Ski holidays are funny old things – they’re waaaaaaaay more expensive, it seems, than other holidays and completely different in so many ways. But I love ’em.
I love being outside in the fresh all day, challenging yourself, seeing amazing scenery, and then the lovely feeling of getting back and getting warm and changed and feeling like you 100% deserve the copious amounts of food and wine you squeeze in in the evening before an early night ready for the slopes the next day.
Mr M and I have skied in France, I’ve been to Austria, and then we discovered Italy and kinda fell in love with it. The slopes (nice and wide and not too hard for the most part), the people (just lovely) and the food (because the fact you get an extra course in your meals is just a winner) – it’s all fab.
We’ve also tried all sorts of skiing accommodation. A lovely apartment we borrowed from our friends, a chalet holiday where our room was so small you had to get changed on the LANDING, and hotels where you can sign up to half board and not have to worry about anything except your lunch on the pistes.
But this year was the winner. Last year, you might remember Mr M and I had tried out the fashionable resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites in Italy. While we were there we took a day trip to ski round something called the ‘Sella Ronda’ – which basically means ‘saddle’. A long day of skiing that goes right round a central peak through various resorts so you end up right back where you started.
Along the way we stopped for lunch at Selva, a stunning little town that we’d already heard great things about but just seemed to ooze the charm we had been looking for. Picturesque little hotels and chalets, fun bars and – after checking it out online – some lovely hotels. Location decided, started the hunt with our friends for the right place to stay and happened upon the Hotel Aaritz.
It had it all. Close to the lifts, great facilities, reports of fabulous food and all round good reviews. It was a bit more pricey but we and our friends agreed that we would be willing to pay a little bit more to guarantee a fab hotel after a tough day’s skiing.
I’ve got to say, that extra spend was worth every penny. The Aaritz is glorious from the inside, but plenty of the hotels are out there. What sets it apart is what’s inside. That starts with the friendliest and most organised of welcomes as soon as you set foot inside the impressive lobby, complete with roaring fire and spiral staircase up to the restaurant.
Before you know it, your keys are in your hand and you’re tootling upstairs (without your luggage, I might add, as someone else brings that for you) and letting yourself into what are certainly some of the must luxurious hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in on a ski holiday.
Big beds, beautifully made, bathrobes and slippers, their own toiletries and, most importantly, SPACE. You wouldn’t believe how useful having a big area to get changed in is when you’ve been lumbering around in ski gear all day.
A quick mooch around and we were already at home. For me, skiing is about comfort and having a haven to return to after a day in potentially cold, wet weather. Somewhere you can enjoy nice food, drink and surroundings but also kick back and chill out while you’re at it. That is the Aaritz. It’s literally just across the road from one of the big gondolas up the mountain and has its own rather nice garage to dump your skis and boots in at the end of the day where they can dry out ready for the next day.
From there you can finish your day with a drink in the gorgeous lobby bar – home to some of the friendliest staff and the most generous array of bar snacks I have EVER seen. From nuts and crisps or lovely little focaccia squares to go with a beer, to homemade biscuits if you order a coffee or hot chocolate, you certainly don’t have to worry about going hungry.
They were just the start of the food experience at the Aaritz. The first floor restaurant was unlike any other hotel restaurant I’ve ever been in. I’ve spoken before about how difficult it can sometimes be for hotels to make their dining facilities feel like restaurants in their own right, but the Aaritz certainly has no problem with this.
An expansive wood-panelled room, it looked impressive but it was more about the atmosphere we walked into – that bustling, warm, convivial hum that is both fun and relaxing at the same time. The menu was set each night, but with a few choices of each course including an appetiser, an ENORMOUS salad bar with everything from cold meats and fish to breads, salads and a million different olive oils and balsamic vinegars, followed by a pasta course, main course and a dessert.
Yes, we learned quite quickly that the amount of food on offer meant we wouldn’t be able to go the whole hog and quite often either the salad bar, appetiser or dessert had to be turned down in a desperate attempt to make sure we didn’t get too heavy for the chair lifts.
It wasn’t just the quantity of food on offer, but the quality of the offering. From this gorgeous octopus starter to a traditional fondue one night, with plenty more in between, from amazing pasta dishes to meat, fish and much more. On top of that there was a great wine list (we know this because we sampled quite a few of them during the week…) and our waiter Victor was not only cheerful and smiley, but endlessly patient with our bonkers antics.
A post about a ski holiday wouldn’t be complete without a few pics of the slopes themselves. We were blessed with pretty good weather – almost too good in fact, given that one day the mercury hit 19C, leading to a bit of slushy snow in the afternoons.
But what it did mean was some glorious views and some great sunny ski breaks sat in some of the many bars and restaurants on top of the mountain. Because if sitting down to a fab Italian meal after a day’s skiing is good, enjoying the same thing whilst sitting literally on top of the world might be even a tiny bit better.
And while Selva is in Italy now (well, technically the region of Sud Tirol), its messy history means it’s now a melting pot of Italian and Austrian culture – and food! That might sound a bit strange but it means you get a glorious mixture of everything – pasta or gnocchi with thick cheesy sauces one minutes, and potatoes, eggs and ham another.
No boring ham sandwiches or burgers for us – we dined on a whole mixture of dishes from creamy carbonaras to delicious dumplings – all washed down with the obligatory gluhwein (mulled wine), beer or bombardino.
There’s one thing I’ve never really property experienced while skiing before, and it’s something that may influence the future of my ski holidays forever more – a proper spa. It’s not that unusual that you see ‘spa’ advertised in the brochure for a ski holiday, but what that word actually means when you get there can often vary.
On one holiday it meant a jacuzzi in the basement next to where the ski boots were kept. On another it was quite a nice pool and an outdoor hot tub. At the Aaritz it meant possibly the most modern, clean, upmarket, swanky spa I have ever been to. From the lovely pool with changing LED lights and various jets to sooth your aching muscles, to the raised jacuzzi, a separate sauna or steam room, to the gym (which yes, I did use – just the once), and then a whole separate relaxation area complete with yet more steam rooms, saunas and crazy showers to mimic rainforests and ice blasts and all that jazz.
Trust me, this level of luxury isn’t the norm for a ski holiday – well, not the ones normal people like us go on – and is a huge bonus after a day of racing, or tumbling, down icy slopes. In fact, I’m in two minds about whether I should post this because I just don’t want to share our gorgeous find.
I can safely say that this year’s skiing jaunt was, to date, the best ski holiday we have ever had. And while part of that is thanks to the skiing, the Italians, and our wonderful pals, a major reason was the Aaritz Hotel. Yes, it was a bit more pricey than some of the others but I’m convinced that we more than got our money’s worth out of this gorgeous find. Well kept, perfectly situated, great facilities, fine food, a stupendous spa and some of the friendliest, most accommodating staff I have EVER come across in either a restaurant or a hotel.
The one issue is that the Aaritz has now created a bit of a problem for us. As keen explorers, we’re usually reticent to go back to the same place twice, and I’m keen to explore other ski resorts across Europe and, one day, the world. But how can we, when it just might not compare….?
We visited the Hotel Aaritz as part of a package with Inghams. We paid in full and nobody knew I was a blogger. It seems I’m not the only one who thinks it’s fab – check out the reviews!