Family-Run Hotels in Europe: Lech, Austria

First image...
A room at Kristiania Lech.

Gold Standard

Kristiania Lech in Lech, Austria.

Kristiania Lech surrounded by the Alps.
Go for an Arabian picnic in the snow during the ski season.

By Larry Olmsted
Few mountain resorts have a pedigree like this 29-room lodge owned by Austrian Olympic ski champion Othmar Schneider. The hotel displays his medals, along with the family’s stunning contemporary art collection – hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and prints by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein. The art is rivalled by views of the surrounding Alps, and the hotel offers easy access to more than 170 miles of lift-served ski runs and heli-skiing.
Family Tree
Lech has produced four Olympic champions, all of whom have family-owned hotels or restaurants here, including Schneider, who won Austria’s first slalom gold in the 1952 Oslo Winter Games. In 1968, he opened the Kristiania Lech with his wife, Irmgard, who insisted the hotel provide an intimate environment more like a private residence. After nearly half a century, their daughter Gertrud, who has spent every winter of her life in the hotel, is hotel manager.
Don’t Miss
A picnic in the snow. The hotel throws elaborate thematic outings, from Renaissance-era banquets to Victorian garden parties, but the ski-season specialty is an Arabian picnic. Like Aladdin’s magic carpet, a large rug set on the snow is adorned with a sea of colorful pillows, warm fur blankets, fresh flowers, and candles. Dining options range from formal– Champagne in crystal flutes and white-gloved waiters spooning lobster bisque from a silver urn – to local favorites such as flädlesuppe (pancake soup) and Wiener schnitzel with Austrian beer and wines.
Personal Touch
Both generations of Schneiders prize art and decor, and mother and daughter individually decorated each of the guest rooms, incorporating the family’s art collection. Public areas feature Othmar Schneider’s ski memorabilia.

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Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, May 2014.