This photograph is the first of three I’ve chosen from our vacation last winter in Austria. I loved this row of colourful houses beside the Inn river with the snow covered hills in the background. Innsbruck’s a delightful Tyrolean town with plenty to see and do all year round. This year it hosted the UCI Road World Championships which I had hoped to visit, if only to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while. However, with my beloved unable to walk very far or stand for any length of time, we called off the trip. Still, I can’t complain, I’d been to 10 consecutive Road World Championships from 2006-2015.
We’ve spent many happy holidays in the Seefeld area so it would be hard to pinpoint one as being “The Best Ever.” Rather, happy memories have arisen on all our holidays. We’ve stayed in a number of hotels and apartments in the area but have a clear favourite, aside from where we’re currently staying.
On our maiden visit to Seefeld in 1986, we stayed in a self-catering studio apartment. The following year we stayed in a hotel we’d spotted while out cross-country skiing. The hotel is just outside of Seefeld in Telfs-Buchen, on a hill overlooking the Inn valley. It had opened a couple of years earlier, in 1985, and is owned by the Liebherr family who have one of their plants in the town of Telfs in the valley below.
Rumour has is that the late Dr Hans Liebherr wanted to build a home on the hill but planning permission was refused. Instead he built a large hotel, providing much-needed employment and business for the area. He maybe had the last laugh because as you drive into the hotel’s massive underground carpark, clearly marked on the entrance is “Dr Hans Liebherr, Alpenstrasse 1.” He used to occupy the penthouse suite when he was in residence.
We so enjoyed our 1987 vacation at the hotel that we became frequent guests, staying there in high season, such as Christmas and New Year, mid-February and even low season in the summer. My parents accompanied us on a number of visits, including one in winter where my father manfully gave cross-country skiing a go. However, they tended to prefer visiting in summer when it was less slippy underfoot and the climate more temperate.
The whole area is a sports’ mecca and there’s little we’ve not tried: cross-country and alpine skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, ice-skating, tobogganing, walking, mountain, fat and road biking, indoor and outdoor tennis, swimming, wild-water rafting and canonying. We’ve also watched a number of sports’ events such as ski jumping, ski racing and, in summer, tennis tournaments.
There’s a number of reasons why we liked staying at the hotel. Although it is large and has many (282) rooms, it never feels full. There is plenty of space to enjoy the hotel, and its many facilities. The bedrooms are spacious, the dining rooms are split into a variety of rooms ensuring that they are intimate and cosy, rather than noisy. Guests can spread themselves in and around the many bars and lounges so there’s never a problem finding a seat.
The hotel is relatively isolated and consequently it provides plenty of day and night time activities for its guests. Facilities have been added over the years including Europe’s largest spa in 2002, a lovely place to luxuriate and be pampered before enjoying the hotel’s indoor or outdoor pools.
Since our move to France we’ve visited Seefeld and the hotel much more infrequently but it remains one of our favourite places to stay. You may wonder why we’re not staying there over Christmas and New Year? It’s simple. The hotel, like most in the area, offers only half-board which frankly we now find all too much, even without taking account of the challenges of my dietary requirements. Plus, we now much prefer the freedom afforded us in a spacious apartment.
I first learnt to ski when I visited my French pen-friend who lived in Grenoble. The whole family were excellent skiers and, after they taught me how to do a snow plough, I just tagged along. Never having skied before, I didn’t have any kit. Fortunately, the girl next door was the same size as me and kindly lent me some. I was conscious that unlike them I wasn’t swooshing down the pistes but nor was I making a fool of myself. I took to skiing like a duck to water probably because I was a reasonably proficient ice and roller skater.
Fast forward 15 years or so and I found myself heading to Garmisch-Partenkirchen with a work colleague, a keen skier, for a week-end’s alpine skiing while we were auditing our Frankfurt office. I generally shied away from spending week-ends away with colleagues, the working day and evening for three weeks being more than enough. But as there were just the two of us on this audit, I kind of felt obliged. Unfortunately my colleague was a danger to himself and everyone else on the piste so I wasn’t keen to be seen with him. However, on the way to the resort, inspiration struck and I elected to go cross-country skiing. It was love at first sight and on my return home, told my beloved we had to give it a go.
Our first cross-country skiing holiday was in Seefeld, Austria, in 1986, chosen because of its reputation as a cross-country skiing resort. We spent two weeks in an apartment not far from the cross-country ski tracks following a course of instruction. I rapidly progressed, my proficiency as a snow plougher par excellence standing me in good stead, plus I’m pretty fearless. My beloved’s lack of hip flexibility – yes, even before his recent leg break – rather hindered his progress, but we were soon up and running using the classic technique. It would be some time before we progressed to skating.
We enjoyed a number of winter holidays in Seefeld, including one with my parents, refining our technique and skills. In 1990, my beloved decided we were ready to take part in the Engadine Marathon, a well-known winter sporting event in Switzerland. We spent the week before the main event taking part in some intensive training, which included a trial-run mid-week where I got lost – a tale for another time. On the Sunday we both successfully completed the marathon which was the first of our six participations, though the only one where we used the classic technique. That’s right, the following year we rapidly progressed to skating which, once you’ve mastered the technique, is an altogether easier and swifter proposition.
Aside from trips to the Engadine and to visit friends in Zell am See, we’ve spent many more happy holidays cross-country skiing in Seefeld and the surrounding area most notably a couple of years ago when we stayed in a hotel chosen by my beloved – big mistake! This time we chose to return to an apartment where we’d previously spent a week during a rather wet summer back in 2009, a rather more agreeable proposition in the town itself.
Over the years, we’ve skied all of the area’s cross-country ski trails many times, walked and ridden our bikes all over the area. We know it like the backs of our hands and while the resort has grown, it’s not lost its essential charms – at least not for us. It’s almost three years since we were last here and we’ve enjoyed spotting what’s changed and seeing how it has evolved.
The resort now boasts many estate agents. Back in the mid-80s properties for sale were advertised in a small display outside of the only newsagent, now the town sports many, including a very large branch of Engel & Voelkers, a decidedly upmarket estate agent. It also sports my other ritzy resort bell weather, a shop selling Il Gufo – a wickedly expensive brand of children’s wear.
This year’s Christmas vacation will be very different from last year’s but I’m not expecting it to be any less enjoyable!