Taking the Kids: Skiing in Austria
By Eileen Ogintz
Austria's Oetzal Valley
I've never seen such wide open slopes -- no trees, no houses, just field after field of newly fallen snow.
And I've never seen my 18-year-old daughter Mel, an avid and expert skier, as happy to ski with mom. Just goes to show what a postcard-perfect ski day -- blue skies, sunshine, spectacular mountain vistas and first tracks on a glacier -- can do!
Our last mom-daughter getaway before Mel heads off to college is off to an auspicious start. Welcome to Solden,
We ski through the mile-plus "Rosi Mittermeier Road Tunnel" that takes us from Rettenbach Glacier to Tiefenbach Glacier -- two glaciers in one day! The trails are clearly marked, which is much more than I expected, and there are amazing platforms that jut out 30 feet or so for the most heart-stopping views.
Did I mention that despite the weak dollar, everything is cheaper here -- ski schools to beer, private ski instructors to lift tickets -- as much as 40 percent less than
But a European ski trip is about more than grabbing a good deal or getting to the mountains as fast as you can. "It is so different for the kids," says
And there is no prettier place to do that than here in
They love the
"Kids like that everyone recognizes them," Hart said. Katie also loves that she can help herself from the bountiful morning buffet (three croissants!) and salad bar at dinner (so many kinds of cheese!). She's tried everything, her mother reports -- creamy soups (that Melanie likes too), fresh trout, chicken, and, of course the desserts -- this is
The next day at Obergurgl (www.obergurgl.com) the Alps look like they are covered in marshmallow fluff with Oreo crumbles underneath. This smaller ski area has just 23 lifts and doesn't give you the chance to ski on glaciers but it does give you an opportunity to drink in the Alps -- one mountain peak at a time -- and to ski on lifts that never seem to get crowded. Come in summer, I'm told, and there are some 120 huts spread out over the mountains where you can stay and eat for less than
At lunch, we sit in the sun staring at 21 glaciers outside a new Austrian hut "Mut Alm," about 10 miles or so from where we're staying. It's an easy bus ride.
I love that Europeans don't gobble a burger like we do and rush back out on the slopes. They stop for a long leisurely lunch -- and a beer or two -- sitting in the sunshine on the deck of one of these mountain huts drinking in the scenery and eating Tyrolean specialties like Grostl (fried meat and potatoes topped with a fried egg), local dumplings made with ham, spinach and cheese, homemade sausage and, of course, apple strudel for dessert -- the best I've ever tasted. Incidentally, the kids' menu includes the Harry Potter (a small wiener schnitzel) or a frankfurter with fries or the SpongeBob pasta.
Because the gondola comes right here to this Mut Alm, we see quite a few parents with babies (all wearing sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun) and strollers. The infants seem to be having as good a time as all the grown-ups, playing in the snow, eating the Austrian version of mac and cheese.
After a full day on the slopes, we're ready to hit the spa in
Relaxed and with nowhere to rush to, Mel gladly lingers over dinner with me. She's delighted that she can now drink legally. I'm delighted to have this just-us time with my busy daughter who soon will be off on her own adventures.
"This trip is good bonding, mom!" she says.
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(c) 2009 Eileen Ogintz
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