There’s non-stop fun for all on the slopes in Soll, Austria. Juliette Bains reports.
HURTLING down a mountain at what seems like 100 miles per hour, suddenly the lights go out and we are plunged into darkness.
The couple of mugs of Gluhwein (mulled wine) that I enjoyed at the top of the mountain start to churn in my stomach as it dawns on me that our Après Ski had overrun and we are still half way up the slopes when they switch off the floodlights.
There’s only the faint, warm glow of the village below us and the houses looks like tiny candles from way up here.
But unfortunately I am not in one of those cosy log cabins in the distance.
I am perched hundreds of feet up a mountain wearing seemingly unstoppable skis after just half a day of lessons.
Luckily the dim shimmer of the moon and some twinkling stars light up our path and despite a few scary run-ins with snow ploughs, we glide and giggle our way safely back to Söll.
And close up, the town is just as pretty as it was from afar.
Adorable wooden cabins line quaint streets covered in fresh snow up to two feet deep.
Söll really is a winter wonderland.
It’s hard to believe this beautiful Alpine town is less than a two-hour flight away from Leeds, making it a perfect weekend getaway.
After reaching the foot of the mountain, we enjoy a few more celebratory Gluhwein before dumping our ski gear at the rental shop and head back to the traditional Hotel Alpenpanorama.
The four star family-run hotel is typically Austrian, with lots of wooden furnishings and log fires and there’s a cosy bar and restaurant area as well as a spa and sauna to relax and soak those aching muscles after a hard day of pounding the slopes.
The rooms are spacious and comfortable and, although I’m not a morning person, I was literally leaping out of bed at the crack of dawn to take in the stunning views of the snow-capped mountains from the balcony.
The hotel in the perfect location – just a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Söll.
It’s far enough away that you can’t hear people spilling out of the bars at the end of the night and close enough that you can stagger back if necessary.
The nightlife is varied, with quiet bars and upmarket restaurants as well as chocolate box taverns with live music where you can dance the night away.
Some bars are packed to the rafters with tourists and locals playing bizarre games such as attempting to hit nails into a log with the wrong end of a hammer which, as you can imagine, is tricky even if you’re sober.
But the great nightlife, beautiful scenery, and cosy hotels are just the tip of the iceberg.
In Söll, like the rest of the Tirol region, it’s all about the skiing.
The village lies in the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental area – Austria’s largest interconnecting ski area.
With 279km of marked pistes, floodlit ski runs, 90 cable cars and 70 cafes and restaurants, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
And, in case the weather’s not up to scratch, there are 1,400 snow-making machines to make sure you can ski no matter what.
The most seasoned skiers would struggle to exhaust the slopes if visiting for a week’s holiday and there are enough blue runs to keep beginners occupied plus plenty of more challenging reds.
For the technology-savvy, you can also track exactly how far you have skiied online using your ski passes, which tag you in locations and tot up the total of kilometres covered – keeping the most competitive skiers on their toes.
The SkiWelt is made up of a total of nine villages in all, each with their own distinctive character so that there’s something for couples, friends and families.
On top of that, the Skiwelt has an ice hotel, Alpeniglu, 19 ski schools, 13km of night skiing and three floodlit toboggan runs.
The latter turns out to be one of the highlights of the trip and is well worth spending some euros on.
The traditional wooden sledges send you shooting down the mountain with little to help you steer and so many twists and turns that the adrenalin rush lasts for the entirety of the 3km route.
We finally reach the bottom of the track when a snowball fight breaks out and our ski guide Janine shouts out ‘Let’s do it one more time!’ and before we know it we’re back at the top ready to re-live it all over again.
Söll is also only an hour from the airport in Innsbruck, which itself is packed full of tall, historic buildings and is also well worth exploring.
The landmark Golden Roof, which pretty much does what it says on the tin, has an impressive balcony from which a brass band serenades passersby.
If you’re in the mood for shopping, a multi-million pound Swarovski shop is nestled near some of oldest buildings in the town and comes complete with a bar and art installations.
If I knew that getting to such a beautiful skiing destination was as easy as this, I would have done it years ago.
Söll is the perfect place for seasoned slope veterans or people who are new to skiing and fancy trying something a bit different and adventurous for a short break or even a longer holiday that the whole family are sure to enjoy.
A SkiWelt lift pass starts from €38.50 for 1 day.
Ski and boot hire at Erdinger Sport costs from €23 per day.
For flights from Manchester to Innsbruck from £33.50 one-way or from Leeds-Bradford to Munich from £40 one-way, see www.monarch.co.uk.
For rooms at the four star HotelAlpenpanorama, which start at €69 pppn, see www.hotelalpenpanorama.com.
For more visit: www.skiwelt.at