By Charlotte Lynham
Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Having ripped my knee to shreds in Austria while skiing last year, the notion of returning to that country for yet another ski trip filled me with trepidation. Would I even remember how to ski? Would I want to be out the snow? What if I fell again? Fortunately, all anxieties melted away as soon as I landed in Munich.
Greeted by the Co-Owner of Holzhotel Forsthofalm, Emmi Widauer, at the airport, we were whisked away in a customised Tesla and sped along the autobahns of Germany (in an eco electric car, no less) heading to Austria.
Set in a quiet, scenic spot surrounded by wooded slopes and mountain pastures near the village of Leogang in north-west Austria lies Holzhotel Forsthofalm. The Widauer family opened their first timber-built hotel in 2008 and added a further seven-storey building in August 2013. Built entirely with “moon timber” (wood that is felled between November and January, when trees are not producing sap), the quality of the sustainable wood is said to aid sleep and wellbeing.
The newest addition to the hotel has a rooftop pool, a top-floor Sky Spa and a spacious ground-floor restaurant. The Holzhotel is more than a wellness mountain hotel; here, you’ll find an eco philosophy pervades every aspect of life up here.
Upon arrival Emmi took us through to the restaurant so we could have some supper and not risk the kitchen being closed later. This gesture was most welcome after a long (and nervous) day of travelling. We started with some gin & tonics followed by some homemade bread, soup, a rather scrummy flame grilled steak with charred vegetables and a rather good glass of Hannes Reeh Unplugged Zweigelt. Very satisfied and rather sleepy by this point, Markus showed us to our room, a charming suite overlooking the slopes of Leogang.
There are six levels of room at Forsthofalm ranging from “Small Eden” and “Large Eden” in the older part of the hotel, accommodating families of four or five plus with rooms for couples in the newer building. The top room in the new building is Suite 180, a luxurious space for two people with a superb panoramic view, separate sitting area and home cinema. We were bowled over by the size and the vast amount of exposed, natural wood. The suite’s kitted out with a home cinema, terrace, bathroom with double access with a view over the countryside, a low lying king size bed, a dressing room and a cuddle-corner lit and warmed by the flames of the open fire.
Thoroughly committed to ecological and sustainable tourism, Holzhotel Forsthofalm’s unique design and construction is free from glues and metals – the solid wooden walls are held together by over 70,000 wooden screws instead. The larch and stone pine used in the hotel’s construction have proven benefits for health and well-being, a deeper, more restful sleep, a lower heart-rate and provide an allergy-free environment.
After a deeply restful sleep, we headed to breakfast, which featured vegan, vegetarian, raw and gluten free options offered as part of the main buffet. Inspired by Emmi’s native country, Finland, the restaurant is called KUKKA, and further offers freshly baked breads, organic meat and fish and herbs grown on site. After filling up on all the lovely fresh and organic goodies (and a glass of bubbles for Dutch courage), I headed to the Ski Room to get ready to hit the slopes.
Forsthofalm has ski-in, ski-out access to the Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang skiing area which offers 124-miles of runs and 60 lifts, so it’s really easy to be on piste and enjoying the snow this area has to offer. After a rather emotional first run it all came flooding back to me and the rest of the day was spent in pure bliss whizzing round the slopes of Leogang. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for their afternoon tea, served to all guests, where cold meats, vegetables and cakes are on offer to replenish all those lost calories. We particularly liked the all you can eat concept, especially when it came to cake.
Later, we checked out the Sky Spa located in the SPAnorama in the Alm (mountain hut) which offers yoga, a warm roof-top pool with a 360° mountain panorama view, wet facilities and spa treatments. Both Eisbär and I had fabulous massages using natural oils with herbs from the mountains picked locally. Again, the attention to detail and eco friendliness is amazing, and doesn’t at all distract from the luxury of this hotel, but rather supports it through a rather unique concept.
Holzhotel Forsthofalm is a rare gem; a luxury hotel in a popular ski resort, but behind the striking design and 5 star facilities is a hotel with soul. The Widauer family are hands-on with guests sharing responsibility for managing the front of house, restaurant and spa which brings a homely feeling to the hotel despite its size. The building is visually stunning but is also eco-friendly and sustainable, and the construction also aids towards the wellbeing of the guests, much like the offerings from the restaurants which allows for any dietary preferences to be catered for and not as an afterthought.
Holzhotel Forsthofalm is indeed in a league of its own; eco chic at its best and served with a friendly smile and a glass of biodynamic wine!