A few years ago, still without children of my own, I’ve already had the pleasure of visiting Gastein Valley, near the city of Salzburg several times. Meanwhile, I can add that the destination is also great for families. Read more about Liam learning how to ski at the Bad Hofgastein Ski School here. (Yes, even or especially three-year-olds will find perfect conditions and ski instructors at the Angertal Ski Centre).
Today, let’s talk a little more about what else we experienced beyond skiing or ski lessons.
Horse-drawn sleigh ride with Heinz Gruber in the Kötschachtal valley
The Kötschachtal valley at the entrance to the Hohe Tauern National Park already cast its spell on us last year. This year, we had the pleasure of enjoying not only a winter hike there, but a horse-drawn sleigh ride! Heinz Gruber, our coachman, first introduced us to his two horses Susi and Schurli. He went on to share a lot of interesting facts about the Kötschachtal valley and the National Park along the way.
Heinz further made sure the horse-drawn sleigh ride perfectly suited our individual needs; for instance he drove for exactly as long as was possible with a four-year-old and a one-year-old in tow. Together, we also spent some time sharing tea and cake in the Himmelwand hut, all of us returning refreshed and in a good mood.
A great trip, and perfectly possible even with very young children!
Tips for skiing and food lovers at the Angertal Ski Centre
Despite all the nice alternatives to skiing, my husband and I ended up strapping on our own ski for one day. After dropping Liam off at his lessons, we made sure to explore the perfectly prepared slopes of the Angertal ski centre.
Winter hikes at the Angertal Ski Centre
But the Angertal itself offers more than just foodie delights, or perfectly groomed slopes. Last year, my mum and I already pulled my then two-year-old son along a small stream on a sledge here; this year, we were able to go a bit further and discover real opportunities for extended winter hikes (with or without snowshoes).
Guided winter hike with national park expert Hans Naglmayr
If you want to take winter hiking to another level and really immerse yourself in the snow-covered nature, off the beaten forest tracks, then you have to go with a local. One of them is the very friendly, very well-informed nature and national park guide Hans Naglmayr. I immediately connect with him and his shrewd Gastein humour. He does tell us many things (speaking both perfect English and fun local dialect!) that neither of us knew beforehand.
We learn, for example, that birds such as the local Fichtenkreuzschnabel already breed now, in the middle of winter, thanks to an abundance of spruce cones. It’s true: After a while, we notice the parent birds flitting about as it becomes quiet, well away from the ski circus, where only the white forest surrounds us.
A little later, when we spot tracks in the snow, Hans just says, “A fox ran past here two and a half hours ago.” Ahm.. well, sure! (To him at least). Fascinated, I stare at the tracks: first fox, then hare, then deer, … Hans seems to know them all personally.
Listening to all his stories, we trudge after him through the deep snow down the mountain.
Stubnerkogel mountain top ski resort without ski
The Stubnerkogel, one of the highest mountain peaks and ski resorts in the Gastein Valley, can also be explored without ski. In addition to a modern summit restaurant with really good cuisine, it also offers a suspension bridge and a viewing platform over the surrounding mountains.
Liam is delighted when we “reward” him with a gondola ride up the Stubnerkogel on the fourth day of his ski lessons!
A tour of the historic mountain town Bad Gastein
Last but not least, I would like to tell you about a guided tour through the history of Bad Gastein. This tour takes place every Wednesday afternoon in winter; we registered through the tourist office and only had to pay € 5 with our guest card.
The wintry atmosphere and the interesting explanations of the town guide made for an interesting journey of discovery. We briefly warmed up by the historic Elisabeth Hot Spring: Named after Austrian Empress Elisabeth, it is only one of many hot springs in the Gastein Valley.
In any case, the views of the town’s magnificent buildings are worth the trip, especially in winter.
Be sure to stay at the local apartment building “Ferienhaus Schiwiese”.
As in the previous year, our travel party (made up of a total of nine adults, three toddlers, and one dog) opted for the apartment building Ferienhaus Schiwiese. The family-run accommodation has the perfect location close to the mountain cable car Schlossalmbahn, as well as the Alpentherme Gastein Hot Springs. In the morning, you can strap on your skis right by the building and also enjoy daily admission to the Springs, already included in the price of your overnight stay. I also love that there’s fresh bread service each morning, fantastic views over Bad Hofgastein, and perfect space for large travel groups.
I would definitely stay there again. See you next time in Gastein Valley?
Disclaimer: We have been invited on the horse-drawn sleigh ride as well as the winter hike with Hans Naglmayr. All opinions are my own.