There’s no escaping that inevitable question on any ski holiday: what do you do when you’re not on the slopes? It’s certainly a dilemma that falls into the category that a dear friend of mine calls — with all due gratitude for being lucky enough to have this kind of dilemma — “posh problems”, but it is a question to be answered nonetheless. If cosy chairs near flickering fires still hold their appeal, but this year you find yourself dreaming of something slightly less usual, it’s time to take your holiday down-time underground. Into Bad Gastein’s healing caves.
At first description, your journey into the healing caves (or if you want to sound local, call them Heilstollen) may sound like something out of a 70s-era Science Fiction film — you know, that particular time for the genre epitomized by John Boorman’s Zardoz in which the key to the somewhat-distance future is a very traditional, yet still forward-thinking, return to the land?
To enjoy the healing powers of the mountain, one boards a little train that drives 2.5 kilometers into the mountain’s depths, dropping its passengers at healing stations along the way. The different stations represent different levels of temperature and humidity, both of which help the body take in the naturally occurring radon gas, the secret of Bad Gastein’s reputation as a healing center. This very low-level radiation is said to help activate the body at a cellular level, speeding recovery from a wealth of illnesses and eliminating pain.
Depending on your skill as a skier, that second part may come particularly in handy…
If you still feel a little trepidatious about entering the caves, but still want to tap into Bad Gastein’s powers, head to the spa at Bad Gastein's favourite hotel designer dens, Haus Hirt and Hotel Miramonte, both with healing waters that flow right into their pools and spas - so you can avoid the train. Holidays aren't for commutes, after all.