This winter, I had the privilege of being invited to Austria to meet the team at IBT Travel, a specialist provider of ski tours for groups and schools across the United Kingdom. I was asked to share my experience of the trip, so I hope that it provides an honest and complimentary review that will challenge the status quo for planners when selecting providers for an upcoming school ski trip.
Although IBT Travel customise trips to cater for the individual needs of groups and budgets of all sizes, my journey began with a short Easyjet flight from Manchester to Munich, followed by a 2 hour drive to the quaint village of Bischofshofen, Austria, where I was to stay for 3 days at the Gasthaus Schützenhof (www.schuetzen-hof.com), a warm and rustic family-run Austrian hotel, offering excellent food and comfortable, modern accommodation (with free wi-fi), a large ski and boot room and the new addition of spa facilities.
On arrival, I was warmly greeted by Jo from the IBT Sales Team, who gave me a quick tour of the hotel and plan for the next few days. After acquainting myself with the hotel, facilities and setup, I decided to sample the evening menu. From my own experiences skiing, Austrian meals have typically been a bit hit and miss (with strange soups and a lot of schnitzel!), but the food provided at Gasthaus Schützenhof is very good indeed, with a typical evening set menu comprising of a warm starter, freshly dressed salad, a meat or fish-based main, and a desert – with alternative options to suit varying dietary needs – exactly what you need when trying to cater for the tastes of 30+ pupils!
I also learned that for the largest of groups, accommodation can be paired with sister hotel, Hotel Alte Post (situated adjacent), where breakfast for both the Gasthaus Schützenhof and Hotel Alte Poste is served daily, comprising a selection of continental breakfast options (including bread, bagels, cereals, yoghurt, meats, cheeses, pate, fresh fruit, fruit juices and hot drinks).
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, I met with the IBT team and drove approx. 15 minutes to Alpendorf, a popular starting point in the Salzburger Sportwelt area, home to the IBT Ski School and management office. From here, I chatted with several of the IBT Ski Instructors as well as Alex the IBT Resort manager. We watched as a coach of school pupils arrived and were fully equipped by IBT staff within the hour, issued with high quality ski’s and boots and assisted to ensure everyone was comfortable. I was then issued my own skis and boots (which I was keen to try personally), before taking the short walk up to the Kreisten-Alm chair lift by the IBT main office.
Keen to emulate the experience offered to pupils, after a brief introduction at the Kreisten-Alm restaurant (at the top of the chair lift) where IBT have a special relationship with the owner to provide reserved seating areas and great set menu options (particularly useful during the busier lunchtime hours), I opted to spend the first day skiing with Jo and Lesley from the IBT Sales team, along with resident expert and IBT Ski Instructor Will, who provided detailed commentary on all aspects of the resort, pistes and IBT’s approach to training skiers of all levels. During the day, we covered various routes suitable for beginners all the way to more advanced skiers, including runs from the top of the Gernkogel mountains down to the Gondel Stubel and Buchau lifts, as well as more gentle blue and red runs near the Hirschkogel mountains – perfect for beginners and budding intermediate skiers – with a tasty (and notably filling) lunchtime stop for steak on toast at one of several restaurants across the resort that accept the IBT meal vouchers. After an afternoon of more skiing, we returned to Bischofshofen, where we spent some time exploring the local high street and stumbled across a traditional Christmas Market. We then returned to the hotel to indulge in our usual four-course evening meal accompanied with a little après ski refreshment!
The next day, after sampling the continental breakfast, we decided to journey across the valley to Flachau, by taking the huge 130-person G-Link lift. This recently installed lift makes it possible to ski across the park to other resorts, opening up miles of slopes to keep you busy for several days. While skiing back in the afternoon, despite seeing numerous IBT groups out on the slopes (easily identifiable by the IBT-issued lime green ski helmet covers), we ran into another school group taking part in a snow tubing activity just before they returned to the foot of the mountain.
After the usual evening feast, I spent some time discussing the resort and IBT’s history with members of the IBT team who had assembled at Gasthaus Schützenhof for the evening for leaving drinks before a few of their team returned back to the UK the following day. Our evening discussions revealed how passionate and friendly the IBT team were, and it was clear to me that each member of their team cares deeply and are keen to ensure that everyone, no matter what the group size, has a fantastic experience.
On my final day of skiing, having sampled the excellent range of slopes for beginners to intermediate-advanced skiers, I decided to go in search of more challenging runs. For this, we headed to Flachauwinkl and Zauchensee, just a 25-minute drive from Bischofshofen, and I was not disappointed! With world class ski runs, snow parks and a range of marked black, red and off-piste runs it was a fantastic day of skiing which had something for everyone – a particular highlight for me was navigating a black diamond off-piste run near the summit of Mooskopf – which definitely got my quads burning! With the final day drawing to a close later than anticipated (having lost track of time having too much fun), we virtually had the slopes to ourselves as we returned to the foot of the mountain. On the final run, it was reassuring to be accompanied by the snow patrol, who were there to ensure that everyone was safely off the mountain before the night drew in. We rounded the day off with a heart-warming Jagerstee (Hunter’s Tea) before returning to the hotel to pack and fly home the following morning.
During my time as a secondary school teacher, I have been involved personally in the detailed planning and delivery of several ski trips for hundreds of students. From discussions with colleagues at other schools, I can fully sympathise with the approach of using the same ski operator from year to year based on previous trips, rather than risking an alternative, especially with competitive marketing and the sheer volume of ski companies and packages available today. The latter has made it increasingly difficult to achieve the right balance of quality vs cost, but despite that challenge, through numerous conversations with the sales team, ski instructors, teachers and students alike during my stay, I left feeling genuinely impressed by the positive ethos and reputation of IBT Travel and their team, both on and off resort. It is clear that they are able to deliver outstanding ski trips that provide a seamless and positive experience for all involved, and I strongly recommend considering IBT Travel the next time you’re thinking of planning a trip for your school.
If you would like to experience first-hand the service provided by IBT Travel in one of their Austrian or Italian resorts, you may wish to apply for one of IBT Travel’s FREE Ski Inspection trips. For more information, please visit https://www.ibt-travel.com/ski/trip-information/inspection-visits/.
IBT Travel – Alpendorf Resort & Trip Highlights:
- Well planned itinerary from the IBT team with every detail covered
- High quality ski hire & equipment
- Virtually no ski lift waiting times
- Fast, warm and comfortable lifts
- A wide variety of runs (120km of interconnected runs)
- Well-groomed pistes with numerous snow cannons for use when needed
- Professional and friendly IBT team
- Generous meal tickets and fantastic food options on the slopes
- High quality hospitality from beginning to end