In search of a convenient, self-catered ski-break, Melissa Porter and her son discover the delights of the Austrian Alps
Does anyone else despair at the number of school holidays and the seemingly constant administration required to organise entertainment for our little munchkins? And don’t get me started on the related costs for kids’ clubs and nanny cover, while we’re all juggling work commitments with the responsibility of parenthood.
This got me thinking about an alternative option for a short, sharp, self-catering, snow-filled ski holiday. Somewhere I could fly to directly from Manchester, in a couple of hours, swift airport transfers, excellent ski school facilities with plenty of child-friendly slopes and glorious food. Cue Austria.
My curiosity about this country was piqued by a recent Savills’ Spotlight report, ‘Alpine Property Market 2015/6’, which revealed a national house price growth of 41 per cent since 2008, compared to falls of 0.9 per cent in France. I’m also aware that Austrian ski properties are up to 50 per cent cheaper than resort property in the Swiss and French Alps.
Pierce and I boarded the very pleasant and incomprehensibly inexpensive Thomas Cook flight from Manchester and, in just over two hours, we had landed in snowy Innsbruck: the gateway to our skiing adventures. We hired a cool car, programmed into the sat nav our destination of Kühtai, Austria’s highest ski resort (made famous by the C4 show The Jump), and – just 30 minutes later – we’d arrived. That’s an incredible concept; being able to leave Manchester at breakfast time and enjoy the 80km of slopes soon after lunchtime.
We were basing ourselves for the week at a Kristall Spaces development: 2020 residences, that are incredibly well designed, both aesthetically and functionally. Our two-bedroom apartment was accessed via a lift and designed with an alpine feel. I appreciated that some of their traditional furniture and design concepts had been combined with contemporary twists, such as parquet floors and under-floor heating. The kitchen was well-appointed and included rather fabulous Miele appliances, and the Hans Grohe bathrooms received top marks from Pierce, who enjoyed showering while looking out over the wrap-around balconies at the white sparkling 3000m peaks. The building also included a fun Finnish sauna and soothing steam bath: the perfect place for me to meditate and check over each day’s bruises and bumps.
Curious about what else the Austrian property and rental market had to offer, we decided to enjoy a little road trip to two sister properties: the first, a 15-minute tree-lined trip down the mountain (with starting prices at €209,000) at Mountain Lake Resort Ötztal, in the ancient village of Oetz. Well worth a visit for anyone interested in architecture and history.
The second was a little further away, but with all you could ever need and the price-tag to go with it (prices start at €638,940 for a two-bedroom apartment). Mountain Spa Residences provides on-site concierge, airport pick-up and chauffeur service. And, with the luxury of a ski-out location, the infamous Nassereinbahn ski lift is just 500m away.
What I like about this investment, is that Austrian tourism is growing year on year, and the Tyrol region registered almost a 10 per cent annual increase in visitor numbers in the first half of 2016, largely thanks to guaranteed skiing from November to May. Even when the snow has long gone, as a dual-season resort, Oetz offers a wide variety of activities in the summer, such as canoeing, climbing, mountain biking, tennis and golf: all Pierce’s favoured sports. Could this become our second home?
Regardless of whether you’re a beginner, advanced or seasoned skier, all three areas have a whole labyrinth of different trails and slopes, offering something for everyone. What’s more, Austria’s region of the Arlberg is set to become one of the largest ski regions in the world, following a whopping £35million investment. The Arlberg will boast a total of 305km of slopes, overtaking the French regions of Val D’Isere (300km), Tignes Espace Killy (300km) and Grand Massif (265km).