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I took a trip down memory lane sloping off to the Austrian resort of Leogang

HELLO!'s Thomas Whitaker returned to the Austrian ski resort of Leogang 15 years on from his first visit 

Thomas Whitaker from HELLO! posing in Leogang with family
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The trouble with returning to a place you first visited 15 years ago and which holds such precious memories, is there is always a fear it won’t live up to how you remember it. So arriving at the Austrian ski resort of Leogang I breathed a huge sigh of relief to see that the pretty town complete with its Alpine charm and fast flowing river Schwarzleo running through it remained virtually unchanged.

No high-rise hotels or fast food chains but a sense of space and fresh odour of pine trees that evoked such strong memories from my first trip in 2008. Back then I had travelled with my wider family including my late father, the esteemed royal reporter James Whitaker, and the man who instilled in me my passion for skiing as a six year old.

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It was my daughter Libby’s first trip to the Alps and being four she had a two year head start on me – but I could see from the off she was going to love it just as much as I had.

Treasured pictures that I still have of that trip show three generations of my family (on the trip were my two sons Hugo and Tobias, wife Jo, nephew Christopher and mother Iwona, and of course Libby) enjoying days on the slopes together under bright blue skies in deep snow. This time I was returning just with my wife Jo – an excellent skier (even possibly better than me though I would never tell her that).

Thomas Whitaker from HELLO! posing in Leogang
I hit the slopes in Leogang, 15 years after my first visit

It seems we also brought with us the ‘snow gods’ as within 24 hours of our arrival 1.5 metres of fresh crisp glorious champagne powder carpeted the resort which being towards the end of the season was looking pretty threadbare.

We skied some wonderful off-piste waist-deep powder slopes with our excellent guide and stayed at the hugely comfortable Hotel Salzburgerhof –both a stone's throw away from the cable car and opposite where we had all based ourselves on our previous trip.

Leogang Austria mountain view of pistes on sunny day© Saalbach Hinterglemm
The Austrian ski resort of Leogang lived up to my expectations after all these years

So what was the big difference in 15 years? Back then it was all about the skiing. But in the intervening years, a whole new horizon of opportunities has opened up – most notably the wealth of wellbeing opportunities. Jo and I didn’t have to travel far with our hotel’s spa set over two storeys with floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering spectacular views as we rested our weary legs in the saunas and steam rooms.

There are also twice weekly yoga sessions, yet another perfect antidote to tired aching limbs. Away from the hotel winter delights off the slopes include alpine dedicated to hikers of all abilities, 150 kms of cross-country skiing, as well as a whole host of other activities including ice skating, tobogganing, horse-drawn sleigh rides and snowshoeing.

Thomas Whitaker from HELLO! posing in Leogang with family© Thomas Whitaker
Whitakers on tour! Jo Whitaker, Libby Whitaker, Thomas Whitaker, Hugo Whitaker, Christopher Whitaker, Iwona Whitaker, James Whitaker and Toby Whitaker (L-R)

But most of our time was spent on the ski circuit called the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn (the name is long but it takes in three resorts), which evoked lots of wonderful memories. It is now linked with skiing in Zell-am-See-Kaprun offering a whopping 408 km of groomed pistes, and throughout the entire SalzburgerLand region, there are no less than 22 diverse ski resorts with a total of 2700km of pistes!

All are enhanced by gorgeous scenery and countless cosy huts where you are guaranteed some on-slope meals. Mike and Zara Tindall I heard had enjoyed a few days on the slopes just before I got there. The lifts were fast, efficient and plentiful and there was not a T-bar in sight. And the links from valley to valley are very well thought out. I cannot remember having to pole from one to the other!

Leogang in Austria snowy hotel view
I stayed at the comfortable Hotel Salzburgerhof - a stone's throw away from the cable car

An added bonus was our four day trip at the end of March 2023 coincided with the White Pearl Mountain Days, now in its 6th year and taking place in 2024 from 22 to 31 March. With 30 international DJs flocking to the area and restaurants throwing open their doors to jazz singers it helped make for quite the party on the slopes. Austrian hospitality at its best.

With all this just eight hours door to door away from my home in South West London (Salzburg Airport is just an hour away in a taxi), I will definitely be back. And this time I will not wait another 15 years!

Leogang Austria man skiing down piste ©
The SalzburgerLand region boasts 22 diverse ski resorts with 2700km of pistes

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Thomas Whitaker was a guest of the Saalfelden-Leogang Tourist Office, for more information about the 2023-24 winter season visit and for information about the SalzburgerLand region visit

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