Sustainable Alpine Retreat

by Rona Berg

 

Stanglwirt, in the Austrian Tyrol, is the quintessential “green hotel.” 

Family-owned and operated for 400 years, Stanglwirt is a rustic, happy place in the Austrian Tyrol, nestled into the hulking Wilder Kaiser ridge, a dramatic, pointy set of peaks in the Kaiser Mountains.


It’s a place where you begin to breathe easier while hiking in the fresh mountain air or visiting the stables adjacent to the main house, where you can ride—or be nuzzled by—beautiful Lipizzaner horses. Stanglwirt looks like a traditional Alpine lodge. In fact, it opened in 1609 as an inn, which, in 1643, was given the name Stangl, after then-owner Hans Stangl. In 1722, the current owners, the Hauser family, took over, and Stanglwirt (now run by Balthasar and Magdalena Hauser and adult children Maria, Elizabeth and Johannes) has been in the family for 12 generations.

When Balthasar expanded the property decades ago, he implemented a range of innovative sustainability initiatives that have led to many accolades and awards. Named to Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List three years in a row, he was also named Leader of Sustainability at the Global Wellness Summit three years ago. Fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger calls him “The Green Visionary” and “a role model for sustainable tourism.” “For us, sustainability is the most normal thing,” says Maria Hauser. “We are on an organic farm, made of organic materials. It’s common sense, and it’s always been normal for us to live that way.”

According to Maria, the family’s main focus “is to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.” And it shows. All the wood in the hotel is locally sourced pine. Her father built the beautiful indoor rock pool by lugging stones from the Wilder Kaiser. The hotel’s heating system is powered by bark waste from sawmills nearby, and the resort sources 100 percent CO2-free green energy from a hydroelectric power plant in the Tyrol. The water pools—grottoes, waterfalls, caves and pools—draw natural mountain spring water from the Wilder Kaiser, and are heated by solar and geothermal powers.

A new vegan/vegetarian menu is in the works, but until then, the hotel will create one on request. There are six tennis courts with “green” roofs, where grass and flowers grow, and sheep graze in the summer. The restaurants all source locally and rely on vegetables grown on property. Twenty cows that roam the nearby mountains in summer provide dairy for the hotel. Stanglwirt has its own cheesemaker, who produces organic cheeses by hand.

The new 129,000-square-foot spa (including an extensive water world for kids and a series of indoor/outdoor pools—with one of the largest saltwater hotel pools in Europe—and steam and sauna for adults) opened this summer, and offers just the type of divine relaxation we all need. The water course is so extensive there is a full-time “sauna maestro” on staff who runs the “sauna ceremonies,” according to Maria. Her father built a huge floor-to-ceiling aquarium in the spa relaxation area, which is hypnotically beautiful, especially as you gently swing on a chaise, suspended from the ceiling.


The newest rooms, the Sun Suites, are near the spa, and feature local pine, organic cotton and linen, and a range of cold-pressed organic juices from a local purveyor. They are comfortable and beautiful, especially if you land one with a view that frames the massive Wilder Kaiser. And Stanglwirt is a paradise for kids, who can spend their days at a converted farmhouse on property, with outdoor playgrounds, mountain views and a barn full of animals.

“Our guests want to feel a connection to nature, to feel grounded again,” says Maria. “We believe in it, it’s authentic, we’ve done that all our lives,” she continues. “I’m so happy that we’re living in a time when so many other people want it, too.”

 stanglwirt.com

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