We were very excited indeed to visit the Gartenhotel Theresia in Salzburgerland Austria. For us the biggest selling point of any ski hotel has to be a ‘ski-in ski-out’ location, and when the local area also happens to be one of the largest linked ski regions in the country then we are most definitely sold. The Gartenhotel Theresia also has the fortune to lie directly on the slopes of the Saalbach ‘Ski Circus’, a linked system of 275km of piste.
Recently Fieberbrunn has been linked to the ‘Circus’ adding a good chunk of very interesting and impressive ski country. Much of this is across a series of deep rocky valleys which adds some welcome extreme terrain and big mountain skiing to the tree-lined pistes of the Saalbach – Hinterglemm – Leogang axis. If the skiing ever gets too much then there is a remarkable selection of traditional mountain restaurants in which to take a well-earned break.
It is hard to see how any level of skier would not be comfortably satisfied with whats on offer – from gentle beginners slopes, through almost unlimited gladed cruising, to open slopes of inviting powder. From the heart of the region a long piste, right from the mountaintop, leads you back to the hotel door.
Just outside the Gartenhotel Theresia you can also fit your self up with equipment, as well as any ski lessons or guides that may be required, through SkiLL. This is an impressively slick and modern rental shop and ski school, affiliated with the hotel and located just a few steps away at the bottom of the Mitteregg Lift.
We flew in to the nearby Salzburg airport having pre-booked a pick up from Holiday Shuttle – a local company who offer an excellent value and efficient airport transfer service to a number of Salzburgerland resorts – and in little over an hour we were already unloading our bags at Hotel Theresia.
Adjacent to the rushing Saalach river the Gartenhotel Theresia is in a traditional chalet-style. Its fifty-odd rooms are bright and fresh, come with wooden floors and comfortable Austrian-style beds (two mattresses and sets of bedding on one king frame). Cable TV, free minibars (soft drinks) and bathrobes are standard.
The public areas are similarly modern and stylish with plenty of bright contemporary art and nods to tradition via plenty of wood and stone, leather seats and cow-print fabrics.
The Gartenhotel Theresia is very much a family affair, with the Brettermeiers having owned the property for three generations. We were greeted by the current owner Marianne, who explained the property’s rich history. The hotel is actually named after her grandmother, who was by all accounts, a formidable woman. Starting as a self-employed herdsman she very slowly scrimped and saved enough money to buy a small plot of land, with her dream to open her own guesthouse eventually coming to fruition in 1955.
This background in local produce and a sustainable resources inspired the family to create the first organically certified ‘Bio’ hotel in the region. As one would therefore expect the catering here is very special indeed and its quality has been recognised in top food guides like Gault Millau.
We start the day with an excellent breakfast buffet of certified organic, regional, wholefood and low-fat products. We stayed up the mountain at lunch times but you can also return to enjoy a fine buffet at the hotel. Apres ski there are plenty of cakes, ice-cream, hot soup and snacks.
Evenings we felt privileged with an immaculately presented 5-course gourmet menu that always included vegetarian and regional choices. Starters included smoked salmon with roast potatoes, celery and yoghurt followed by an intensely flavoured soup.
A main dish might be perfectly cooked monkfish accompanied by belly bacon, cucumber, risotto and nigritella. Elaborate deserts such as honey crème brûlée with tamarillo, strawberry and nougat were other highlights whilst a fresh salad and raw food buffet plus a selection of Salzburg cheeses were also available.
All these food choice may seem rather excessive but the cuisine at the Gartenhotel Theresia is created with such a fine hand that it never felt overwhelming. Dishes were created with clear precise flavours, presented with remarkable precision and cleared with impressive efficiency – we always felt healthy and satisfied, ready to relax at the bar or in front of the roaring log fire in the lounge.
As if a lovely hotel in a great location with gourmet food was not already enough, the Mountain Green spa is yet another impressive feature, with a good-sized indoor pool, saunas, steam baths and full selection of treatments and massages. All treatments are accompanied by exclusive use of eco-certified cosmetics by Annemarie Börlind. Outside in the steaming heated pool you can enjoy wonderful snowy mountain views whilst luxuriating in the waterfalls and bubble jets.
Our visit was of course in the winter, but a whole world of other outdoor activities and mountain scenery tempts us to return for an Alpine summer holiday – hopefully something we can enjoy another time!
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Gartenhotel Theresia and the Austrian Tourist Office London
Transfers courtesy of Holiday Shuttle. Transfers are available to resorts including Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Zell am See and Kaprun. Visit www.holiday-shuttle.at