With all the trappings, processes and faff around skiing, it can be easy to forget the pure joy at its heart.

It’s about both freedom and control.

Heading into the Austrian Alps for three days in March, I hadn’t been on a slope for five years and had only done so a couple of times in my adult life - and I was pretty excited.

It was also my first trip to continental Europe since Brexit and since Covid. But Salzburg, under two hours from Gatwick, was mercifully free of queues and, in fact, faff is kept to a bare minimum, with a calm and efficient airport.

From there it was just an hour’s drive into the mountains, to the village of Alpendorf in St Johann in Salzburg.

It’s a comfortable, homely resort, loaded up with family-friendly facilities, perched above the valley and the main road.

We stayed at the four-star Hotel Oberforsthof, all pastels and (during our Easter visit) porcelain rabbits.

There’s nothing too pushy or showy about it - large, comfortable rooms and spacious lounge areas.

There is a beautiful indoor pool, with a spa area and spa area. I can take or leave the other bits and pieces but a gentle swim after a day on the slopes is ideal.

For the warmer months there is another pool outside, just metres from (for whatever reason) the llama paddock.

Ski hire and the ski lifts are just across the road, and at the first view of the slopes I was itching to get up there.

Although a hot March meant the valley was only dotted with snow, St Johann has developed the infrastructure for great skiing throughout the season, with snow machines and ploughs loading up the slopes overnight.

You can, of course, take lessons to improve your technique, or push yourself to the challenge of attacking black runs or off-piste areas, but don’t forget the joy of just dropping down that mountain, along pure snow, according to your own ability.

We had with us instructors Manfred and Elfie, acting as guides through the complex interconnected peaks of St Johann.

The area has a 12 Peaks Trophy, with the challenge of completing 46km over 21 pistes and 30 lifts in a day.

Those lifts, by the way, are excellent – a mixture of chairs and gondolas, some only a couple of years old.

But the area’s greatest asset for me was the wide open blue runs with lots of space in which to play.

There is lively nightlife to be found, but for us it was a case of homely meals with satisfying schnitzel, homely dumplings and fine wine.

Among the eateries we enjoyed were the wholesome Auhofalm Wagrain up on the slopes, the award-winning Reinbachstube just across the river, and SternAlm Alpendorf, with its panoramic views.

Hotel Oberforsthof itself has an excellent restaurant and lays on an expansive buffet.

The area is meat heavy - there is a "meat-lovers' pathway" - but there are always vegetarian options available.

For a winter break on the slopes, away from the crowds, St Johann in Salzburg has to be as good as any Gatwick can offer.

André Langlois visited St Johann in Salzburg, Austria, as a guest of the SalzburgerLand Tourist Office (www.salzburgerLand.com) and the St Johann in Salzburg Tourist office (www.josalzburg.com). Hotel Oberforsthof (www.oberforsthof.at) in Alpendorf - Double rooms from EUR170 per person per night. For ski lessons, go to www.rot-weiss-rot.at/en/sankt-johann-im-pongau.html. For the 12 Peaks Trophy, visit www.snow-space.com/en/winter/ski-resort-salzburg/highlights/12-peaks-trophy. Food: For the culinary pathways, go to www.salzburgerland.com/en/the-10-culinary-pathways/. We ate at Oberforsthof Alm (www.oberforsthofalm.at); Auhofalm Wagrain (www.auhofalm.at); Reinbachstube (www.reinbachstube.at); Starchen Stadl (www.starchenstadl.at); and SternAlm Alpendorf (www.stern-alpendorf.at)