Our apartment and everything in it is brand new. We are the very first to stay here which worries us somewhat as with eight children between us, we are likely to trash it. The kids run excitedly from room to room, exclaiming about the three flat screen TVs, the rooftop sauna and the funky coloured lights. We adults are impressed by the panoramic mountain views and cow on the kitchen splash back. It seems to have everything. Except for one thing. We search the whole building. There is nowhere else to look. Surely they couldn’t have omitted such an essential element to a ski chalet? But it was true. They had forgotten to put in a drying room.
We had met up with our English cousins for a two week skiing trip and having been the ones to organise it, we felt responsible if everything wasn’t perfect. “Schlad where?” they had asked when we suggested Schladming, a small medieval town, 100kms from Salzburg in Austria. No one seemed to have heard of it. But that was why we liked it. Although not as glitzy as some of the more well-known Austrian resorts, it still looked picturesque and, we felt, would offer a more authentic cultural experience. We didn’t want to travel across the other side of the world to drink at the “Krazy Kangaroo Bar”.
Our apartments are a walk to the base of the gondola giving access to the 46 interlinked lifts over four mountains. It all seemed to be working out perfectly.
There was just the matter of the drying room.
It was our first time skiing overseas and what we were soon to realise is that, in Austria and no doubt in other ski resorts around the world, there is no call for a drying room. You don’t get wet. The snow is dry, deep powder which just brushes off. Some days it snows so heavily we ski looking like the abominable snowman. But we just shake the snow off at the bottom of the hill. Charlie, who at five is the youngest of our group, finds the snow a bit too deep. He often disappears into large drifts, his location only recognizable by the cartoon cut out of his shape left in the hillside.
We are rarely cold too. Even though the thermometer at the top of the mountain says -10 C, the chairlifts have heated seats and clear bubbles that fold down to shield us from the wind and snow. The long winding valleys of thick pine trees then shelter us from the wind when skiing down.
By the end of the second day, even our brother-in-law James, the reluctant skier of the family, admits he is enjoying it. That is until he falls and breaks his wrist. When deciding on the location of our apartment, we looked at proximity to lifts as well as shops and restaurants. We hadn’t considered the distance to the nearest medical services. As it turns out there is a modern hospital just two minutes’ walk away which is where James spends the next three days having his wrist pinned back together. Coming from Ireland, James had dreamt of the warmth of a tropical resort for his holiday but we had convinced him otherwise. This January he is taking the family to Phuket.
As for our family, many have asked if we will ever ski in Australia again. The answer is yes, of course. We might not have the same powder-dry snow, the heated, covered chair lifts and the seven kilometer runs. But where else can you drive to in five hours, have a great time skiing with friends in all sorts of challenging conditions, and then drive home and go to the beach?
The only thing we ask is that our accommodation has a good drying room.
Getting there: Schladming is 100kms from Salzburg, easily accessible by train or taxi.
Staying there: www.schladming-appartements.at . We stayed in the Waluliso apartments from EUR 1773 (AUD $1323) for 7 nights. Each apartment sleeps up to 8.
Skiing there: Lift prices: up to 77Eur/day/ adult or 243/week peak season; 37 per day/child (under 14) or 119.50/week. Family deals available where children under 10 are free with a paying adult. Similarly for ski hire.
Eating there: BrauStub’n ( just around the corner from the main square); Post Hotel Hauptplatz 10 www.posthotel-schladming.at
While in Schladming: Take a horse drawn sleigh ride through the picturesque surrounding forests and nearby village of Ramsau, just above Schladming.