BSKIB09 :  BOOTskiboys in Saalbach

14th - 21st March 2009

It should have been a return visit to the Sella Ronda but Neilsons reneged on the booking and so joined TUI Thomsons and Crystal on the list of operators deemed too incompetent to warrant our custom. Philip did a sterling job, in conjunction with Gates Travel, in booking us at short notice with Inghams at the Alpenhotel in Saalbach.

I, for one, was happy with this switch as I remembered Saalbach fondly and also it seemed appropriate because Philip had been unable to join us last time he had arranged a boys trip there, ten years previously.

Saalbach postcard

Robert had actually stayed at the Alpenhotel and could vouch for its credentials.  Nick seemed happy wherever we were going despite the fact he was having to share an “Austrian twin” room with me;  “Austrian twin” being a euphemism for double bed with separate duvets.  Cosy! The other boys had single rooms, which were tiny.

There was a casualty, however.  Sella Ronda specialist and last year’s ski guide, Yellow Leader Roger had dug himself into a rather large hole domestically and took the opportunity of the cancellation to try and dig himself out of it.  Unwisely, in our outsider’s view; having incurred the wrath, will he actually earn any redemption points?

Anyway, that is why, contrary to long distance planning, we ended up in Saalbach.

Saalbach is an attractive, small, traditional Austrian valley town with a pedestrianised centre and a lot of development in recent years.  

The Alpenhotel dominates the centre of the town; not one massive structure but a series of five or six buildings that have become integrated under the one ownership.  The public rooms are smart but the bedrooms, at least in the old wing where we were staying, were a little tired, albeit comfortable.

Alpenhotel Saalbach

There was a red rose on my side of the bed.  What a thoughtful man Nick is!

As a resort Saalbach is low and dependent on it being a good year for snow.

If anything, this was proving to be a too good year for snow- it didn’t seem to know when to stop.  

I had confidently expected a week of wall to wall sunshine after what seemed like weeks of snow making but it was not entirely to be like that.

Before reporting on the skiing, I need to make mention of a discovery.

James Dyson, inventor of the Ballbarrow and the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner has come up with another brilliant design.  This time, the perfect hand dryer.  First spotted in the gent's loos at Salzburgh airport, we saw several more before the week was out.

Called the air blade, it shoots a jet of warm air at high speed through a narrow slit and does what it says in its publicity material- dries you hands in ten seconds. We were impressed. Here you can see it in action! To find out more see Airblade.

The Dyson Airblade

The first action day, Sunday, started badly and not just for reasons of weather.  Nick picked up the wrong skis from the ski-room!  Robert kept asking him if he was sure he had the right ones but we thought it was a wind up!  It was only when, on leaving the bubble lift at the top of the Schattberg, he attempted fitting them to his boots that it dawned that this was no wind up.  I tried adjusting the skis but realised that this was not the correct course of action so we returned to the boot room, found the right skis and left a note in German and English for the poor person who had been inconvenienced that it would be a wise precaution to check the settings before using them.  

It was still snowing when we returned to the top of the mountain.  The poor visibility did nothing to help me find my ski legs and day one was a bit of a trial.  We toyed with going down to Leogang but one look down into the abyss with visibility of about ten yards led me to suggest that Leogang could wait.  Fortunately the others agreed it definitely could wait and we took an early finish.

Night time was more successful.  We found a sports bar and assisted the English rugby team stuff the French. Things were looking up.





Downhill Distance:




9 km

20 km


Monday, day two, proved much better. Robert had effortlessly slipped into the vacant guide position, becoming the “Red Leader” for the week and impressed by securing for us a completion of the circuit.  

Looking across to the Zwolfelkogel

What might we achieve before the week was out?

Red Leader Robert


Tour Organiser Philip


Indeed what might we achieve that evening?  

The hotel was running a lounge putting competition and had it not been for a rather keen Norwegian golfer we might have wiped the floor with the opposition two nights running.  Still we put up a good fight, three of us taking him in turn to a sudden death play off and eventually Robert, who met him in the final, had to settle for being runner-up.

Afterwards I led the search for the Jaegerhof where we had stayed, Philipless, in 1999. After a long walk, almost to Hinterglemm, and some complaints from the troops, we gave up and Robert did the sensible thing and asked.  He discovered we had the wrong name- Jaegerwirt, it should be- and we had not been able to identify it as the open land in front of it was now an apartment block.  We did manage to find it on the return, seemingly closed and totally unoccupied.  

Robert en-route to the final

That night, either Philip was having strange dreams or firecrackers were being let off outside his window in the small hours of the morning.





Downhill Distance:




18 km

33 km


Tuesday was an unexpectedly beautiful morning.  We made the most of it with an early start.  Pistes that yesterday had been sugar were now in superb condition.

Early morning on the Schattberg

Saalback from the Schonleitenbahn lift

Leogang need wait no longer for us so we went there and back before taking a late lunch.

On the way home we tried to find the mountain hut where, ten years before, we used to stop for Jaeger Tee before finishing for the day.  We found a long track though the woods that led to the isolated Spielberghaus up a valley.  Nick remembered it from many years before as the toboggan restaurant.  It was not the Jaeger Tee bar for which we had searched but it did the job.  It being St Patrick’s Day and 36 years to the day since the first BOOT visit, we drank to the memory of Big Josie and then we skied back down the toboggan track.  

The Spielberghaus

Saalbach was full of people in strange green hats with shamrocks.

Philip, being a Rotarian, was invited to a pre-dinner meeting of the bretheren in the hotel bar where he got his card stamped and was joined by a Norwegian and a couple of Germans in sampling the proprietor’s finest schnapps.

On our constitutional, a young blond girl in a fur coat tried, unsuccessfully, to entice us into a table dancing bar with girls in bikinis. There was much revelry late into the night but no firecrackers.





Downhill Distance:




21 km

37 km


Wednesday was another lovely morning and it stayed that way.  There was a cold wind that kept the snow in good condition on the higher slopes but in the afternoon the lower runs were more porragey.

After a substantial day’s travel over to Hinterglemm and back, Nick and I were happy to take the bubble back down to Saalbach.  Robert wanted to ski the black. Philip came with us but regretted it- from our aerial perspective he was sure the black had not slushed up.  He was right. Robert described it as being extremely icy. I was happy with our decision!

Saalbach from the Schattberg Express

Bernkogel and fine old house as seen from....

... the balcony

Again that evening, we were propositioned by the fur-cladded blond.  Again, we desisted. Firecrackers were launched, possibly in punishment for non compliance, at 1:18 a.m.!





Downhill Distance:




27 km

45 km


Inspired by our achievements of the previous day, we were determined to do even better on Thursday.  It was impressive that the team reported for duty in the breakfast room before 7:30.

Especially as the sun had been replaced by low cloud and snow.  We went back to bed for an hour after which it looked a little better so we went out.

I found the visibility awful and had great difficulty determining which way was up. Consequently it was no surprise when I did a face plant.  The only injury was to my pride- the snow was so soft but it offends my self respect to fall!  

We came off the slopes early and enjoyed an excellent if expensive lunch at the hotel’s Italian restaurant.

A less impressive early morning on the Schattberg

The boys decided to visit the hotel sauna that afternoon and discovered that the decision not to go into a bar with girls in bkinis was sound.  The sauna was frequented by young lovelies in the buff.  Or so they told me.  I had decided to read my book, instead.

It was snowing like billy-o that night when, after another fine dinner, we revisited the sports bar this time to watch Manchester City making heavy weather of beating Aalborg in the EUFA cup.  Strangely the pub was full of Danes.  On the way back Robert slipped on the ice and incurred the only injury of the week- a very badly bruised hip.





Downhill Distance:




7 km

14 km


We tried another early start on Friday but it was still snowing.  I proposed a return to bed until 10 but Red Leader insisted on a 9 o’clock assembly in the boot room.  We went up the Schattberg and round anti clockwise.  Deep fresh snow covered the groomed slopes and the light was not good. I was not skiing well.

We took an early and long lunch with the intention of finishing.  However, the sun came out and my legs started working at last so we had some decent bonus runs.

I tried to take a team photo in the sunshine but it was too cold for my little camera to operate.  Fortunately Philip's was still working and so I used his camera.  My strange stance is due to me trying to ski backwards through deep snow to fit in the gap left by the others before the 10 seconds delay was complete.  Didn't quite make it!

team on the piste

We managed to lose Philip at one stage.  He was a man on a mission, perfecting his short swings, and completely missed the turning he should have taken.  Thank goodness for mobile phones- even if answering one is quite a challenge- first you have to stop skiing, remove gloves, locate phone, press the button, put it to your ear, realise you can’t hear through a helmet, put phone down, remove helmet and then hope the caller is still on the line!  Anyway, we eventually determined that Philip was at the top of a lift where we were at the bottom so the group soon reassembled.

Robert, who had changed his skis on Thursday, liked the new ones so much he haggled with the hire shop and bought them at an impressive bargain price.  To celebrate he and Philip visited the sauna again.

Before dinner, Herr Thomas presented us each with an orange scarf bearing the name of the hotel- a reward we think for having run up the biggest bar bill of the week!

That night, the girl in the fur coat had given up bothering to try and get us to watch girls in bikinis.

team with scarves in the dining room





Downhill Distance:




15 km

33 km


Departure on Saturday was early and we had an uneventful journey home.  It had been a good week with some great skiing although with my limited technique I would have preferred less snow, and more sun and firm groomed pistes.  The hotel had been excellent.  The staff were very helpful and friendly and the food was generally considered to be consistently the best we have ever had on a skiing holiday.

Thanks to Philip for organising a highly enjoyable trip. To Robert for being such an able “Red Leader” that enabled the rest of us to switch off from worrying about where we were going,  And to Nick for being an excellent bedmate in putting up with my snoring !

Don, 22nd March 2009


Robert reports that the consequence of Red Leader's gravity defying bum plant on the pavement is a referral for physiotherapy to disperse the extraordinary swelling in his nether regions.

It sounds to me that not only does he get the same sort of unsolicited e-mails that I do, he might have actually invested in the substances!

The treatment is megapulse and ultrasound administered by an attractive phsiotherapist.  Sounds like the sort of thing the Home Secretary's husband might like to slip through on expenses.

However Robert has sent two photos.  The team picture, above right, was taken in the bar on the last night, sat in exactly the same place that his father-in-law was sat many years ago.  He adds that the upholstery has been renewed in the last 21 years but the tables and photos on the wall are the same.

The second picture is of a mountain restaurant we visited several times and renamed Hogwarts.

In addition to the team photo on the piste now shown above, Philip has also sent in some photos.

Right, you see three handsome men ready for anything, taken a minute after the team picture and, below, the same three at a coffee break four days earlier.

Left is another picture of the boys wearing the ceremonial scarves at the dinner of the Bruderen of the Alpenhotel!

And finally, at the airport the grandads were all buying things to take home for their grandchildren.

Feeling somewhat left out, I thought I would take something for the little boys staying in our cottage.  

If you have never seen or heard marmots and bears yodelling to the music of an accordian played by another marmot, you are in for a treat.  Of sorts!. 

Click on the picture right for the video.  Not one to make the Home Secretary blush.

Click on photo to hear the marmots play and yodel



The statistics quoted above are as per the Saalbach Skiline analysis of Robert's trail. The ascents are presumably accurate but the descents can only be a guess, especially on the last run of the day.  A fuller analysis can be seen by clicking on Skiline.


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BOOT boys

This page describes an adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

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2009 Outings

  • BB0901 : A Gordon Day Out
    Thursday 8th January
  • BB0902 : Thank You,
    Aunty Ethel!
    Wednesday 14th January 
  • BB0903 : A Wicked Hike???
    Wednesday 21st January
  • BB0904 : Take a Mug With You
    Sunday 25th January
  • BB0905 : Down in the Forest
    Thursday 29th January
  • BB0906 : Not How But Where?
    Thursday 5th February
  • BB0907 : Binsey Can Wait
    (but Uncle Monty Can Not)
    Thursday 12th February
  • BB0908 : Badgers on the Line
    Thursday 5th March
  • BB0909 : It's not a W!
    Thursday 12th March
  • BB0910 : Up on the Roof
    Thursday 26th March
  • BB0911 : Not the Blisco Dashers
    Thursday 2nd April
  • BB0912 : John's Comeback
    Monday 6th April


  • BSKIB09 : BOOTskiboys in Saalbach
    14th - 21st March


Click on the photos for an enlargement or related large picture.



To download a log of which Wainwrights have been done by which BOOTboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of BOOTboys click on Wainwrights

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!



 BOOT boys