During a ski career spanning three decades of mishaps (ligaments, collarbone, nose) apart from any ski improvement on my part I’ve seen many changes.
Resorts fall from grace for various reasons, poor snow conditions being paramount.
However, the Austrian village of Niederau has proved a perennial favourite with British guests through thick and thin.
The friendly resort lies in the unspoilt surroundings of the Wildschonau Valley (which translates as wild and beautiful).
The village with its pretty white church is a charming mix of rustic hotels and chalets which stand cheek to jowl with working dairy farms.
Niederau is a prime example of what the Austrian Tirol does so well providing hassle free family holidays without the need for deep pockets.
There is a high percentage of returning guests to the two largest hotels the Harfenwirt and Sonnschein both owned and ably managed by Herbert and Gill Thaler.
They make an interesting couple, Herbert a slightly eccentric local lad and Gill a down to earth type from Kings Norton.
Ladies are often attracted to a silken locked guitarist but a follicly challenged harpist is a different matter. Although from a humble background at 26 Herbert’s profits from his small family bar and harp playing funded the building of the Harfenwirt which in turn enabled the couple to purchase the Sonnschein.
Gill arrived in Niederau from the Midlands in 1989 down on her luck, a new start meant being a holiday rep in the summer and working in a small pension in the winter.
Gill still works too hard but at least enjoys the trappings of success and is no doubt looking forward to their daughter Emily, now at hotel school, taking over the reins.
Facilities at both hotels are excellent featuring indoor pool and spa areas but it was the small details which impressed me. At the Sonnschein Gill has installed tea and coffee making facilities in every room.
The village has always enjoyed a reputation as an excellent beginners’ resort offering quality instruction and nursery slopes bang in the middle.
Intermediates have access to 145km of piste in the ‘Skijuwel’ area thanks to the recent link by bus and gondola to Alpbach which has propelled the area into the Tirol’s top ten ski arenas.
For the adventurous there are several challenging Black runs, slopes of 1,000m vertical will test your mettle. For mileage skiers craving more action the Sonnschein and Harfenwirt provide a twice weekly transfer to Hopfgarten for direct access to the vast Ski Welt’ area where you can clock another 280km of thigh burning piste.
If you take time off from the skiing the valley offers 80km of walking one of the easiest paths being the riverside trail to neighbouring village of Oberau, from here you can return by regular post bus.
Crystal Holidays have day trips to Salzburg. Included in the highlights are the hilltop castle and medieval shopping street ‘Getriedgasse’.
But number one attraction on my visit was Mozart’s house unfortunately my trip must have coincided with the Tokyo wakes week. I didn’t see too much and struggled to get a decent photo so bought a postcard.
After a hard day on the slopes, Niederau’s apres ski offers something for everyone. If you like it cosy and not too rowdy head for Bobo’s near the gondola station. After the family atmosphere at Bobo’s the Sport’s Bar can be a shock, do not assume that the bar top is for resting your beer on as also doubles as a dance floor.
If you like to party (home-made cranberry schnapps and crazy music does help) this is the place. Mein hosts Chris and Gunter indulge in an impromptu performance on a variety of musical instruments… good stuff!
Following dinner (if you make it back in time), check out the Dorfstuben or the live music at the Cave Bar where you can also dance.
If you are into leather and fancy a bit of the old leg slapping, catch the Tirolean Evening at the Hotel Harfenwirt, alternatively wrap up well, down a couple of gluwein’s and treat yourself to a romantic sleigh ride.
For those guests nursing aching muscles or who do not fancy schlepping around in the snow, the Sonnschein has a fine bar all rustic and cosy where the welcoming Margit is the star behind the bar. When he’s not plucking his harp, Herbert joins guests at the end of the bar drinking his beer while munching his way through a box of choccies, as you do!
I’ve had several holidays in Neiderau in all seasons with my wife and friends, on my own or with the guys. Disappointments have been rare and I’ve had fun both on and off the piste, what more do you need?