At the beginning of the year I had never been skiing… fast forward as we prepare to say goodbye to 2018 and I have now been twice! Back in March ski-fanatic Mr S finally convinced me to go to Courchevel and though I didn’t quite take to the actual skiing bit, I loved everything else about it from the beautiful scenery, the gorgeous restaurants and of course the Apres-ski. So when I was invited to join a ski press trip to Austria, staying the luxurious Das Central Hotel in Sölden, I was absolutely thrilled. And even better? Mr S would be coming along for what was to be his first group press trip.
Sölden is a gorgeous resort in the Ötztal Valley, in the Austrian state of Tyrol and encompasses three mountain peaks, called the BIG3: Gaislachkogl (3048m), Tiefenbachkogl (3250m) and Schwarze Schneide (3340m). In the last few years the beauty of Sölden has led to further fame as director Sam Mendes choose the area to feature in the James Bond film Spectre starring Daniel Craig.
The quickest way to get to Sölden from London is via Innsbruck Airport and from there the transfer time is only an hour (or three hours from Munich Airport) which a very short drive for a ski hotel. And as soon as we arrived I was in love! I mean what could be more festive than staying in an Alpine Lodge in December?
Set amongst pine trees timber clad with fairytale turrets and a giant Christmas tree outside, the hotel is utterly charming.
And as soon as you walk in warmth envelopes you – and that’s not just the cosy interiors, blazing fires and hot chocolates but it’s the cheerful smiles and happy greetings of the members of staff. You’re part of the family as soon as you step in and it’s no wonder Das Central has such a high turn over of repeat guests. The hotel may be the only five star in Sölden and the most luxurious, but the philosophy here is ‘casual luxury,’ simply relax and leave any cares behind you! Nothing is too difficult here, it’s an easy thirty second stroll to Intersport for ski and boot hire and it’s only a couple of minutes drive in the hotel shuttle to the cable cars and from there you’re on the slopes!
There’s 125 rooms at the hotel that are intended to play with the elements of nature and the style and design vary to suit different tastes. Mr S and I were in a family suite deluxe Nederkogl which is a massive 65 square metres. Walking into the suite was another wow moment…I had only just taken in the gorgeous bedroom when Mr S said have you seen the main bedroom? Main bedroom?! Yes, they given us a two bedroom and two bathroom suite with a gorgeous wraparound balcony and south-facing views of the Ötztal mountains.
The main bedroom has all the charm of the mountains with wooden accents, plush fabrics and floor to ceiling windows.
The adjacent living room is the ideal place to lounge and enjoy the view, watching the big screen TV or to drink a coffee from the Nespresso machine.
The main bathroom is clad in stone and utterly gorgeous, double sinks, luxurious amenities, and massive plunge bath and rain shower all add to the feeling of luxury.
The second bathroom has a modern feel and is open around the second bedroom…
Talk about a bath with a view! Perfectly positioned at the end of the bed and looking out to the balcony and the mountains beyond.
Speaking of which… our beautiful balcony had a gorgeous view of the mountains, somewhere to enjoy a coffee with the fresh mountain air to wake you up!
One morning Mr S and I were treated to breakfast in the hotel’s presidential suite which was spectacular in all it’s chalet-style glory.
With the most glorious soaring ceiling and natural materials, I didn’t want to leave.
Not only are there two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room with fireplace but there’s a dining room for up to six people, a kitchenette and upstairs the room has a private spa, a Finnish sauna, steam bath, gym, whirlpool and even a hot tub on the panoramic roof terrace.
Das Central is also highly regarded when it comes to wellness and it one of the leading spa resorts in the area. The hotel’s Water World Venezia is not only the perfect place to relax after a day on the slopes but is also a beautiful feast for the eyes.
Themed around the dreamy city of Venice, guests are encouraged to live the Dolce Vita whilst enjoying all the great things that come with staying in the Austrian Alps. The main indoor pool is perhaps one of the most beautiful I’ve seen but there’s so much more! Based over three storeys, the 1500 square metres space has ten different sauna and steam baths, there’s even an ice room!
The main theme here is ‘water and warmth’ (quite the opposite to the ice cold slopes), a place to regenerate, relax tired muscles and feel like yourself again!
And the relaxation room has a screen projection of Venice so that you can gently drift off to the rhythm of gondolas bobbing up and down. One day I experienced a relaxing full body massage – I’ve probably never needed a massage more as the gentle strokes had my tired calves and shins feeling so much better! The treatments use Alpienne massage oils to harness the power of the Alps and help you feel brand new! As well as these revolutionary massages, the spa offers facials and detox and cleansing treatments with the option to purchase a deluxe package of treatments.
Now let’s talk food…and there’s so many options at Das Central which is great for the repeat guests who just want to enjoy the hotel and skiing without the hassle of booking restaurants. Our arrival lunch was in Marend Stube, a restaurant serving light bites and mostly Austria food in a stylish-chalet style setting.
I didn’t even need to ask Mr S what he’d be having as he absolutely loves traditional veal schnitzel served with potatoes.
Others around the table enjoyed fresh vegetable pasta whilst I had lemon risotto with trout. Expect real rib-sticking food to get your energy back after a day on the slopes.
For dessert we shared this Kaiserschmarrn (a sort of cut up pancake) between the seven of us but this epic portion is actually meant for one!
Dinner on our first night was at Ötztaler Stube, the hotel’s gourmet offering and Sölden’s only 2-toque restaurant. Here Head Chef Michael Kofler serves a innovative reinterpretation of Tyrolean specialities made from local fresh ingredients.
We ate the ‘traditional’ tasting menu that included pork belly with smoked trout, corn and cabbage followed by roasted potato ravioli with celery, roasted onions and beans. Main course was venison with pumpkin, farmer‘s curd and hazelnut.
Finally we had Tiroler chocolate with pine and cranberries and cheese and dried fruits for dessert.
Petit fours were presented in a cute gumball machine.
Breakfast is served in the hotel’s main restaurant, Feinspitz, which has an elegant interiors inspired by nature mixing wood and stone.
Breakfast is served buffet style and many elements are freshly prepared in live cooking stations such as eggs, bacon and sausages. The chef prepared cold meats freshly and it’s all cut before your eyes! Added to this is an array of fresh breads, cereals, a whole drawer full of cheese and a different type of yogurt. There’s even a tea bar with twenty different varieties of tea.
Dinner that night was also in Feinspitz, known as one of the best restaurant in Sölden owing to the fabulous food and buzzing atmosphere. Guests can choose salads from the buffet followed by a multi-course meal selected from different special and nightly menus.
Highlights of the meal include burrata and codfish starters and beef and trout main courses.
At the end of the meal, guests are invited to choose their favourite cheese from the cheese drawers…
Alcohol is taken very seriously at Das Central and with the property being the best wine hotel in the Tyrol, evenings always began and ended in the bar sampling different wines often by the cosy glow of the fire. The bar also serves a selection of whiskeys, schnapps and brandies – oh and the barman make a fine negroni too!
Our final night at the hotel saw us exploring the hotel’s wine cellar….
Sommelier Martin Sperdin has hand selected all the varieties of wine in the hotel and the collection now boasts over 30,000 bottles with wine events frequently being hosted in the cellar. The pride of the hotel is their very own wine, the Pinot 3000. Now apparently wine tastes better at over 3000 metres altitude, and who am I to disagree? The Pinot 3000 was utterly sensational! It has been created from two oak wine barrels of the very best Pinot Noir from three vineyards and then matured in matured in wooden barrels in Sölden, on the summit of the Gaislachkogl, at 3,048 metres altitude. The modified oxygen content and lower air pressure create the fragrant aromas that are unique to the Pinot 3000.
Our night in the wine cellar concluded with a cheese and meat extravaganza in the hotel’s cosy fondue restaurant which serves a variety of different fondues – though lets face it any form of melted cheese is going to be good.
As well as the rich cheesy dip we enjoyed mixed salads, plates of fries and rice and we even cooked our own meats in fragrant oil – trust me you will not leave this hotel hungry!
Dining options aren’t limited to the hotel either. The hotel also owns Restaurant Schwarzkogl, Restaurant Tirolerstube and Wirthaus am Giggijoch all located right on the mountains. We had lunch at the latter one day whilst on the slopes and enjoyed the cosy environment of the traditional Austrian restaurant while eating local food.
We ordered delicious creamy potato soup to warm our cockles but I will say two courses is definitely not necessary as the food is very filling.
Mr S really enjoyed his sausage…
But I could hardly make a dent in my pasta as I was so full from the soup!
Last but quite definitely not least the final restaurant affiliated with Das Central Hotel is inimitable Ice Q, Europe’s highest gourmet restaurant located at 3,048 metres above sea level and on the Gaislachkogl monutain. The utterly stunning glass sided restaurant featured in the James Bond film, Spectre and as such sits adjacent to 007 Elements, a cinematic installation charting the history of James Bond with an emphasis on the making of Spectre.
As you can imagine, a restaurant this spectacular warrants it’s own blog post so I’ll be writing separately about my experience at Ice Q but here are a few pictures to whet your appetite.
Now you’ve heard all about the hotel, wellness and food… how about the actual skiing? And how did I fare the second time around.
Well first was getting there and Sölden is also known for the Giggijoch Gondola a new state of the art cable car that can transport the most people per hour in the world. The 134 cabins each hold ten people at once and get them to the top at high speed – its basically the Ferrari of gondolas!
Splitting into groups of more advanced skiiers and beginners, the team at Das Central had arranged a fabulous ski instructor. Ferdl was incredibly patient as I struggled on the slopes and helped me through various melt downs… I’m not going to pretend the second time saw much of an improvement in my technique but I had fun and the important thing is I tried right?
I cannot even begin to say how much I enjoyed my stay at Das Central from the incredible food, welcoming interiors, wonderful wellness and my brief but fun attempt at skiing. But most of all… the genial and welcoming staff and the kind hospitality of this magical place in the mountains!
Das Central Hotel, Sölden, Austria has double rooms available from €200 per person, per night, based on two people sharing on a half board basis. For further information and bookings, please visit central-soelden.com .
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Mr S and I were hosted by Das Central as part of a press trip that also included all our meals and activities.