“ Address: A-5600 St. / Johann / Alpendorf 11 / oberforsthof.at „
For this year's skiing holiday we took a break from our usual money-saving options of a self-catering apartment or a cheap B&B hotel. We had already decided to go to Austria, to the ski resort of Alpendorf, and when our first choice hotel was revealed not to have rooms when we wanted to travel, we decided, to hell with it, we deserve some luxury. So, we chose instead the 5 Star Oberforsthof Hotel, half board. The hotel was organised as a part of a package holiday with Crystal, our usual ski holiday provider. The flight to Austria was from Stanstead and arrived at Salzburg airport. From there it was just an hour's drive on the coach to a rendezvous point with a local taxi, to take us the short distance to Alpendorf and the hotel. The hotel is quite modern; built well within the last 10 years. The covered entrance colonnade leads to the Reception where we received a warm welcome and the very kind offer of a free room upgrade; we would be in room 223. The Welcome ~~~~~~~~~ Although the manager who received us speaks excellent English, one thing I have found in the years we have been visiting Austria is that people with a good grasp of English are far less frequently found in Austria than in most of the rest of Europe. This applies to young and old alike, so isn't just an age thing. This is also true of the hotel's staff. I confess my own German is little better than "Get By" (I learned French at school) but between us all, and with a little sign-language, we managed to make ourselves understood. Our room ~~~~~~ ...was large and very clean, with a balcony overlooking the valley and superb views, when the weather was good. The double bed was actually two singles bolted together and so very large. The room also had a sofa bed, a separate armchair, a couple of tables and chairs and a unit containing a mini-bar. Our room also had a kettle and a coffee machine, which is one possible reason why we got an upgrade, I believe: I had contacted the hotel in advance about tea and coffee in the rooms and was told that not all rooms have these facilities. Normally we would take a travel kit but we were right up against the baggage limit so left it behind. There was also a TV attached to the wall but not a single English language TV services were available, not even CNN or BBC World News. The best was Channel 31, the local service for Alpendorf, which showed the mountain webcam feeds, interspersed with weather reports, to the background of the local radio station, which did at least mostly play British and American pop. The separate bathroom was also very large, containing both a bath and a stand-alone shower cabinet. The toilet was also roomy and a separate room off of the bathroom. The bathroom floor was heated, which was nice, but what we didn't immediately realise was that the temperature was directly controlled by the thermostatic radiator valve on the heated towel rail at the end of the bath! Towelling robes and slippers were provided for use in your room or, if you want to use the hotel's leisure facilities, for going down to the spa, which we did. Also provided is a wicker basket containing towels that you can take with you down to the pool. These are replaced after having been used. There was no problem with adequate hot water but the actual shower head fell of of the wall whilst I was adjusting it and was never satisfactorily repaired during our stay. Also, the soap dish, by the wash basin, drooped alarmingly, clearly not being properly fixed to the wall. However, the biggest problem was that there was no facilities for drying our skiing wear, specifically the base layers, which we normally rinse out and hang to drip dry overnight for use the following day. We were forced to use the heated towel rail, which meant there was nowhere to hang the towels! All it needed was a fold-out airer attached to the wall at the other end of the bath, that could be extended over it. Also, when you get out of the shower, what is it you want to hand? A towel. However, there was nowhere to hang a towel close to the shower cabinet although there was certainly space for a hook. In fact, adequate hooks or pegs was a problem in general, one that I have found in far too many hotels, not just this one. Although three generous-sized wardrobes were provided, when returning from a day's skiing you don't want to put you outer clothing on a wardrobe where they will not be able to air adequately; you want to hang them on hooks. A few hooks were provided, squashed into a small area behind the door, where they couldn't really air properly, but the long wall of the corridor leading past the bathroom, where there was plenty of room for some hooks, was completely devoid of anything at all! There was a set of folding glass windows between the bathroom and the bedroom that could be opened! We had these closed most of the time because, overall, the temperature in the bedroom was on the high side for our preference, even though the separate radiator in the bedroom was off completely, and we didn't really want the heat from the bathroom leaking through. We mostly left the door onto the balcony, which could be opened as a inclined window instead, open to allow the room to cool down and to provide some ventilation at night. Overall, the room was always comfortable though. Room servicing (as opposed to Room Service) was variable: the room was always kept spotlessly clean and the beds turned down for us before we went to bed but far too often we found ourselves having to contact Reception to complain that, once again, tea and coffee cups had been taken away to be washed and not replaced! Food ~~~~ ...and drink: the Bar is really quite small considering the size of the hotel. The serving area takes up a lot of room, with seating squashed in all around it. The range of drinks is generally good and not unreasonably priced, with the added interest of some very nice locally sourced farmhouse schnapps. Be aware though, the bar has NO smoking restrictions and we did find that Austrians generally still smoke a lot! Refuge could be found next door where a large lounge with leather settees and armchairs enabled you to relax in a smoke-free atmosphere, in front of a frequently lit, roaring log fire. The restaurant is excellent and with a smoking ban; if you want to smoke you have to go outside. Breakfast is the usual buffet affair, with plenty of choice by way of cereals, cooked food and cold meats and cheeses. There were also a decent selection of fruit but largely in the form of fruit salads rather than actual apples, pears, bananas and so on, which was a pity, as these were provided in your room! For our evening meal we were allocated a table for the duration of our stay. The food was excellent, if a touch "Nouvelle Cuisine". Each course, in itself, would not be considered a decent meal but when you've had 5 or 6 courses, you come away knowing you've had your fill, and not had a chance to get bored. The wine menu was extensive, with a full range of prices, starting at around 25 Euros. We took the opportunity to re-familiarise ourselves with Gruner Weltliner and also found a truly excellent red St Laurent, similar to a Pinot Noir. Service, throughout the week, was always friendly, polite and attentive, just as I like it. Leisure facilities ~~~~~~~~~~ All the hotel's leisure facilities are in the basement, one floor down from Reception. This is actually the Ground Floor on the downhill side of the hotel. As we were skiing, the most important facility was the ski and boot room. The hotel doesn't have lockers. Instead there's a room with stands for your skis and heated ski boot racks where the pegs that you hang your boots on blow warm air into them to dry them out and make them nice and warm to put on the following day. You can get into this room from outside via the gates below the entrance. Your room key will gain you entry. The entrance to the Spa gains you access to the swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and solarium. The pool is very nice and is surrounded by glass walls that look out onto the hotel's gardens. Around the pool are chairs and loungers on which to relax. Beware the sauna: nudity can be expected; apparently this is not unusual in Austria, in the sauna! I can't vouch for elsewhere! There is also a fully equipped exercise room, with weights machines, treadmills and static bikes. You should be able to find something you like to keep you fit, if the weather isn't suitable for skiing. There are also pool tables, an electronic dart board and other games also available in the basement. Conclusions ~~~~~~~~ We very much enjoyed our stay at the Oberforsthof and would certainly have no qualms about staying there again or of recommending anyone else to stay there. It might sound, from my review, that the hotel is less than perfect. Certainly, there are issues but none of them could be considered more than minor niggles. It will be interesting to see if the hotel's management responds to this review and if other guests, especially any using our room, report improvements. Largely, the issues revolve around the designers of the hotel not seeing it from the point of view of a guest; of being more interested in aesthetics that practicality. This isn't the first and certainly won't be the last hotel guilty of that, no matter what "Star" rating it has. Abridged version of review posted on TripAdvisor.