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Little piste of snow heaven

Having spent many snow holidays slumming it in tiny hotel rooms with child-sized beds, I've come to appreciate a bit of luxury while on the slopes. Aching muscles go hand in hand with any snow holiday, but there are ways to minimise the pain.

Plenty of stretching before and after the slopes will help and lots of exercise in the months leading up to the holiday will definitely make a difference.

But the most important thing is a luxury hotel with great food and a spa area. Because nothing will keep those aches at bay after a hard day on the slopes like a long sauna or Jacuzzi and a good meal.

Lucky me that in March my fiancee and I had travelled with Topflight to the Sporthotel Austria in St Johann in Tirol.

Located less than an hour from the gorgeous city of Salzburg in the Austrian Alps, St Johann looks like it was plucked from a postcard, with beautiful squares, fabulous architecture, and warm, inviting bars and cafes.


But, the reason I was there was the imposing mountains looming over the village which contained some of the best slopes I'd ever had the pleasure of bombing down. Our wonderful Topflight rep Lisa had organised one-on-one instruction through the Schischule Wilder Kaiser for us. With the help of my Brazilian ballet-dancing snowboard instructor Roberto, I set about exploring the mountain.

Although I have been snowboarding many times, Roberto soon taught me a few new tricks. In fact, this was my first time having individual tuition and I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

There's no waiting around, and you get a huge amount done in a very short space of time. With a variety of easy, intermediate and advanced runs, you could ski St Johann for a month and not get tired of it.

The best feature is a blue run that begins at the top station of the main gondola and goes right back to the base at Max's Pub. So even beginners can get a nice long run in before their week is up.

For more advanced skiers and boarders, there are miles of runs spread out all over the mountain, and a big snow park with a half-pipe to practise some jumps. Just don't forget your travel insurance.

After a long day on the slopes, and a hot chocolate in Max's, we went back to the Sporthotel starving. Gunther, the owner, has poached the chef from one of Vienna's top restaurants, and it shows. Stunning cuisine, way above what you might expect from a ski hotel, found us in foodie heaven. With exceptional service from our waiter Murat, any calories burned off during the day were quickly replaced.

Nightlife in St Johann is a bit different from other resorts. Yes, you have plenty of bars and clubs just like every other resort, but there is also a ballet school in the resort. And my instructor Roberto, who teaches there, invited us along to a performance one night.

After that, we went to a cheesy bar with a father/daughter musical combo entertaining the holidaymakers. Quite a night, and a good illustration of why we'll be back in St Johann again: great variety, both on and off the slopes.

St Johann in Tirol is about one hour from Salzburg airport. One week in St Johann with Topflight starts at €399. One week in the Sporthotel Austria starts at €749