There aren’t many places on earth that combine the grandeur of mountains with fine dining and contemporary installation art. However, the high-end ski resort of Lech in Austria is one such place.
Perched atop a mountain in Oberlech is Skyspace – a light installation by American artist James Turrell. Accessed via a narrow tunnel in the snow, visitors can sit around the edge of the curved room where a retracting oval-shaped roof reveals the sky. An ‘experiment in light and dark, perception and reality’, the sky appears in myriad shades, from black to purple to pink. It’s hypnotic, and oh so simple.
Skyspace is open year-round, as is the town of Lech itself, in the valley below. Whether you’re here for Alpine hiking, winter skiing, art, or simply to enjoy some stunning food and wine, Lech has it all.
I’m not a skier – probably won’t ever be – so I opted instead for a restorative stay at the five-star Post Lech Arlberg (member of Relais & Châteaux).
The Post Lech is a historic hotel that’s been in the Moosbrugger family since 1937. As well as heated indoor and outdoor pools (perfect on both snowy and summer days), it has a fitness studio, Finnish sauna, salt steam baths, and a pine-clad wellness centre. Yoga classes can also be arranged with a local teacher and I enjoyed a massage and Swiss Cellap Laboratoire facial that were out of this world. You really don’t need to leave the hotel at all to have a good time, if you don’t want to.
The Post Lech’s architecture is in the traditional chalet-style, with pretty shuttered windows, decorative wooden panels, ceramic stoves, open fires and antiques galore.
Each of the 46 bedrooms is unique and characterful. My double had a beautiful fresco behind the bed, painted tiles, plus a living room with a fireplace. One thing I missed was a kettle or minibar, but you can always order tea to your room, which I did, and afternoon tea is served daily in the lounge.
Some of the suites are even more lavish, with carved-wood four-posters, balconies and traditional tiled stoves. Staying here is like being immersed in a fairy tale. If you prefer something more contemporary, book one of the rooms in the adjoining, newer wing, closer to the spa.
Lech itself is a very well-heeled town, with fine dining galore. I recommend going for lunch at the gorgeous Kristiania Hotel up the road, run by the delightful Gertrud Schneider, daughter of the late Othmar Schneider – slalom gold medalist in the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympics. The Kristiania hosts many an A-lister, due to its quiet, refined atmosphere, and has an enviable contemporary art collection.
Also well worth a visit is the Aurelio – another exclusive five-star hotel, where chef Christian Rescher creates modern international dishes using local ingredients. The Wagyu beef burger and Thai curry are absolute musts. Do book ahead, especially if you wish to sit outside and enjoy the view (and who wouldn’t?).
The Post Lech has three restaurants – Jägerstube, Postblick and Kutscherstube – and I dined in all three during my stay. The menus vary from hearty mountain food to haute cuisine. Jägerstube has three Gault Millau toques (similar to Michelin stars), and an international wine list, though standouts hail from Schloss Gobelsburg, also owned by the Moosbrugger family, and the oldest winery in the Danube area of Kamptal. Voted one of Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of 2019, its Merlot and Rieslings are superb.
If all that fine food and wine has you hankering after something more hoppy, don’t leave Lech without paying a visit to the Omes Brewery in Hotel Gotthard, owned and run by the lovely Nicole and Clemens. Their beers are fabulous, and the adjoining bakery is the place to pick up pastries and cakes for the slopes. Luckily all that mountain air will burn off the extra calories in no time.
Hotel Gasthof Post Lech is open for the summer from June to September, and winter from November to April. For more information, including details of packages and special offers, please visit www.postlech.com. Katie flew with Easyjet from Gatwick to Innsbruck, and used Number 1 Lounges before departure, https://no1lounges.com/service/airport-lounges/london-gatwick.