The ideal skiing holiday: brushing shoulders with celebrities at Špindl

Špindlerův Mlýn, photo: CTK

It’s the Czech answer to Aspen or St. Moritz – the Czech ski resort frequented by local celebrities, tourists and well-off Czechs. Špindleruv Mlýn or Špindl –as it is commony called –offers more than good skiing and excellent services, it offers the chance to party and socialize in cosmopolitan surroundings.

Špindlerův Mlýn,  photo: CzechTourism
Favored by many Czechs as the ideal winter resort for the New Year celebrations it is hopelessly sold out for months in advance. A Czech radio crew visited the mountain resort in the last hours of 2012 and found a boisterous street party underway.

Man: “Špindl is absolutely super! The best New Year’s celebration ever!”

Woman: “This is our third year here and it is fabulous. Lots of people, great atmosphere: fireworks, champagne, absolutely great!”

Man: “We have been coming here for 12 years now and there’s nothing like it! The atmosphere is great, people of all nationalities, this place is really alive!”

Polish man : “Špindl is fantastic and the fireworks are awesome! Everyone from Poland come on over, we are certainly coming back next year! “

With a capacity of 20,000 beds the town’s hotel facilities are bursting at the seams. Tomas Langmaier who runs one of the hotels in town says there’s no need for advertising, Špindl draws people like magic.

“It’s the atmosphere of the place. People are closer to one another here. Celebrities like to come here and that attracts others. People come to be seen, to brush shoulders with celebrities, to experience the special atmosphere that you won’t find anywhere else.”

Špindlerův Mlýn,  photo: CTK
German, Dutch, Russian and Polish tourists in particular favour the Krkonoše Mountains resort not just for the atmosphere and affordable prices but for the picturesque surroundings and good skiing trails. Hotelier Jiří Suk says the town’s location is perfect.

“We have been fully booked since May. We have regular clients for the holidays who come here repeatedly. When you come here and look at the valley you are hooked, there’s no place like it in the Krkonoše Mountains or anywhere else in the Czech Republic.”

While some may argue there’s no place like Špindl others have discovered attractive ski resorts in Austria. A Czech TV crew recently visited the Austrian mountain town Hochficht, close to the Czech border to find that a third of its foreign visitors were Czechs. In order to accommodate them, Austrian hotel and restaurant owners employ some Czech staff such as receptionists or waiters.

A group of Czech tourists in Hochficht order schnitzels in Czech at one of the local restaurants. One of the visitors has high praise for the restaurant owner’s decision to employ a Czech waiter.

“That’s a genius idea. Those of us who do not speak German and would have problems overcoming the language barrier feel right at home!”

With a capacity of 7,000 beds Hochficht is somewhat smaller than Špindl and somewhat costlier, but some Czech visitors prefer to come here.

Špindlerův Mlýn,  photo: CTK
Man: “We always go skiing abroad, because the conditions and services are better.”

Young woman: “We are from Prague and this is our first time here.”

Others have found that the ideal solution is to have one leg in the Czech Republic, the other in Austria. People who love the skiing conditions in Hochficht but not the higher prices, find that it pays off to save on accommodation costs. They book a room in a hotel on the Czech side of the border and take a shuttle ski-bus service to Hochficht. That way they can afford the higher prices for ski-lifts and other services. The head of the Hochficht ski resort Gerald Paschinger says the deal is advantageous for both sides.

“We have a good partnership with entrepreneurs on the Czech side of the border. We cooperate predominantly with hoteliers and skiing instructors to provide good services.”

Martin Řezáč from Lipno Marketing says that what Hochficht has to offer merely improves Lipno’s chances of attracting more tourists.

“Our aim is to use this to our advantage and make the best of what Austrian resorts have to offer. That way we can offer our guests even greater diversity.”

Illustrative photo: CTK
And for those who like tradition, there’s only one place to be on New Year’s Eve and that's at Špičák in the Šumava Mountains where experienced skiers take a torch ride down one of the steepest slopes creating a fiery snake that slowly winds its way down the mountainside in celebration of the new year. The torch ride is organized by the mountain service and dates back to 1948. This year 30 skiers braved the slope under cover of dark cheered by 1,500 people waiting for them down below. Their torches were eventually assembled to form the number 2013 blazing in the dark in celebration of the New Year. As every year the ride is followed by a bonfire party out in the snow with good food, drink and live music.