As the ski season approaches, Mark Nicholls reflects on luxury skiing with his family in Austria

STEAM DRIFTS across the slopes, rising idly from the outdoor Jacuzzi as skiers flash past only a few metres away. It is an idyllic spot and the perfect way to relax amid the bubbling warm waters after an invigorating morning skiing on the slopes above the Tirolean village of Fiss.

Having checked into the five-star Schlosshotel, we had settled into a charmed regime: ski in the morning, spa in the afternoon and enjoy the best of Austrian cuisine every evening. The hotel – an hour’s drive from Innsbruck – sits above in the Tirol Ski-Dimension area of the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis network and is the only ski-in/ski-out resort in the valley, offering unique access to the diverse winter terrain.


… and it’s downhill all the way in the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis region

The Schlosshotel, at 1456m above sea level with 135 rooms and suites, excellent restaurants and bars and a mouth-watering cuisine, has a special ambience in the way it combines luxury, service and style with wellbeing and a family environment too – not always easy within a five-star setting. Alongside the ski-in-ski-out accessibility, the Schlosshotel has its own ski rental centre for a season that runs from early December through to sunshine spring skiing in April.


The Schlosshotel Fiss combines luxury, service and style with wellbeing

Having stepped into our skis, we slipped out of the hotel and down the slope to the lift interchange where the Sonnenbahn Ladis-Fiss lift meets the Schonjochbahn and the Moseralbahn. We took the latter up the mountain, toward the landmark Skyswing, and then hopped on to the Sattelbahn lift and into a sea of red runs sweeping across the mountainside. With 76 state-of-the-art lifts and cable cars and 214km of pistes, the highest ski point of the Tirol Ski-Dimension is from Masnerkopf at 2828m above sea level. Even later in the season, given the altitude and expanse of the terrain, the runs remain open and well maintained.


Sarah Nicholls enjoys a spectacular backdrop

Conditions were good across terrain that ranges from delightful blue runs through to invigorating reds and challenging blacks, as well as off-piste opportunities. With a mix of skiers and non-skiers, the wider appeal of the Schlosshotel for my wife Sharon and teenage daughters Laura and Sarah and I, was its spa: a magnificent pool with indoor and outdoor swim areas; jacuzzis (including the one outside beside the snowy slopes); and saunas (including the Finnish panorama spa) and aromatherapy and salt steam rooms.


The Schlosshotel’s Waterworld AquaMonte offers stunning views

Spread over 5000 square metres, the architecture is stunning, with large panes of glass drawing in the natural light with magical views across the slopes. The Aqua Monte panorama pool is 37m long, leading into the heated outdoor pool from where you can watch the skiers zip past. There are quiet areas too, spaces for calm and relaxation… wellness lounges with open fires or a pavilion with heated waterbeds. Of course, this is where the Schlosshotel excels, in balancing luxury and adult relaxation with a family environment. There is a separate Splash Waterworld children’s pool with slides, splash pools and fun activities, as well as a special family spa where parents and children can enjoy the facilities together.One of the benefits of a wellbeing hotel is the therapeutic treatments available, from facials and specific detox through to specialist therapies and hands, feet and full body massages – often a welcome antidote for an energetic day on the slopes. And there is also a private spa suite.

Food is an integral part of the Schlosshotel experience, with a lovely breakfast buffet and lunch through to an exceptional evening dining experience with fine cuisine with fish, game, veal, sumptuous desserts, traditional soups and a fabulous selection of cheeses and a wine list focused on Austrian wines.


The Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis network offers opportunities for all ages

We enjoyed Austrian salads and starters of 40-hour, slow-cooked pork belly or filet of brook char, creamy soups of red sweet pepper or bouillon or prime boiled beef, and then main dishes of fawn entrecote, Irish lamb, monkfish and risotto Milanese, roasted sea bass, potato curd gnocchi and risottos with sumptuous desserts and those excellent cheeses.

For those seeking a culinary thrill on the slopes, there are other options. The Crystal Cube close to the ‘Z1’ viewing platform at 2,600m offers breakfast, lunch and high tea, and with an exterior of mirrored glass, the location offers 360-degree views of the mountain while giving the impression that you are perched on the rock face. There are plenty of other places to eat on the mountain, such as the Leithe Wirt Restaurant, the Masner Ski Hut or the Moseralm Mountain Restaurant.

Our accommodation at the Schlosshotel was spacious and comfortable with a double and two single beds, and a balcony offering views across the valley. The bar and restaurant areas are fashioned in the same way as the rooms, with warm wooden finishes, cosy fabrics and a welcoming ambience.


The Nicholls’ enjoy family time after a morning on the slopes

Even when the weather turns and skiing is not on the agenda, the Schlosshotel has all that is required for a relaxing family day. We started with a hot chocolate in the bar as we read and scanned websites, before heading for a wander around the village anf then being lured back to the spa. Not only is there a children’s supervised play area but also a youth area with pool tables and games consoles.


The Schlosshotel’s exterior pool

But, we had come too ski. And as the weather cleared with snowfall even in April, we were treated to a fabulous morning on the slopes… and all a mere short hop across to the ski gondolas from the Schlosshotel and then up to the higher ski runs.


Writer and ski enthusiast Mark Nicholls


Accommodation: Mark Nicholls stayed at the ski-in/ski-out five-star Schlosshotel Fiss (, telephone +43 5476 – 6397 0) where deluxe double rooms start from €275 per person per night. The hotel is part of the Niche Destinations portfolio (

Lift pass: A 6-day lift pass is €217 per adult.

For more information about skiing in the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis region, visit

Flights: EasyJet and Ryanair fly frequently to Innsbruck from UK airports


Hotel Tirol Pleasure Lounge

Hotel Tirol – Several hotels in Fiss are geared towards families, but dotted around this attractive alpine village are a number of other more intimate hotels that will specifically appeal to couples. Among them is the Hotel Tirol, which has undergone a summer transformation, modernising its rooms with a contemporary feel with Swiss pine, wooden floors, grey stonework and a relaxing wellness area. Food is also an important aspect of a stay at this hotel, from ‘kitchen parties’ where guests can choose what they want to eat and talk to the chefs, to wine-tasting evenings, traditional dishes and culinary surprises. Hotel Tirol, however, does not have a ski room. However, this is simply because – like many hotels in the resort – it does not need one. The ski lift interchange at Fiss where the Sonnenbahn Ladis-Fiss lift meets the Schonjochbahn and the Moseralbahn, has literally thousands of ski lockers, meaning no-one has to haul skis and boot around the resort any more than necessary.

*Mark Nicholls also spent time at the newly upgraded 4-star superior Hotel Tirol (, telephone +43 5476 6358) where a standard double room costs from €105 per person per night, with a one-week stay priced from €743 per person including luxury-board accommodation and a 6-day lift pass.