There comes a time in every parent's life when their children flee the nest to start to build a life of their own. It happened to me last summer when my eldest son Hugo, now 19, won a place at Bath University to study mathematics. He is now one term in and the whole family misses him. So as November turned to December my thoughts didn't only turn to turkey, mince pies and Christmas parties but spending some one to one time with him to catch up on his new life away from home. As we both share a lifelong passion for skiing and the Alps was enjoying the best pre Christmas snowfall for 20 years we jumped at the chance to book a last minute deal.
Travelling with Crystal, we headed to the picture perfect Austrian town of Bad Gastein to spend a week of 'father and son' time – where we were joined by my elder brother Edward and his son Christopher, who is also 19. It was the first week of the season from December 16 to 23 and the journey was completely hassle free with the chartered plane even arriving 10 minutes early and the two hour coach journey a joy as it whisked us through scenes that could have come straight out of A Sound of Music.
Thomas and his son Hugo travelled to Bad Gastein, Austria
On the journey the Crystal reps were on jovial form entertaining us with stories about how much snow had fallen, how we were in for an exceptional week and even how Austrian health and safety rules meant they could no longer walk around the coach selling ski passes but how they would cater to all our needs (passes, ski hire, ski school) on arrival at our destination.
Matters were made even better, as Hugo was opening up about life at Uni, new friends, New Year plans and we also discussed accommodation for the second year away from campus. We stayed at the three star family run Hotel Alpenblick (blick is the German word for view). As the name suggests the hotel has a stunning location at the end of a valley.
The stunning views from Hotel Alpenblick
The hotel is both comfortable and clean and is expertly run – with a no fuss approach - by the owner Claudia Hirsch. Its spa is spacious and includes sauna, steam room, outdoor plunge pool and the chance to have a relaxing massage after a day on the slopes. There is also a games room with pool and table tennis.
We stayed on a half board basis and were treated by an excellent buffet breakfast with a choice of porridge, cereals, eggs and bacon and fresh fruit – or you could tuck into the whole lot if you fancied it! Supper was an equally fine dining experience with a choice of three starters (the soups every night were out of this world); three main courses including veal, port and beef and three puddings.
Thomas and Claudia Hirsch, the owner of Hotel Alpenblick
Hugo and I shared an en suite room with its own balcony. It came with two beds, was spacious and had its own television (we enjoyed nightly doses of sport - world cup skiing, European football and darts from Alexander Palace were all watched).
The hotel is not ski in/ski out but was conveniently located next to a bus stop which takes you right into the heart of the ski area. You can set your watches by the buses they run so like clockwork even after a heavy dump of snow.
HELLO!'s Co-Editor hit the slopes in Bad Gastein
The week itself was perfect - whilst it was cold, -11C at points, you always got a warm welcome at the mountain restaurants and the snow was powdery and the slopes empty. We didn't hang around often clocking up 60km plus on a day out. We came home in time for Christmas feeling healthy and with a mountain glow - and also we felt reconnected. A huge success all round!