Pilots need a special licence to land a plane at Innsbruck Airport and a whole lot of skill. Snow-covered mountains surround it entirely, and, before landing, the plane seems to fly parallel to the highest peaks. The view gives you a taste of what is to come. The drive to the small ski village of Lech takes you through winding tunnels carved into the mountain, the dark stone of which contrasts strikingly with the glittering snow, which grows ever thicker the further you venture into the Arlberg region of western Austria.
A short drive through the winding streets of Lech takes you to Severin’s – The Alpine Retreat. The wooden building is nestled on a mountain slope, affording you sweeping views of the picture-postcard landscape. Upon arrival guests are greeted with a glass of Champagne and ushered into the lounge, where a fire burns in the corner. This is also where most guests enjoy their coffee and newspaper in the morning, and cocktail and conversations in the evening.
We stayed in the family suite, which has a spacious lounge with a fireplace, a waterfall shower and the first bathtub I have ever been able to fully submerge in. My favourite part was the balcony, where I would start the day wrapped in my robe listening to the silence I’m never afforded in London, watching the sunshine stretch over the snow-capped roofs of wooden cabins with golden light pouring from their windows.
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Lech is one of the top spots for snowfall in Europe. It’s a picturesque but exclusive ski resort, and you can tell the people who frequent it are there for more than just drinks at the après ski. Skiing is an integral part of village life, with gondolas and lifts sprouting left and right from the river that courses through the town. There are plenty of matching designer ski suits and Aston Martins parked outside restaurants and hotels, but it’s an understated luxury, one that feels far more private and special. Around 80% of the people who holiday in Lech are returning visitors, and it’s easy to see why. A family of three generations would find runs suitable for everyone; there are 300 kilometres of ski runs for all abilities. Equipment is available to rent or buy from Strolz, the local equipment boutique. And there are plenty of other activities too. We took a cross-country skiing lesson with an excellent local instructor who took us along riverside tracks and on a snowshoeing mountain hike, where we stopped to drink tea and watch a group of deer dip their heads into the snow.
The village is a foodie one too. Back at the hotel, Sunday night is fondue night; you can choose from beef, chicken or vegetable broth and are brought out an array of fresh meats and vegetables to cook in the bubbling pot. The sommelier is excellent at recommending accompanying wines. I would suggest trying the local offering; we had one made with Austrian grüner veltliner grapes that was fresh and green, cutting through the richness of dinner. During the rest of the week you can order from the hotel’s carefully crafted, seasonal à la carte menu, which offers four courses, all with wine recommendations. I had the Tyrolean alpine prawn served in a rich bisque to begin with and the flaky confit of red Alpine char for the main course. For dessert I would recommend Severin’s Kaiserschmarrn – sweet, fluffy pancakes typical of the region served with roasted plums and apple sauce. We also went to the exquisite restaurant at Rote Wand, a gourmet hotel, which is well worth a visit too.
Severin’s also has a vast wine cellar that holds more than 600 bottles from all over the world, the oldest of which were bottled in the 1970s. If you’d like to experience the wine cellar make sure you let the staff know in advance as they have to set things up with the sommelier, but they will be happy to accommodate as they were with every request we made. The staff are what make Severin’s truly excellent. Their attention to detail and concern for their guests turns a beautiful house into a warm home.
Nicole was a guest at Severin’s. Rooms start from €690. The hotel closes for the season on 19 April and reopens in December 2022. See severins-lech.at.
Nic studied for a BA in journalism at Cardiff University, and has an MA in magazine journalism from City University. She joined MoneyWeek in 2019.
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