Austria is known for being a holiday destination split by the seasons – it’s perfect for older walkers and hikers in the warmer months, and tailor-made for younger skiers and boarders during the snowy season.
But is this summer/winter divide about to be turned on its head?
My wife Rachel and I, along with our daughters Isla, 10, and Evelyn, six, like to cram as much adventure as we can into our holidays, and during this summer’s trip to Schladming in Austria, we found the ideal setting.
Although it will perhaps always be primarily a winter resort, the Styrian town, nestled in the Enns Valley about an hour from Salzburg, is becoming increasingly popular with summer holidaymakers, in particular thrill-seeking younger travellers and families.
And thanks to the Sommercard, standing in line at the ticket office and opening your wallet or purse time and again is now thing of the past.
Every guest in the town gets one of these cards for free during their stay from May to October, allowing them to access a whole host of services and activities.
Our hotel for the week was the Hotel Zum Stadttor in the heart of the town.
Owned by couple Michaela and Karl Kurtz, it was warm and friendly, while the mountain view from the balcony of our family room was nothing short of breathtaking.
Another bonus with the Stadttor is that it is one of Thomson Lakes & Mountains’ all-inclusive properties, meaning we could fill up with a delicious continental breakfast, take a packed lunch onto the mountain, and tuck into a four-course dinner with drinks in the evening.
Upon arrival at the Stadttor, Michaela presented us with our Sommercards, and we used them immediately – embarking on our first expedition up the Planai gondola from where Isla and Evelyn explored the Hopsiland play area.
During lunch, we had what would be our first of many bowls of gullashsuppe, while Rachel and I sampled our first Schladmingers (the town’s tasty local beer) of the holiday.
The next day the rains arrived, but unperturbed, we donned our cagoules and walked down to the Adventure Pool for a splash around, before a fun, if a little wet, game of mini golf next to the River Enns.
We caught a bus into the Untertal Valley to the Wilde Wasser area – home of beautiful alpine meadows, thick forests and dramatic rock falls.
The two-hour ascent from Riesachfall Gasthaus up the Höll canyon via muddy paths and over suspension bridges was fairly testing, but we were rewarded by an amazing sight at the top – the stunningly serene lower Sonntagskarseen Lake.
The next day, we jumped on the same bus, disembarking at Gasthof Weise Wand where the kids were booked into a beginners’ climbing session.
Over a couple of hours they faced their fears and had great fun with the instructor Gerhard, scaling craggy rock faces and a 30-foot tree, before zooming down the flying fox zipline into a crash mat.
From there, we walked through the buttercup-covered meadows and along the river to Waldhäuslalm.
On Tuesdays during the summer, little ones can take part in a whole host of free activities including cooking, arts and crafts and petting the farm animals.
More showers were forecast the following day, but we had planned ahead and booked a family rafting excursion.
Our guide led the four of us, paddles in hands, down a stretch of the Enns through some gentle white water rapids.
At Stoderzinken Isla and I got our passports to ride Europe’s longest zipline at 2.5km long with a drop of 700m.
Before heading back to the UK, there was time for one more activity – mountain go-karting. Once we had reached the top station of the Hochwurzen gondola, the four of us zoomed down the 7km-long gravel course at breakneck speeds.
Slowly but surely, more and more young people are flocking to Austria,
and understandably want more from their summer vacations than tranquil Alpine walks, edelweiss and The Sound of Music.
*TUI Lakes & Mountains (tui.co.uk) offers a week’s all-inclusive at the Hotel Zum Stadttor in Schladming from £699 per person (based on a family of three sharing a room) including flights and transfers departing in August 2018. Direct flights available from all major UK airports.