From Gustav Thöni to Pirmin Zurbriggen: Winter holidays with a star factor: Here you stay in the hotels of the greatest skiing legends
Many a former top athlete in the Alpine World Cup circus has become a hotelier after his career. For many skiers, living with these VIPs is a highlight of their winter vacation. We present the most beautiful hostels – from the Arlberg to Zermatt.
My first hotel night with an ex-ski star was born out of sheer necessity: a few years ago we were on a mountain bike crossing the Alps. On the fourth day of constant rain, when we drove up to the Stelvio Pass in South Tyrol, we were completely fed up. We just wanted a warm shower and a soft bed. In Trafoi we stumbled wet like poodles and decorated with mud splashes into the Hotel Bella Vista. They looked at us wrongly, but we got a room anyway.
When we took off our tarnished glasses, we saw that we had ended up in the hotel of Gustav Thöni, the hero of my youth: four-time overall World Cup winner, four-time world champion, later coach of Alberto "La Bomba" Tomba. We stood in awe in front of the showcase with the glass balls, the countless trophies, medals and winning photos.
Old skis and racing suits hung on the walls. And then the boss came personally to our table and greeted us. The world was fine again and the next morning we actually saw the first rays of sun to accompany us to Lake Garda.
When Thöni does something, he does it right, with 100% commitment and passion. The South Tyrolean is not one who has to give a hotel its prominent name. He is far too vain for that. Thöni took over the pension from his parents, whom he gradually expanded into a modern family hotel, which is now managed by his daughter Petra Maria. It's still called "Bella Vista", of course.
Thöni is present in the house and goes skiing and snowshoeing with his guests once a week. If you want more contact, you can register for special “Active weeks Gustav Thöni” for skiing and training with him. The Gustav Thöni film also runs every week, with the most important races from his skiing career.
- Hotel Bella Vista, Trafoi, South Tyrol, double rooms from 90 euros per person with half board, www.bella-vista.it
A guest of ski legend Karl Schranz am Arlberg
Thöni is by no means the only one who became a hotelier after his active career. Some feel that they chose this path because they couldn't think of anything better. Others really seem to have found their calling in it. Even the very early generations of racers entered the bed business with the advent of winter sports tourism, especially Austrian ex-ski stars.
Karl Schranz (81), Austria's wondrous wonder of the past and skiing legend from the Arlberg, frankly admitted in an interview that the rooms in his hostel in St. Anton were not always full. But that was probably because he did not care so much about it. After all: the house that today "Hotel Karl Schranz “means and still has four stars.
- Hotel Karl Schranz, St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria, double rooms from 105 euros per person per night, www.hotelkarlschranz.com
At Schranz just around the corner, in Lech, the family of Egon Zimmermann, 1962 world champion in giant slalom and 1964 Olympic downhill champion, runs the "Hotel Kristberg". The Swedish royal couple and the South African cardiac surgeon Christian Barnard used to check in here; today the glory of bygone days has faded somewhat.
- Hotel Kristberg, Lech am Arlberg, Austria, from 148 euros per person per night including pampering board, www.hotel-kristberg.at
Just a stone's throw away is the house of Othmar Schneider, gold medalist from 1952 in the slalom. He has already handed over his stylish "Hotel" Kristiania ", which is one of the" Small Luxury Hotels of the World ", to daughter Gertrud.
- Hotel Kristiania, Lech am Arlberg, double rooms from 309 euros with breakfast, www.kristiania.at
Also in Lech, Trude Jochum-Beiser, one of the best skiers on the planet and a double Olympic champion after the Second World War, ran her two guest houses. She had it built on the meadow that the community had given her in thanks for her victories. The always modest grand dame of white sports (92) once said: “Because of athletic fame, not a single guest comes.” Today, generations to come have been running the business.
- Hotel Olympia, Lech am Arlberg, Austria, double rooms from 99 euros per person per night including breakfast, www.hotelolympia.at
Hotels by younger ski stars whose careers haven't been over so long
The list of these very early hoteliers could be continued, for example with Kitzbühel and his two gold medalists Toni Sailer and Ernst Hinterseer. Tempi passati. Today a new generation has taken over. They are athletes whose professional career was not so long ago, like the siblings Manuela and Manfred Mölgg from St. Vigil in South Tyrol.
Because the two don't have that much time in winter, Mother Rita takes care of the modern apartment complex "Mölgg Dolomites Residence", "Yes, the guests come especially because of my two children and ask what they are doing and how they are doing," says the mother. "They are happy when they meet the two in the residence, can ask questions and get an autograph."
Downhill victory of the Austrian Michi Walchhofer at the 2003 World Ski Championships in St. Moritz was a little longer ago. Today, the ex-professional runs the “Hotel Zauchensee Zentral” in the Altenmarkt-Zauchensee-Flachauwinkl ski area. It is not for nothing that the four-star hotel is called this: The slopes of the Salzburger Sportwelt Amadé start right at the house, it is only a few meters to the cable cars and the ski school.
The fact that you check in at the famous Walchhofer Michi can only be found on the website. He makes little fuss about his career. The "Herminator" Hermann Maier, who is right next door in Altenmarkt, would not be so modest if he were to run a hotel. He is known for his big ego across national borders.
- Hotel Zauchensee Zentral, Altenmarkt, Austria, double rooms from 111 euros per person with half board, www.zentral.at
Visiting the Olympic champion in Zermatt
The rather calm ex-professionals include the Swiss Pirmin Zurbriggen, who won the overall World Cup four times, became world champion four times and also took the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. After his unique career, the Valaisian took over his parents' hotel in Saas-Almagell and christened it "Hotel Pirmin Zurbriggen",
Today his sister runs the four-star superior wellness hotel, he himself concentrates on his new “baby”, the architecturally interesting “Suitenhotel Zurbriggen” directly at the valley station of the Matterhorn-Glacier-Paradise gondola lift in Zermatt – with lots of glass, local larch wood and a breathtaking view of the Matterhorn. It goes without saying that this has its price. After all, you're in Switzerland. As the Confederates say so nicely: "You have to go to Austria, you can go to Switzerland!"
Of course, this also applies to the hostel of Zurbriggen's neighbor Max Julen, who runs the four-star hotel "Beau-Rivage" with his wife in Zermatt. Does Beau-Rivage seem familiar to you? – I'm sure you mean the Beau-Rivage in Geneva, in the bathtub of which Uwe Barschel died in any way. Oh yes, Max Julen won Olympic gold in the giant slalom in Sarajevo in 1984. If you want, he will always give you tips for better skiing technique.
"True values are values that touch the soul"
The Austrian Leonhard Stock went a similar way to Zurbriggen, who won gold in 1980 at the Olympic downhill in Lake Placid. In 1997 he took over his parents' house in Finkenberg in the Zillertal, which is now called the "Olympia-Relax Hotel Leonard Stock". However, whoever thinks that a gold medal is the greatest luck on earth for the senior boss of the four-star house is mistaken.
On the hotel website, he writes: “True values are values that touch the soul. Values like my victory in Lake Placid have shaped me and make me very proud. However, nothing can exceed the values of my homeland, the cozy moments with my children and grandchildren. ”
- Olympia-Relax Hotel Leonard Stock, Finkenberg, Austria, double rooms from 101 euros per person, www.olympiahotel.at
The Swiss World Cup driver Silvano Beltrametti ended his career involuntarily and extremely tragically. In 2001, he was injured so badly in Val d'Isère that he was paraplegic. As a hotelier, he has found a new job. The ex-driver runs this together with his wife Edwina and his in-laws "Mountain Hotel Tgantieni" in the middle of the ski area of Lenzerheide in Graubünden.
- Berghotel Tgantieni, Lenzerheide, Switzerland, double room from 140 Swiss Francs per person, www.tgantieni.ch
Deborah Compagnoni – Jet Set Life in Italy
The Italian double world champion Deborah Compagnoni was more lucky. You don't just own the four-star romantic hotel "Baita Fiorita di Deborah Compagnoni" in Santa Caterina Valfurva near Bormio. She also married Alessandro Benetton, a sprout from the difficult dynasty of clothing.
So you don't have too great a chance to find her in her hotel. After all, such a jet set life is quite time-consuming. In the hotel you should therefore rather stick to Mother Adele, who is in charge at the Ristorante. Be sure to try Veltlin specialties such as Pizzoccheri, Sciatt and polenta cooked on an open fire. And of course the excellent red wines like Inferno, Sassella and Grumello.
- Baita Fiorita di Deborah Compagnoni, Santa Caterina Valfurva, Italy, Santa Caterina Valfurva, www.compagnoni.it
Oh yes, you can also live with former German ski greats. For example in the "Apartments Hilde Gerg ”in Schönau am Königssee, where the ex-world champion and Olympic champion from Lenggries now lives with her family. "Our guests come primarily because of the beautiful landscape in the Berchtesgadener Land and the nearby Königssee," she says. "But there are also some who say: Now I want to live with Hilde Gerg and get an autograph from her."
- Apartments Hilde Gerg, Schönau am Königssee, apartments from 75 euros, www.hilde-gerg.de
Tired of alpine ski sizes? – This can also be set up. You only have to travel to the Ore Mountains to Oberwiesenthal. In his home town, Jens Weißflog, triple ski jumping Olympic champion and world champion, runs the "Jens Weißflog Apartment Hotel & Restaurant". During the somewhat retro-sounding “coffee gossip with Jens”, the “Adler” regularly takes time for his guests and talks about his career. The hotel of the four-time four-hill tour winner is located directly on the slopes and trails of the more than 1,200 meter high Fichtelberg. A few years ago, Weißflog also opened a "Relax Lodge" in the style of a Canadian log house with a sauna and fireplace room.
- Jens Weißflog Apartment Hotel & Restaurant, Oberwiesenthal, Ore Mountains, from 89 euros per apartment with breakfast, www.jens-weissflog.de
A guest of Art Furrer – hotel mogul and ski instructor of the stars
Money doesn't matter and you can live well with a 1: 1 euro-franc exchange rate? Then to Valais, to Riederalp in the Aletsch Arena, to Art Furrer, which now has around half of all hotel beds. You just have to get to know Furrer. Because the slalom skier had not been nominated by the Swiss Ski Association for the 1960 Winter Olympics, he emigrated to the USA and worked there as a ski instructor for Leonard Bernstein and members of the Kennedy family, among others.
After returning to Switzerland in 1973, he moved to Riederalp, above his home village of Greich, where he bought his first hotel, the “Alpenrose”, which he has now sold. At the same time, he appeared in TV shows as a ski acrobat and Ulknudel, including in "Understand fun". His best-known appearance was a film shot on Riederalp, in which he masquerades as a ski student and appears with four-meter-long slats at the course. He exhibited these skis in his restaurant "Tenne".
Today his group includes six hotels and restaurants on the Riederalp, plus the castle hotel in Brig. Furrer handed over the business in 2008 to his son Andreas, who now runs the "Hotel Royal", the "Hotel Art Furrer" and the "Berghotel Riederfurka" leads. The “Crazy Swiss”, as it was called in the USA, therefore has all the more time for its guests. To find him, all you have to do is look for his trademark, the cowboy hat.
- A double room in the Art Furrer Hotel in Riederalp, Switzerland, from 150 Swiss Francs per person per night; More information and prices for Art Furrer's hotels at www.artfurrer.ch