Reporter: Caro Brown
“Where’s Fieberbrunn?” I hear you ask. Good question. Until the committee needed to hurriedly re-plan the scheduled Davos trip I hadn’t heard of it either. More enlightened souls will know that it has recently been linked in to the Skicircus Saalbach-Hinterglemm/Leogang in the stunningly beautiful Austrian Tyrol. What was less well-known to us is that Fieberbrunn is to the Dutch what Val d’Isere and Meribel are to the British — very popular. It was also Dutch half term so the place was swarming with children ranging in age from toddlers to teens with accompanying adults. As a result it was unusual to hear anything other than Dutch being spoken all week!
The hotel, part of a large chain of 4* resort hotels, was a real treat. The rooms were spacious and all had baths and balconies. There was reliable Wi-Fi throughout and a large, comfy lounge area with bar. On the amenities side there was a large pool (during our stay average user age 4 — aggregate user age 400, to quote one of our party!) and spa centre where the over 16s could escape from the younger hotel guests for a bit of peace and quiet. It was a novel experience to be staying in a hotel catering for so many large family groups but a very pleasant one nevertheless.
Curiously, the hotel was situated a good 20 minute walk or 5 minute infrequent bus ride from the village itself, together with a cluster of slope-side bars and ski hire shops at the bottom of the main Fieberbrunn lift system. A very convenient ski in-ski out location but not great for evening entertainment. Dinner was taken in two sitting, either 6pm or 8pm, and as a group we elected to eat at 6pm so after dinner the evenings were a little quiet once we’d repaired to the lounge for coffee. The food was good — typically Austrian, generally plentiful and the staff friendly and helpful once we’d been trained in the complicated process of menu selection! Wine with the meal was extra but there were some good value choices on the wine list and unfinished bottles were always kept for the following evening.
As far as the skiing was concerned, the lifts in the Fieberbrunn area were surprisingly long and the pistes rather narrow, but many of the slopes over in Leogang and Hinterglemm were very wide — clearly large alpine meadows (a number of lifts and restaurants had -alm = meadow in their names) given over to skiing in winter. All were a little hard and shiny during our stay and there was a tendency for half term lunatics to blast down these runs at high speed with scant regard for any children or tentative skiers in their way, so it was as well that there was also a lot of off-piste available for the more adventurous. I have subsequently discovered that Fieberbrunn has a reputation amongst those in the know for its extensive and varied off-piste terrain. An unexpected pleasure of the week turned out to be the heated gondolas and heated, covered chairlifts, particularly on the days when the temperatures plunged to below -200C and the wind chill made it feel even colder!
Fieberbrunn was linked to the rest of the Skicircus last season, making it technically the largest ski area in Austria. Accessing it is a bit of a trek, however, involving a minimum of 4 long gondolas and the link back shuts at 3.30pm. So although the area was extensive, the outer extremities were pretty much off-limits unless you were prepared to be on the first lift, prepared to ski fast, and organised enough to be back in time for the last gondola home at 3.30. Some of us took the line of least resistance one day and caught the bus both to and back from Leogang in order to maximise our time for exploring other areas. Perhaps staying in a more central location in either Saalbach or Hinterglemm would be a more practical proposition.
The numerous mountain restaurants across the area were mostly reasonably priced with a good selection of food to choose from. The two very large self-service restaurants Alan and I visited during the week had such a rapid turn-over that despite the number of people wanting lunch it wasn’t hard to find a place to sit, even at busy times. You can certainly see why the area is popular with families and it would be interesting to revisit in low season to see how different it would be.
So … All in all, I thought it was a reasonable substitute for Davos, with skiing to suit all standards and a hotel that certainly ticked all the boxes. Thank you, SCoM!