SIGI & ELISABETH GRÜNER
THE HEART AND SOUL OF A MOUNTAIN
What you first notice upon approaching Bergland Hotel Sölden is the sound of tinkling bells. And baaas—high and low, distant and sweet, the valley echoes with the bleating of sheep. You’re as likely to find their shepherd and your host, Sigi Grüner, tending his flock, as you are to discover him in the hotel’s fireside lounge ...
“For us, skiing is like walking! We can’t imagine what it feels like not to know how.”
... recommending a secret ski spot to a well-rested guest.
Sigi Grüner spent the first twenty years of his life just outside the center of Sölden, doing what all locals do: skiing. “For us, skiing is like walking! We can’t imagine what it feels like not to know how.”
Grüner took up the sport at age three and began competing in races not long after. Even summers spent mountain biking were actually training for winter competitions. However, despite his great skill, when imagining a career he did not immediately think of skiing; instead he was drawn to architecture. “When I started my working life at sixteen, I decided to train to be a carpenter. This is something I still love and have incorporated into the hotel, for example using local materials such as Larchwood and Swiss Stone Pine.”
Tucked in western Tyrol’s Ötztal Valley, Bergland Hotel was originally built in the late 1940s by the well-known Falkner family, who to this day maintain several hotels in the once modest valley now known as the winter sports capital of Austria. Bergland was the first proper hotel in the valley, and quickly gained a solid reputation. However, when the Grüners took over its management in 1999, it was clear the antiquated design had outlived its time. Rather than embark upon an intensive stopgap refurbishment, the two made the bold decision to demolish the old structure and re-imagine the hotel from the ground up.
Both natives of the valley, the Grüners drew inspiration from their innate accord with Sölden’s alpine tundra. “My siblings and I always said, ‘The mountain is our playground,’ ” laughs Sigi Grüner, who is also one of Austria’s most renowned deep-snow and synchronized skiers. “We spent our time skiing, biking, rock-climbing, playing in the forests, climbing trees, wading in the lakes. Basically, we ran around barefoot in nature!”
Grüner utilized his skill as a trained carpenter, and with a crew of local tradespeople built an 86-suite self-contained mountain playground, where, in addition to exploring some of Austria’s highest peaks on foot, raft, ski, or bicycle, guests are invited to indulge in a host of well-thought-out amenities. From the vast outdoor terraces to the local materials and ingredients throughout, the hotel’s every detail bears witness to the Grüner’s dedication to their concept of active tranquility in organic collaboration with nature.
This unique approach has proved immensely successful, drawing guests from around the globe who relish the rare experience of well-curated, stress-free rejuvenation. “I love to work with guests from all over the world. Last year we had forty-five different nationalities in the hotel,” says Grüner. “They are in charge of having fun; we are in charge of making it effortless.”