A Sprinkling of Fairey Snow
In picture postcard Lech, Chalet N offers Michelin starred food, spa treatments and paired wines. The 1,000-square meter spa and wellbeing area is incredible
Article by Lauren Naylor
As I strapped on my clunky boots, the feeling was far from comfortable, my anxiety levels began to rise, and hot salty tears prickled my eyes as I realised within minutes that my ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience really wasn’t for me. These weren’t just any old boots though; these were black clumpy ski boots, and I hadn’t even set foot in the crisp white snow yet! A yearly staple for some, an anomaly – and so far painful – experience for me.
After hobbling to the closest Austrian ski shop, I noted discombobulated faces and staff muttering under their breath. It turned out to be simply my thick woollen socks rolled up inside the boot and quite brutally cutting off the circulation in my ankles! Cue a quick re-fit, some bemused German storekeepers and off I toddled, literally toddled, to the toddlers’ slopes, along with the four-year-olds.
So let me explain somewhat: I’m 38, and this was the first time I had set foot onto a powdery white slope, probably the finest slopes you could set a ski boot on.
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Lech in Austria is the epitome of a Hans Christian Anderson novel, with cotton wool clouds, powder blue skies and clean, healthy air that makes you want to beat your chest a la Tarzan, or perhaps a yodel would be more fitting.
In preparation for my experience I armed myself with borrowed ski gear; a neon oversized jacket from my seasoned skiing friend Alex, and some uber tight ski garments from my dear friend Octavia. Within five minutes of basking in the crystal clear air with the sunshine a-blazing, I had stripped down to just a tiny jersey roll neck and accompanying skin tight ski pants and was straight onto what I can only describe as a the final travelator obstacle in Gladiators (minus the running to the top part!)
They say don’t run before you can walk. I learnt to walk painstakingly, completely oblivious to the 4-year-olds skimming over obstacles whilst I tried my best to stay upright! An hour into my complete novice lesson, I was holding one end of a pole, swishing my hips back and forth down a gargantuan hill (to me it was, please don’t judge!) as Peter, my personal instructor, was completely amazed that this initial bambi-on-roller-skates character was closely becoming his favourite ever beginner (in fact he quoted this at dinner that night). I think that I swiftly became his favourite, as I went from biting his head off, to reckless abandon and actually laughing and relishing every moment of the experience – including the apres ski! Austrian courage and all that… Needless to say, my experience with Peter was both educational and exhilarating in equal measure – and I never thought I’d be that person hankering after my next snow fix.
Lech is surrounded by the prettiest Toy-town village, and attracts a seriously swish crowd who obviously work hard and play at apres ski even harder. After landing into Zurich airport, a picturesque three-hour journey took us from verdant countryside through to icing sugar topped chalets, cerulean skies and high up into the mountains, meandering around tight corners like an ardent skier thrusting his hips sharply to the right.
Chalet N, our humble abode for the next two nights costs a snow cool £250,000 per week but includes Michelin starred food, spa treatments and paired wines. If the ski experience was anything to go by, the Chalet is another level; I don’t think I’ll ever top my January as the 6-star Chalet N in glamorous Oberlech proves that luxury really knows no bounds.
Lech and the 1,650-meter-high destination of Oberlech am Arlberg are famous for winter sports as the elitist crowd head there throughout the start of the year. What makes the area so special, is not just the unique location, but the innovative tunnel system for the underground transport and infrastructure so that during the season (December to April) it’s a car-free zone and can only be reached with the mountain railway.
The chalet itself is nearly 1,700 metres above sea level. For official licensing reasons, the new building consists of two sections so it fits effortlessly and unobtrusively with its surroundings.
The shell of Chalet N is clad with mature, recovered wood from the region – giving it that authentic alpine finish. From chauffeur driven limousines to private helicopter shuttle service, hotel butlers, ski instructors and personal gourmet chef, Chalet N offers an extraordinary service. All these amazing services are on offer with a week’s hire, and there are nine spacious suites and double rooms housing up to 22 guests, which if my math isn’t failing me, works out £11,000 per head. Bargain!
The architects, Landau and Kindelbacher, endured not only the challenges of extreme climatic conditions, but also the strict rules of building out of season between April to December. This meant they had only eight months to build the super Chalet, including the demolition of the old building, Hotel Schlossle. The result of the hard work is a skilful mix of traditional building and high-class interior design. The charm of the alps rule throughout and the use of regional materials combined with the latest tech ensures both traditionalists and modernists will be be impressed. The interior is bursting full of black steel, dark travertine and granite while high quality luxury textiles from cushions to elegant furnishings and ostentatious humongous cascading crystal chandeliers to break up the cubic form.
In my opinion, where the architects have excelled is in the 1,000-square meter spa and wellbeing area at Chalet N with saunas, salt-mine steam bath, pool landscape and outdoor jacuzzis. The specially created atrium affords an uninterrupted view from pool to the panorama of the mountains with the stalagmite of the sky green glass mosaic making the pool glow a cool beguiling green. If the aforementioned ostentatious chandelier did it for you, the sauna area is proffering a shower with a curtain made of cascading Swarovski Crystal string glitter. I kid you not.
In contrast to the deep relaxation and luxe finish of the spa, the clean white fitness area with all the gym-going fanatics essentials has a white sports hall finish and techno minimalism. There’s no denying my first ever ski experience was one many people could only dream of and I’m truly grateful to have had the Chalet N midas touch (did I mention you ski straight out of the chalet onto the slopes..?)