Skiing is in my blood. My parents honeymooned in St Moritz and as a family we never looked back! As an older parent with a passion for snow, I like to consider myself a bit of a connoisseur and the ski arena has changed a lot over the years. Now, with a two and six-year-old on skis, I’ve done my fair share of research. In the UK we tend to see family skiing as niche or unworkable with a young family. To our continental cousins, it’s simply standard and more affordable than you would imagine.
We chose Hotel Riml in Hochgurgl, Austria due to its amazingly high altitude (think snow right into May), its kids’ club (from age dot) and its ski-in/ski-out set-up. It’s also bang on the nursery slope, so no walking with skis required. After a two-hour flight to Innsbruck, a small, regional airport that serves many Austrian ski resorts, it’s a scenic, 90-minute transfer through the Ötztal Valley to 2200m above sea level for lunch on the sun-drenched terrace, surrounded by snow thick enough to thrill even the most seasoned skier.
The hotel is a four-star but has recently undergone a sparkling and luxurious refurbishment, adding a floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled spa area, reserved for adults only, on the roof. Parents – be prepared for pampering.
Family hotels in Austria expect to cater for every connotation of family. It’s usual for grandparents to come too. The apartments range in size from 48 square metres to 74 square metres. The rooms and suites offer accommodation ranging from two bed, two bath to single use. Some are modern, others traditional and cosy Austrian in style, and most with balconies and mountain views.
Our large double room was perfect for the four of us. It had an extremely comfortable bed, a double sofa bed and a cot which we didn’t need as the boys preferred to share. The bathroom was modern with a bath and shower – hot baths after a skiing are a must. There’s also loads of storage which is key given the amount of paraphernalia needed with young ones on this kind of holiday. The pièce de résistance was a balcony with enough space for two deckchairs. In April the sun is hot enough to bathe in a bikini until 6pm!
Hotel Riml offers everything on site. The basement ski shop makes equipment rental a breeze, especially important with kids in tow and there are discounts for guests. The ski room is steps away from a lift opening out onto the slope. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the luxury of sleeping on a piste and you forget what a pleasure it is, with cable car and chairlifts within sight. Obergurgl -Hochgurgl offers 119km of wide-open, varied skiing and panoramic views at the top of Wurmkogel to the Dolomites in Italy and beyond.
The hotel works together with a local ski school, Vacancia, offering private lessons. It’s a luxury that’s worth every penny. Most of us don’t get many ski hours a year and the best way to improve quickly is through one-on-one tuition. Our instructors were top notch, taking us to the best snow at the right time of day and working on technique too.
Children learn very quickly and are fearless but a good teacher makes learning fun and my ultimate pleasure was seeing my children progress. Behind the hotel is the nursery slope and ski kindergarden complete with magic carpet – a small conveyor belt transporting the smallest children up the small slope.
THE POOL AND SPA
Austria is one of the best places to go to a spa. They are serious about wellbeing. The hotel’s indoor pool looks out to the snowy peaks beyond and there’s also a children’s pool and family sauna. Their new panorama ‘Sky Relax’ area with glass walled saunas, salt water steam room and ice fountain is simply sensational. I had a much-needed Pine and Arnica massage that really melted my stress and aching muscles.
I’ve visited many ski hotels with much broader offerings for children. However, what they do have at Hotel Rimi is superb. There is supervised childcare from 9.30am until 4.30pm, then again from 7pm until 9pm. Betty and Nikki in kids’ club were child whisperers. I’d drop off our two-year-old at 9.30am and he’d play happily until lunch when they would feed him and put him to sleep, ready to be picked up refreshed to ski or swim at 3pm.
After dinner, all the kids would go happily to paint, draw and create little masterpieces, letting the adults eat in peace, and none of the four in our group wanted to leave at going home time. Older children love the games room in the basement with all the usual suspects and if you are a golfer (or fancy yourself as one), be prepared for 700 square metres of indoor golfing heaven. Golf simulators, a putting green and lessons from a pro are all on offer at the the largest indoor golf facility in Europe. It truly has the wow factor. And for the non-golfers, there’s always the Putt-in Sports Bar overlooking the green.
On a high energy holiday like skiing, or if you’re a foodie family as we are, good food is a priority. Hotel Riml offers a half board option that includes sumptuous breakfast buffet with table service for hot food, high tea including sweet and savoury food for those returning hungry after a long ski, and then a gourmet five-course dinner each night. There’s close attention to provenance of food, with organic and healthy choices given. Oenophiles will also be delighted with the wine list and its value for money and you get to enjoy all of this with a stunning mountain view. We returned every day to eat lunch on the terrace – a real luxury that only a ski-in/ski-out hotel can offer.
The week flew by. Wonderful spring weather (be careful, use a really high factor sunscreen), coupled with snow that only high-altitude skiing can provide, made for holiday skiing heaven. Hotel Riml is hotel that is sophisticated yet relaxed, with offerings for adults and children alike, means that everyone gets a truly luxury skiing holiday.