TRAVEL SUMMIT OF LUXURY
The Aurelio Hotel & Chalets in Lech, Austria
I’ve never been a huge fan of air travel, but there are those rare occasions when you actually appreciate being quarantined thousands of feet above the ground, sipping lava-hot coffee from a flimsy paper cup.
Flying from Vienna to Innsbruck is a journey that takes less than an hour to complete but rewards you with views of the Karwendel Alps that are truly stunning. I flew in April, but one can only imagine what images a summer flight must offer as you glide between the green-carpeted valleys.
My 13-year -old daughter, Sophie, is also captivated by the view and is not, for the first time in years, glued to her phone. She has joined me
If you’re planning a skiing getaway with a group of friends, business associates, or simply with your family, the village of Lech, Austria, comes highly recommended. If you also happen to require the highest quality service and luxury accommodation, then we have found you the perfect mountain hideaway.
on this trip to Lech, one of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world, purely for research purposes.
Skiing holidays remain one of the few trips that we take with other families and they can even become business trips, enjoyed with partners or associates. When children, especially teens, are added to the mix, it can prove a rather large-scale operation. The organisation and planning needed to both equip and look after us adults is hard enough, let alone when you may have a number of, often temperamental, teenagers to take care of. So, we wanted to find a resort where teens could be just as happy as the adults, without any added stress or worry.
For those with the financial means to cherry-pick their skiing destination, Lech is understandably at the top of the list. Due to strict building and development regulations, the town remains a pretty, unspoilt village set in a stunning landscape which has ensured its status as “the’’ exclusive resort for those demanding something extra special.
Don’t be fooled by the mild-mannered exterior, however. Lech patrons know how to party and with some breathtaking chalets available, the only difference is that in Lech the party comes to you.
On arrival at Innsbruck Airport our driver, sent by our hosts at the Aurelio, immediately whisks us away to our destination, a mere 80 minutes on the road (add another hour if you fly into Zurich). Adam has worked with the Aurelio for four years and, as I later discover, long-term service is a reassuring feature of the Aurelio staff.
As we arrive in Lech, the Aurelio appears similar to many of the beautiful chalet-style residences in the area. There are no bright lights or illuminations to announce you have arrived at one of the finest joints in the area, which is part of the charm of the place.
Liza is working reception and immediately informs my daughter that the hotel keeps three alpacas that are “super fluffy.’’ Sophie insists on seeing them and the journey to our room is diverted via the alpaca pen. For the record, they are indeed very fluffy.
There are only ten rooms in the hotel, eight deluxe doubles and two suites, each with at least 55m2 of floor space – certainly enough to swing an alpaca in.
As expected, everything is top of the line and along with a stunning view from our balcony, there is a huge bathroom with two sinks, a sumptuous bath, and a shower with eight spray options. Trust me when I tell you that, as nice as this is, you need to learn the shower settings… the penalty for selecting incorrectly can cause instant shock and discomfort in an array of areas.
Sophie and I immediately head down into the centre of Lech, which is a short walk away. Although the season is almost done, there are plenty of visitors enjoying their lunch in the numerous pretty bars and restaurants. It is live
ly without being loud or raucous and there are a number of families and children about – the whole area feels rather quaint and homely.
The Strolz ski rental outlet looks more like a luxury jewellery store than a ski hire facility and they are so professional that it only takes five minutes for the staff to measure, fit, and supply Sophie with all her equipment – which will be delivered directly to the Aurelio’s ski room in the next hour. As I said, everything is so smoothly operated you feel totally at ease.
After some stocking up on supplies (mostly chocolate) at the local supermarket and some window-shopping at the rather exclusive high street stores (they do not sell Rolexes in her size, I make clear to Sophie), we return to the hotel for an early dinner.
Wet and wonderful
To celebrate their tenth anniversary, the Aurelio recently redecorated their dining and sitting rooms and the stylists employed obviously had a remit to create a “cosy’’ ambience. As we were dining so early, the room was empty but whatever it lacked in conversation, it more than made up for in warmth and almost felt like being at home – albeit tidier with a much grander view.
Marcus, the sommelier (along with beekeeper, food expert, head waiter, and generally available 24/7 kind of guy) looked after us and, being another long-term Aurelio employee, was there to offer all advice on food and wine. As with most teenagers, Sophie was not as overwhelmed as I was with the amuse-bouches, along with the fantastic array of choices on the menu. However, Marcus informed us that the small number of leading chefs, on constant rotation at the hotel, are all quite used to creating simpler, but no less tasty dishes for their more discerning younger patrons. A Wagyu burger with fries became my daughter’s go-to dish during her stay.
During the meal, a rain shower descended without warning. At this point, everyone from the hotel poured out of the entrance and, working like a well-oiled machine, quickly stacked and covered all the outside furniture and cushions. They were all drenched for their troubles but as the team filtered back inside and returned to their positions at the concierge, kitchen, and bar, etc., they were all smiling and there was not a glum face amongst them.
Throughout our stay, this was the constant impression left every time we came into contact with any of the hotel staff. From the maids to the manager, all Aurelio employees really do work as a team and the level of politeness and constant drive to make you feel at home is indisputable.
“The level of politeness and constant drive to make you feel at home is indisputable“
While my daughter became a Wagyu beef connoisseur during our stay, I had the chance to sample a host of exquisite dishes. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner all boasted the highest quality ingredients and for those wishing to enjoy wine with their meal, a top-class cellar is available and large enough to satisfy the most demanding palate.
I can heartily recommend one of the chef’s gourmet tasting menus, which are packed full of experimental flavours. From potato foam soup to peach and goose liver and the incredible poppy seed pine cake, this was a perfect opportu
nity to experience something out of the ordinary. That said, the mushroom ice cream was always going to be a challenge – especially for Sophie, who has yet to forgive me for making her try it.
After a day on the slopes, the food on offer at the Aurelio will satisfy all tastes and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Spas and cars
The following day the hotel helped me book skiing lessons for Sophie and after a hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs, hot chocolate, and croissants we descended to the ski room on the lower floor, which is adjacent to the hotel spa.
This oasis, featuring a stunning underground pool, is a wonder in marble and I have to say that even the pictures don’t do it justice. If you are not a skier, spending a day, or a week, in this luxury underground realm would be paradise to many. With a plethora of treatments, saunas, and relaxing experiences on offer, you could easily fill your stay simply pampering yourself. One expects to see spas of this calibre at prestigious hotels in leading cities but not in underground lairs in the middle of the Alps.
As promised, all our ski equipment was laid out prepared, so we grabbed the boots, skis, poles, and helmets and began walking to the ski school, some ten minutes away.
It was at this point that seeing us carrying all the gear, Timo, the hotel’s chauffeur, came rushing out and kindly suggested we let him drive us to the school. Not wishing to disappoint and feeling somewhat weighed down with all those croissants, we climbed into the Aurelio Bentley and headed off on our two-minute journey. Timo kindly offered to wait for me, or pick us up after the lesson, but I was determined that my daughter should only endure one chauffeur-driven Bentley journey a day – sometimes you have to make those tough decisions as a father.
The ski instructor, Wouter, was exactly as I imagined he would be – young and charming. In just two 90-minute lessons he had Sophie, a total novice, skiing slalom without the use of poles. The Lech ski school caters to all skillsets and with so many slopes at your disposal there is enough of a selection to keep everyone happy.
Top of the mountain
I bravely walked back to the hotel (sans Bentley) to meet with Claudia, the Aurelio’s PA. We had arranged to go and take a look at the private chalets (Arula 1 and 2, and Mimi).
These chalets are the ideal holiday homes for those group or multiple family trips that skiing encourages. Varying in size (the largest can accommodate up to 21 people) these mountain retreats are of the very highest calibre. However, as well-travelled as I am, even I was overwhelmed at just how incredible these residences actually were.
As we were driven up one of the nearby mountains, the road abruptly ended and we parked next to a large security door. Claudia escorted me through what was an underground car park snowmobiles and a selection of Mercedes-Benz 4x4s, before a 30-metre long corridor took us to a solitary lift, where we descended into the most incredible dwelling. Underground pools, steam baths, gyms, outdoor hot tubs, games rooms, bars, sitting rooms with views directly over the slopes, wine cellars, massage rooms, and cinemas, there was everything available – including a butler, chef, and maids all on hand with their own staff quarters on site.
All the chalets possessed the same level of quality and incredible eye for detail. The British designers had thought of everything and whether in the basement games rooms for teenagers, filled with huge bean bags, PlayStations, and pool tables or the luxury dining and sitting rooms for adults, full of plump sofas and roaring fires, no expense had been spared. From the bespoke art adorning the walls to the highest quality fixtures and fittings, these chalets truly offer a royal standard.
Leaving these mountain mansions, in something of a daze, I returned to collect Sophie from the ski school and we then strolled back to the hotel.
The sky was a cloudless clear blue and the snow-covered mountains surrounding us looked picture perfect. “This place looks like heaven,’’ Sophie remarked, and the truth is that she was right.
Lech is a little piece of paradise, tucked away and preserved for a lucky few. Not all of us can reach the giddy heights of the millionaires’ chalets but the Aurelio offers a slice of luxury and service that few can match – and if that is as close to heaven as I can get, then that’s just fine with me.