For an exhilarating family ski trip with a cool mix of tradition and glamour, consider Kitzbühel in the beautiful Tyrol province of Austria. With more than 100 miles of groomed slopes, luxury shopping and a buzzing social scene, there’s a reason why this charming, medieval town at the base of the famed Hahnenkamm mountain—home to the World Cup’s most notorious downhill—is popular with celebrities and Europe’s elite.
For families, the place to stay is the Kempinski Hotel Das Tirol, a contemporary complex set amidst the snow-capped mountains six miles south of the town. The only Leading Hotels of the World member in the Kitzbühel area, this understated property does it all effortlessly with skiing, dining, shopping and a spa, all seamlessly integrated for a stress-free family ski trip.
Here, all guest rooms offer balconies with dramatic views from large panoramic windows. The décor is a modern interpretation of Tyrolean style: think wood chests with clean lines, soft wool sofas in deep reds and yellows, and wood-burning fireplaces. We stayed in an 800-square-foot Deluxe Suite (room No. 437) connected to a 350-square-foot Superior Double Room, very spacious with large, sleek bathrooms and a kitchenette and dining area (great for snacks or playing cards in the evenings). A family of four could easily fit into the Deluxe Suite on its own, however—the sofa opens to a bed and you can also add a rollaway. The hotel also has three 950-square-foot, two-bedroom Family Suites (room Nos. 438, 538, 638) that can comfortably sleep six. Nice Touch: All bathrooms in every room category have glass-walled showers and separate tubs.
For large families with larger budgets, the Kempinski boasts the biggest suite in all of Austria: the five-bedroom, four-bathroom Penthouse Suite. With 5,500 square feet of interior space plus three sun terraces, it is massive and truly stunning.
Restaurant Steinberg serves a buffet breakfast that provides a good start to a long day of skiing.
The hotel’s dining is overseen by German-born Chef Mario Hofmann. Breakfast at its Restaurant Steinberg provided a good start for a long day of skiing with a bountiful buffet of fresh fruit, homemade pastries, freshly made eggs and pancakes, plus local cheeses and meats. Tired from the slopes, we mixed with the fashionably fur-clad mainly Russian and German families enjoying drinks and casual dining in the buzzy Rubin Bar. We particularly enjoyed Chef Hofmann’s local saddle of pork and his classic Wiener Schnitzel. For more upscale family dinners, try the hotel’s Asian-inspired Sra Bua for stir-fry and curries, or head back to Steinberg for a deeper exploration of local produce and meats with Chef Hofmann’s five-course tasting menu.
Then there’s the skiing. Set in a large bowl at the meeting point of three valleys, Kitzbühel is one of Austria’s prettiest and largest ski areas, with 54 lifts and cable cars covering miles of groomed runs, “off-piste” expert slopes, and a snow park for snowboarders. The Kempinski is well-situated: the 10-person gondola “Wagstaettbahn,” adjacent to the hotel, connects to the hyper-efficient “3S Cable Car” offering access to the Hahnenkamm’s steep Streif slope. Though best known for the tough World Cup race, my family was spoilt for choice in Kitzbühel with the vast range of beginner and intermediate terrain. (Booking Note: The hotel is already nearly sold out for the 75th Hahnenkamm Race, January 20 to 25, 2015.)
The slopes are just outside the door of the Kempinski and everything necessary to enjoy them awaits you right in the lobby. We were expertly outfitted with rental equipment at the hotel’s Alpine Sport shop, where we also found a tempting selection of luxe ski outfits and accessories. Private and group instruction is offered by Ski School Jochberg, owned by the charming Schipflinger family for 40 years. Katrin Schipflinger (011-435-355-0100-2000; [email protected]) and her team met us every morning in the lobby, happily taking the kids (and their gear) off skiing for the day. What a joy not to have to deal with snapping the kids’ ski boots. Lessons run from 10 a.m. until about 3 p.m. and you can choose to meet up for lunch or take the full day to explore the mountains without the young ones.
The Family Suite has one large living room and two bedrooms, which can comfortably sleep six.
After a hard day on the slopes, respite is to be found in the gorgeous 38,000-square-foot spa. While the kids splashed about in the indoor and outdoor pools, we loved trying the different steam and sauna rooms. Our Favorite: The lava sauna with the chilled ice-fog corridor. Also not to be missed: The signature two-hour Alpine Crystal massage, which alternates use of hot stones and cool crystals and is followed by a soothing clay thermal wrap. For bookings, contact Spa Manager Isabell Stewens ([email protected]; 011-43-53-555-0100-1700).
For families with kids too little to ski a full day, we were impressed with the cheerful and well-stocked Kids Club with kind counselors and everything from dress-up and crafts to Legos and board games. Ages three and over are welcome. For advanced booking, contact 011-435-355-0100 or e-mail at [email protected] Note: Strollers are available free of charge.
The hotel’s concierge team, led by Alexander Hanikel (011-43-53-555-0100-1840), specializes in creating unforgettable mountain experiences: ski touring with expert guides, ice climbing, or—our favorite—evening sledding.
Getting There: Salzburg (53 miles) and Innsbruck (62 miles) are the nearest airports, but we flew into accessible Munich, an easy 110-mile drive mostly on highways. There is also a helipad seven miles away in St. Johann, Tyrol.
Luxury travel advisors can contact Director of Sales Caroline Queißner ([email protected]; 011-43-53-555-0100-1230) or Revenue Manager Friedrich Semel ([email protected]; 011-43-53-555-0100-1260) for room bookings. Henning Reichel is the general manager.