Travel writer Sally Meeson discovers a luxury alpine retreat overflowing with Austrian indulgence.
There’s a gentle thud, followed by a satisfying crunch, as I take steady footsteps through a valley of unspoilt snow. 60 foot pine trees soar above me, their overloaded branches occasionally giving way to a tumble of snowflakes. With gloved hands wrapped around hiker poles and long snow shoes strapped to my feet I trudge on, until the forest falls away to reveal vast, snow-covered mountains.
I hear church bells in the distance and the sound of a river rushing next to me. And as I follow its winding path I find myself heading towards alpine lodges and quaint little inns in the picturesque ski resort of Lech.
But there’s a reason my morning has been spent hiking through snow rather than zooming down it. As a travel writer I harbour a deep, dark secret… I never learned to ski! But for this trip I’ve based myself somewhere that would appear to be a minor detail.
The previous day I landed at Austria’s Innsbruck airport and made my way towards the exclusive mountain village of Lech. I’m told en route that Princess Diana was once a regular visitor and that many more royals and celebrities have followed since. Winding through breathtaking mountainous scenery to my destination – the 5 star Hotel Severin*s – I can see why the rich and famous would feel quite at home here.
I’m greeted with a glass of champagne in a cosy, wood clad reception, with a crackling fire and festive scent of oranges and cinnamon. And then I’m led to my suite. This small but incredibly lux hotel has just 13 hotel rooms, all of which are suites, and four which are set apart in a private section called The Residence. This is where I am staying.
Looking like a luxury private home and spread over two floors The Residence is designed to be rented as a whole by a group. It boasts a private cinema room, a study, an outdoor whirlpool and a huge dining and living area with an elegant grand piano. My suite, like the rest of the hotel, is constructed – floor, walls and ceiling – from 150 year old wood reclaimed from local farmhouses.
Sun streams through its many floor to ceiling windows onto an enormous grey bed, beyond which sits a roll top bath next to the cosiest open fireplace. And wrapped around this luxury abode is an enormous balcony with stunning views of the Austrian mountains. My regrets at not being a skier ebb away as I realise I could happily just stay here for the duration of my trip.
But there is much more to explore at Severin*s. An underground basement is home to an indulgent wellness and spa area with a 12.5 metre swimming pool with underwater bubble loungers and a waterfall. Here the hotel’s wooden floors and walls give way to cool granite, making it feel as if you’ve actually climbed into a mountain. But with underfloor heating, large day beds and soft glowing lanterns it envelops you in a cocoon of warmth and comfort.
Underground there’s also an impressive wine cellar – which can be hired out for private events and wine tastings with the hotel’s sommelier. He’ll take you through regional fine wines, showcasing Austria’s signature Gruner Veltliner grape, as well as recommend the perfect foods to pair them with.
And upstairs talented young chef Kevin Szalai serves up innovative cuisine in a light filled restaurant with sensational mountain views. But I dine next to an open fire at a long private table in The Residence, sampling chef’s recommendations such as Austrian ravioli with goats cheese, pumpkin and lentils followed by a delicate pistachio mousse.
And I find there’s plenty more culinary wizardry and general magic to enjoy outside in the town of Lech. After my morning hike I come to the most delightful little wooden doorway, almost buckling under the strain of a thick arch of mistletoe. This is the entrance to Hus Nr. 8, the oldest restaurant in Lech.
Enjoying a steaming cheese fondue in one of its low ceilinged rooms, with pretty wooden tables and red and white soft furnishings, it feels like I’ve entered Santa’s very own dining room. But despite its humble charm this is one of the town’s most exclusive restaurants which often needs to be booked months in advance.
After lunch I wander around various high end boutiques, selling everything from bespoke ski gear to designer clothes. And since I’m lucky enough to be visiting during Lech’s annual food and wine festival I also breeze in and out of hotels and bars which have thrown open their doors to offer samples of local wines, gins and every type of cheese imaginable.
Settling myself by a large window in a bar at the bottom of a slope, I watch skiers glide by as my glass gets refilled with a variety of Austrian wines. And nestled here in the warmth I conclude that alpine life can be equally enjoyable, whether it’s a Sauvingon Blanc you have in your hand or a ski pole!
Nightly rates at Severin*s – The Alpine Retreat start from 690 EUR for a Junior Suite and the nightly rate at The Residence from 3,990 EUR.
Address: Stubenbach 273, 6764 Lech, Austria
Phone: +43 5583 339070