Maybe the long, rather forgettable name of Bad Kleinkirchheim puts people off visiting which surely contributes to this resort being quieter than you would expect for a village in an extremely picturesque valley. The locals simply call it ‘BKK’. The village is also long as it follows the wide valley bottom but, along the way, it has more attractions than most resorts that make it a year-round holiday destination.
The skiing compares favourably with many more famous Austrian resorts; their 100+ kilometres of consistently well-prepared pistes have a height difference of just under 1,000 metres, peaking at 2,055 metres served by 24 usually crowd-free lifts.
There are two main areas, the St Oswald slopes are best suited to those looking to gain confidence and suit mixed skilled parties. The BKK side has a few more demanding but still very achievable pistes. On both locations, there is a mix of open and tree-lined runs. There are plenty of pistes which are quite wide so skiers can gain confidence by traversing the steeper slopes to contain their speed with ease. Skiers looking for tastier challenges seek out the inside of bends to find the steepest falls on the runs. Lunch can be very important and the location can add greatly to the enjoyment; my favourite was Eve Alps with tasty food, it would be difficult to improve the views and the atmosphere in the old chalet was great.
The wide gentle nursery slopes offer children plenty of fun and learning opportunities, for those who have gained some control, there is the gentle Kids Slopes slalom challenge. A challenge for more advanced skiers and snowboarders is the Snowpark with runs and obstacles to negotiate.
The famous, classic resorts need to have a few 5* hotels and even more luxurious chalets. However, for most of us we can enjoy a very fulfilling experience in four or sometimes a three-star hotel.
I would add that for me, it should ideally be family owned and when you wake up in the morning you know where you are, not forgetting that you should be able to look forward to good food. The four-star Trattlerhof fulfilled those criteria to a tee, it had started out as a restaurant 135 years ago and has remained in the Forstnig family ever since. They are very involved and have motivated the staff so there is friendly, efficient service. The hotel has grown to become a relatively big hotel with numerous extensions being added over the decades. The result is a homely atmosphere as none of the many reception rooms is too large, and there is always somewhere quiet whilst other places have a good buzz.
My en suite bedroom was spacious and individual, on each floor adding the height above sea level was a good touch and the passages had some quirky antique objects whose uses were a mystery to me.
We enjoyed the big spread of the cooked and continental buffet breakfasts and dinner featured a diverse menu of delicious dishes throughout our stay. I particularly liked the offer of tea and cake on our return from skiing.
The Trattlerhof hotel is just over half a mile from the centre but there is a frequent, normally uncrowded, complimentary resort shuttle bus that was always spot on time. However, when not in ski boots, I much preferred to walk along the picturesque river bank which is just behind the hotel.
The hotel’s spa and wellness areas are relatively large with lots of facilities. I was caught out as I expected some disposable flip-flops, but the was none; their ‘eco’ credentials are high having won a gold ‘Green Leader Award’. I now have my own flip-flops! Nevertheless, nothing can compare to the two state-of-the-art thermal spars in the main part of the village; they are exceptional.
Possibly the more comprehensive spa is the Romerbad which is the more central, and they like to tell you that you have a view of the World Cup piste “Karten – Franz Klammer”, their much-revered hero. He is obviously still very involved with encouraging skiing in the village. The spa has a whole acre of indulgence on three levels with some 13 themed saunas plus other wellness add-ons. Beware; most of the pools have very warm waters but I narrowly missed jumping into one which was unheated.
St. Kathrein spa has its own character; it can boast of having the largest water area of all Carinthian spas and – at 86 m –the province’s longest water slide.
Whilst I would have to be dragged away from the ski slopes, I appreciate that others do spend whole days just relaxing in the spas. You should visit both spas as they are complementary. Rightly they are very strong on hygiene and rules must be obeyed, I have found other public spas are frequently too relaxed.
Further experiences were offered; the word ‘Marmite’ comes to mind. Cross Country skiing. I had always considered gravity was an essential part of skiing, i.e. no additional propulsion needed. Slogging over flat land with only the pleasure being surrounded by beautiful scenery is not my scene. I thought Alpine skiing is where challenges and risks are a part of the fun. I was wrong; the cross country trails were far more dangerous than I could possibly have imagined. There were two tracks on the uneven ice packed trails; meeting someone coming the other way meant leaving those tracks. All of us fell at least once; I landed up somewhat bruised feeling lucky that I had not broken anything. The best part was that the narrow skis were light to carry on my walk back. I thought it will never catch on but some of the others persisted and expressed their pleasure in the experience.
Tobogganing is a feature many resorts offer, again, injury can be literally round the next tight corner as most people dismount and walk around the bend only to be faced with the prospect of others hitting your calves at speed. Happily, there were no tight corners on their longest run, the Unterwirthüttn. Here was a different challenge; the length of the run. We mounted a tractor taxi and meandered a full 5.5 kilometres up the mountain. A thorough brief was given and off we set being led at a prudent pace. The taxi followed gathering up those who wanted to drop out. No bruises, fun and a satisfaction of achieving such a long distance was the right outcome.
There were no issues of danger in the horse-drawn sledge on paths above the village, just tranquillity and stunning views.
The overall experience was above my expectations as the Inghams brochure is very modest in its acclamations. Their operations were seamless and everything worked like clockwork; I will not hold the recommendation that I tried cross country skiing against them.