Sloping off to the Alps...

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Bert Walsh is the guest of Crystal Holidays on a trip to the slopes

During a ski career spanning 30 years of mishaps I’ve seen many changes.

Resorts fall from grace for various reasons, poor snow conditions, high costs, however the Austrian village of Niederau has been a perennial favourite with British guests maintaining a well deserved status with the leading ski companies through thick and thin.

The friendly resort is a prime example of what the Austrian Tirol does so well, providing a hassle free family holiday in unspoilt surroundings of the Wildschonau Valley (wild and beautiful) without injuring your bank balance. Niederau has a rustic charm with chocolate box chalets and impressive white church which sit harmoniously alongside working dairy farms.

Niederau along with neighbouring Oberau and Auffach are the mainstays of the valley’s skiing all linked by regular ski-bus.

The village has always enjoyed a reputation as an excellent beginners resort offering quality instruction and nursery slopes slap bang in the middle, an ideal combination for those first tentative days on skis.

For intermediates the picture was not so rosy, the small local area atop the Markbachjock accessed by gondola was easily blasted off in a couple of days.

Last season the problem was rectified by connecting the valley’s skiing to Alpbach over the hill creating the ‘Skijuwel’ area comprising 145k of piste.

The new link by bus and gondola has propelled the area into the Tirol’s top ten ski arenas.

There are several challenging black runs, slopes of a 1000m vertical are not to be sniffed at so take your time and whack in that extra turn. For mileage skiers craving more action hotels Sonnschein and Harfenwirt provide a twice weekly free transfer to Hopfgarten for direct access to the vast Ski Velt area featuring another 280k of thigh burning slopes.

The two hotels owned by Herbert a local Harp playing Tirolean character and his English partner Gill are well versed in taking care of British guests winter or summer receiving dozens of returning clients year on year.

Facilities are top drawer, both hotels feature indoor swimming pools and spa areas although it was small details which impressed me at the Sonnschein, Gill has installed tea and coffee making facilities in every room.

Another nice touch was the seating arrangements in the restaurant where us singletons (all guys) had a separate area which we christened the ‘Gentleman’s club’.

Off the slopes the valley has 80k of winter walking paths one of the easiest being a flattish trail to Oberau.

Time it right and have lunch at the ‘Kellerwirt’ originally an old monastery now a characterful hotel.

The tourist office arranges guided walks and an intro to ‘snowshoeing’.

For guests with kids try Slowtrain Wildschonau to the lovely Kundlgorge or take a sleigh ride. For the independently minded the post bus down to Worgl is worth a trip if you fancy some retail therapy.

Worgl is a short train ride to Kufstein where the massive fortress dominates the skyline, allow time to visit the medieval old town to view remarkably preserved hostelries.

Crystal Holidays day trip to Salzburg is justly popular, Mozart’s house, castle and atmospheric Getreidegasse will not disappoint.

After a hard day on the piste Niederau’s après ski offers something for everyone, if you like it cosy and not too rowdy head for Bobo’s at the bottom of the piste.

After the family atmosphere of Bobo’s the Sports Bar can be a shock, do not assume that the bar top is for resting your beer upon, it also doubles as a dance floor.

If you want to party (homemade cranberry schnapps and crazy sing along music does help) this is the place. Apres ski starts around 4pm finishing at 9pm, completely manic mine hosts Gunter and Chris indulge in an impromptu performance on a variety of musical instruments – good stuff!

Following dinner (if you make it back in time) check out O’Malley’s, supposedly an Irish bar, or join the locals at the White Rabbit before finishing off at the Dorfstuben or Cave Bar where you can bop on the floor as opposed to the bar.

All in all, Niederau is now a great all round resort with entertaining slopes amidst beautiful scenery, excellent accommodation and smiling locals.

Bert travelled with Crystal Holidays staying at the 4* Hotel Sonnschein.

7 nights HB from £575pp inc return flights from Manchester to Innsbruck or Salzburg and transfers based on January 2014.

6 days Skijuwel Lift Pass £188