Awesome Austria: A ski adventure in St Johann
The Alpine resort of St. Johann is a skier's paradise, says Deirdre Mullins.
Set the mood
Alcohol and toboggan runs aren't a good combination. This might seem obvious, but it took our group a few broken ribs, a dislocated knee and a sprained ankle to learn the lesson. It didn't stop the walking wounded enjoying the Austrian ski resort of St. Johann, however.
This charming Tyrolean town dates from the 13th century, and history seeps from its pedestrianised cobbled streets and ornate buildings, many painted with Baroque scenes. Although the resort is at 659m, snow is guaranteed throughout the season, thanks to state-of-the-art snow- making facilities.
Forty-two kilometres of perfectly groomed slopes are dotted with cosy ski huts with big sun terraces, and rest days can be spent wandering the cafés, shops and restaurants in the village. Non-ski facilities include a pool complex, ice-skating rink and the toboggan run.
Don't say you weren't warned...
The mountainside restaurant Angerer Alm is a must for wine lovers. Book in for a private tasting with the owner and sommelier, Annemarie Foidl. Climb down some bumpy steps into a cellar with over 6,000 bottles... Wine tasting costs €155 for 10 people; angereralm.at
The St. Johann tourist board offers free guided snow-shoe hikes to a highland area called Maria Blut. On this four-hour excursion, the guide will lead you through snow-covered meadows and forests to a great viewing point of St. Johann. The hike leaves every Thursday at 10.30am from the Tourist Information Office.
When a hotel in Austria has excellent food - so much so that non-residents and locals alike eat there - it is said to 'keep a good kitchen'.
The Hotel Post (dashotelpost.at; rooms from €91) is one such establishment. Built 800 years ago as a staging post for mail horses, it underwent an extensive refurbishment in 2014 and is now one of the resort's more stylish hotels.
Situated at the heart of St. Johann's pedestrianised town square, the Tyrolean-style restaurant offers delicious traditional local food such as schnitzel (€14.20) and goulash soup. A set menu combining soup, schnitzel and strudel costs €21. Tuck in!
Ski holidays always carry the risk of flying off the mountainside. But how about floating gently off in a paraglide? On a clear day in St. Johann, multicoloured canopies can be seen soaring above the snowy peaks. Mountain High offers tandem paragliding trips launching from 1,700 metres, giving panoramic views of St. Johann and the surrounding area. The experienced guides can either glide you down serenely or offer a more adrenaline-filled flight with acrobatic moves. It costs €129 (mountain-high.at).
Advanced skiers won't be satisfied in St. Johann - with mostly blue and red runs, it's best suited to beginners, intermediates and families. Advanced terrain is just a bus ride away, however, with neighbouring areas accessible using the Kitzbüheler Alpen AllStarCard.
Get me there
Deirdre travelled with Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com), which flies twice daily from Dublin to Munich and weekly from Cork. Munich (also served from Dublin by Ryanair and Lufthansa) is about two hours by road from St. Johann.
During the winter season, Aer Lingus also operates a charter to Salzburg with partners Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) and Topflight (topflight.ie).
For more information, see austria.info, kitzalps.cc/en and kitzbueheler-alpen.com.