I was surprised, but only mildly, to find that not only were there no english language reviews on Berghoff Blaikner's Sonnalm, but that there weren't even any german language reviews on the hotel. This stay was rather accidental, but I am extremely pleased with it, and recommend it highly.
Finding Blaikner's Sonnalm on internet searches for hotels near Zell am See wasn't simple, but when we found it, we saw that it had two rooms available, and many area hotels had none. My ski companion booked it, then told me that it is accessible only by a cable car (gondola) in the winter, and only until 1630. Once there, you would not go back down for the night (so if you really love the night life, this may not be your place, or bring all your friends to join you).
The hotel is at 1400m, half-way up the mountain, and nestled between the gondola station and the ski lift, so you can wake up in the morning, ride the first chairlift up at 0800, before anyone can get up the gondola, and ski freshly groomed, or snowed-upon trails, then, when people start to show up, duck back into the hotel for the included breakfast and coffee, before going back out.
We didn't realize that when they said restaurant, that we wouldn't be buying dinner, and that it would be included, but it was. And, dinner was an understatement. Flavorful, plentiful, and every bit home-made, it was a treat of treats. The on-site chef and server was friendly and he, the bar staff, and the owner all spoke english. This was valuable, because we didn't speak any german.
I am a person who likes to meet other people, and this place is cozy, with a nice public dining and social area, next to a most interesting fireplace (see photos). One of the nights we were there, the cook staff prepared a fire in the fireplace, added coal, placed a grill over the top, and grilled steaks, sausages, and baked potatoes (see photos), then surrounded the main course with fabulous appetizers and dessert. While dining, we began conversing with a german family and their friends who have been visiting the property for three generations -- almost since it was opened in 1957, to present day. Since several of these german folks spoke english, they conversed, made us feel welcome, and gave us much of the history of the place (see photos).
Nothing is more interesting than getting to know an innkeeper, and Sonnie Blaikner seemed to be the most cheerful and pleasant host ever. We enjoyed sitting around the fire, conversing in the social area, and really didn't want to say goodbye. We could have sat for a long time, but alas, we did come to ski.
We found the place through Booking.com, but let me tell you, Sonnie was surprised, because just three guest reservations have come through the site, and the commission taken is considerable. Most of their business is from word of mouth and return visitors, and I can see why they come back over and over. As a small business owner, I know how important quality customer service is and how dependent you are on your guests' satisfaction. I would return again in a heartbeat.
I highly recommend the Berghoff Blaikner's Sonnalm, the peacefulness of the place when the cable car shuts down (don't be late - you won't get up), the excellent food, the wonderful hostess, and the family-flair we experienced. Try it if you want a peaceful retreat -- carefree, or with skiing, fabulous food, and the chance to meet a special innkeeper. If you want Internet access, you'll have to visit the top or bottom of the mountain, where free wifi is offered, but not at the hotel. Here, you will focus on you, scenery, and socializing.
P.S. Buy a bottle of Moritz wine while on-site, a special, small volume bottling operation, local, and for which the owner, Alfred Moritz provided tastings.
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