Simon Gage travels to the thoroughly modern Hotel Aurelio in Lech, a picture perfect town in western Austria with legendary skiing for all abilities and oozing with charm
The little golden Veuve Clicquot van with a good two-foot block of snow on its roof, serving ice-cold champagne to blanketed skiers, was a most welcome sight as we drew into Aurelio, a ski-lodge-style hotel so lovely they ran out of stars to give it.
Hello to a new, chic way of wintering in a world where it can sometimes feel as if you’re staying inside a cuckoo clock, so cloying and all-consuming is the Alpine-ness of it all. No one minds a bit of rustic charm when they’re skiing but do we really need waitresses in full national costume up to and including dirndls?
The Aurelio is set in the chocolate-box-pretty town of Lech, 75 miles west of Innsbruck in Austria, not that high as resorts go, but with double the snow you get elsewhere. The hotel has brought the skiing experience into the 21st century without steamrollering over the chalet-style cosiness of being somewhere this picture perfect.
Take my room in the chalet (or ‘clubhouse’), which is separate from the main hotel, down a space-age tunnel or over a few metres of snow, and can be rented out in its entirety. It has a huge chandeliered sitting room with an all-round balcony and sun terrace and you will find warmth, wood and tartan in cosy abundance.
From my window – or even my huge free-standing bath – I can watch people ski by close enough to see the fear in their eyes as well as the quaint village church covered so perfectly in snow that you suspect the hand of someone very high up in window dressing at Selfridges. It is the stuff of dreams and Christmas cards.
After our welcome champagne in a lounge that is slick and modern but still has the roaring open fire, the antlers and a well-stocked cocktail bar, we bundle ourselves up and head to the basement where our ski boots have been warming on heated pegs and our skis are ready and waiting. None of this bussing-into-town nonsense when you stay at the Aurelio: this is ski-in/ski-out at its finest with just a few steps between you and the piste.
And the skiing is legendary (well, would Princess Diana have put up with anything less than legendary?) and ideal if you’re intermediary or upper intermediary, though there are much tougher runs in the area. And they cap the number of day passes, so it never gets too busy.
And when you have been up and down and all around and maybe even gone black-running over to neighbouring villages, Aurelio has pretty much all you need for your après. Whether that’s sitting bundled up in rugs outside, watching the sun set against the mountains with a hot chocolate loaded with alcohol, or relaxing in the long, modern slate pool with views out on to the snow (if the snow itself hasn’t blocked the view) while you await your spa treatment.
Then to dinner. Forget the stodge and the fondue, this is fine dining at the very imaginative end of the scale, the likes of which you certainly don’t expect to find outside major cities. Enjoy a lazy lunch on the sundeck, maybe, or have a multi-course dinner with wines from an absolutely excellent cellar.
Everyone wants a little cosy when they go skiing – even the billionaires that come here – and there’s plenty of warmth and comfort at the Aurelio. It’s just that it is a little more James Bond than it is Heidi. And that can only be a good thing. Simon Gage
Monarch flies to Innsbruck from Gatwick from £44 one way (£86 return).
Rates at Aurelio start from €920 (£777) per room per night for two people sharing on a half-board basis (breakfast, afternoon tea and gourmet dinner).