The Lürzer Alm redefines the popular ski resort Obertauern.
Just 3 hours and 38 minutes away from the heart of Vienna, the snow-covered peaks of Obertauern hold a special place in the hearts and minds of Austrians. Coming to prominence in the 1960s as a location in the Beatles movie Help!, it has long been one of the most popular Alpine resorts in ski-crazy Austria – while other regions focused on posh clientele and an air of exclusivity, Obertauern catered to the everyman, making the sport accessible to a wider audience. Particularly if you’re from Vienna, chances are you braved the slopes here for the first time – many schools hold skiing courses here, teaching young urbanites the national sport. The Lürzer family has been at the forefront of developing the resort from the very beginning, opening their first Pension in 1960 – patriarch Herbert Lürzer was even a stunt double for Paul McCartney during some of Help!’s skiing scenes. And as Obertauern expanded, so have the Lürzers, creating a contemporary microcosm of fun, entertainment and hospitality.
Getting there was already a pleasure, with the ascent through the Salzburg countryside – winding roads, bubbling brooks and mesmerizing woods– all covered in deep snow. The world up here seems asleep until you reach the valley in Obertauern where the Lürzer family’s flagship hotel, the 4-star superior Hotel Kesselspitze. As I got out of the car, a smile danced across my face, not because of the last joke told in the car but the anticipation of something special; the excitement was tangible in the cold, fresh air. The Kesselspitze was to be my home for the next few days and as I entered the reception, the feeling I got was one of comfort and relaxation – as if I were staying at a friend’s house. This feeling was reinforced by my room, which combined traditional Austrian rustic design with a touch of modernity, dark wooden panels harmonizing with the cool, minimalistic bathroom. A quick 10-minute power nap recharged my batteries and I was off to grab some equipment from Freudenhaus Ski Rental, conveniently located across from the hotel and directly next to the slopes.
While getting there was a challenge – I slipped and slid like an ice skater with my sneakers – renting ski equipment was a smooth and easy process: within 10 minutes I had my boots, carving skis, sticks and helmet. Even though I went back 10 minutes later to change my shoes, the cheerful staff was there to help.
LUXURY FOR EVERYONE
Once I was fully kitted out, it was time to hit the slopes. It’s not surprising that skiing remains Austria’s favorite pastime: The combination of high intensity athletics and the proximity to nature is exhilarating.
The lift that took me up was just one of 26 granting access to over 100 kilometers of prepared tracks. As I heard the familiar sound of skis shuffling about, I was reminded of all the fun I had as a kid here, either on a school trip or with my family; after all these years the charm remains but the region has definitely evolved, expanding into a gigantic sport and entertainment resort.
As the sun slowly bathed the winter scenery in warm, orange light, I stopped at the Lürzer Alm for some Jagertee, an après-ski classic made by mixing high-proof rum with tea, wine, brandy, orange juice and various spices. One of the first après-ski bars in Austria and a local hot spot, I relaxed on the sundeck among the other skiiers, stretching my legs out to prepare for the run downhill and enjoying a quick lunch of delectable goulash soup – all that exercise and crisp, cold air gives you a ravenous appetite. Throughout the day, I kept pushing my limits and managed to conquer many different slopes: from the Plattenspitz to the Gamskarlspitz and even the Gamsleitenspitz at 2,357 meters. As the last ski lift closed down, I was tired but thrilled, ready to enjoy the Hotel Kesselspitze in all its glory. But first things first: I began my rejuvenation in the Wellness area, soothing my aching joints in its Finnish sauna before relaxing in the outdoor whirlpool – with its amazing view of the snow-capped peaks, it quickly became my favorite spot in the whole hotel. As I walked back to the pool area in my cozy bathrobe, I spotted an empty lounge chair overlooking the whole valley; a moment later I heard the hustle and bustle of the last riders returning. It was the perfect comedown after a long day shredding downhill.
After pampering myself with repeat visits to the sauna and whirlpool, my hunger returned with a vengeance; I had heard a lot about the hotel’s a la carte menu, which was revamped in 2013 and was eager to sample it. I was lucky: The evening’s main theme was fish. My main course – a mouthwatering, melt-in-your-mouth monkfish exceeded all my expectations. The menu was varied, as was the buffet with a huge selection of starters; other exceptional dishes were the earthy caramelized onions and mushrooms, the grilled quail with a touch of rosemary and the juicy roast beef.
Leaving with a full stomach, I yearned for a digestif – a quick brandy at the hotel bar reinvigorated me and gave me the buzz I needed to check out the nightlife in Obertauern. Once I learned of the hotel’s free shuttle service to the Lürzer Alm, I was excited to see where the evening would take me… after all, paradise needn’t be tropical.