it not for that rain on the first day and the 48-hour blizzard that followed, shutting many lifts and making the views invisible.

As the weather closed in, though, Zell and the Hotel Tirolerhof came into their own.

The town’s wide array of bars and restaurants were there to entertain us, with the legendary Crazy Daisy (great steaks, friendly staff, fabulous cocktails) and the cellar bar Ginhouse, reputed to have more than 800 varieties of gin, our favourites.

And what could be more fun after a couple of sharpeners than the traditional Alpine bar game of trying to knock a nail into a log, using the thin end of a hammer head.

A snowy scene on the slopes. Image: Samantha Mo

Meanwhile, the hotel put on a fine apres ski spread of pasta, fresh bread and cake and biscuits, and its sauna, steam rooms and masseurs were there to ease aching limbs.

All we needed to enjoy all that fresh snow was some sunshine and clear blue skies.

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And sure enough, there it was, days on end of it. Starting on the day we left.

Maybe next time, wonderful Zell.


Crystal offers a week’s half-board at the four-star Hotel Tirolerhof in Zell am See from £920 per person, based on two adults sharing, including flights and transfers. Crystal also arranges a six-day lift pass from £254; six-day ski equipment hire from £114; lessons at Zell am See Ski and Snowboard School from £178pp.



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