The Grand Tirolia, pure luxury in the Austrian Alps

View from the President's Suite at the Grand Tirolia 5-Star Resort in the Austrian Alps

View from the President’s Suite at the Grand Tirolia 5-Star Resort in the Austrian Alps

My home country Austria has much to offer. Case in point: The Grand Tirolia luxury resort in Kitzbühel. 

During ski season the world’s greatest Alpine racers descend on the small town Kitzbühel in Austria and mingle with celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Boris Becker and Prince Albert of Monaco who come to watch the world famous Hahnenkamm races and enjoy the festivities and parties (and there are plenty!). In the summer visitors from around the world flock to the region to play golf, hike, mountain bike, or to enjoy the regional cuisine.  And since Yelena Baturina – the wife of Moscow’s former mayor and herself the richest woman in Russia and only female Oligarch – opened the Grand Tirolia Resort  the little village is buzzing with billionaires.

By Bettina M. Gordon

There is little that Kitzbühel hasn’t seen. Yet, even for the beloved village in the Tyrolean mountains, a ritual foot bath is probably not the run of the mill. For that you have to come to Grand Tirolia Golf & Ski Resort, one of the best 5-star hotels in the area, and sign up for an Aveda treatment. “Would you like the 30, 60, or 90 minute treatment?,” asks the nice lady at the reception desk of the Aveda Concept Resort Spa Green Spa. “I don’t know. What do you recommend?” I ask. A quick look over at the somewhat haggard looking guest who has just arrived and the question is answered: “90 minutes, definitely.”

AVEDA founder Horst Rechelbacher and Bettina Gordon

There are many ways to leave the stress of the daily grind behind and reduce the wrinkles on your forehead, but an Aveda treatment certainly belongs to the Top 10 stress reducers of all time.

Aveda rituals are performed the same way throughout the world, just as the company’s founder Horst Rechelbacher, an Austrian who has lived in the USA for decades, wanted it. The aim of the treatment is not just a common full body massage or facial treatment, but rather for the guest to experience the Aveda Spa philosophy, which bases outer beauty on inner peace, just as the ayurvedic teachings convey. In my case, there is apparently much to be done.

Every Aveda treatment begins with a welcome tea of licorice root and a foot bath, (or a foot wrap if you are in a hurry). After a talk about “Does anything hurt? Where are the weak spots?”, the guest goes on a “fragrance journey”. The therapist puts together some fragrances from the Aveda aroma selection that can be chosen by the guest for her therapy. “Every treatment is individually tailored to the guest,” says therapist Nicole Heidlmayr, who will work with the aroma Air this time. Then, you deeply inhale the fragrance three times, apply the aroma to your temples, and simply let yourself fall into Nicole’s hands. By now, you will already feel more calm and hopefully more beautiful.

Grand Tirolia’s rustic and upscale treatment rooms

After one and a half hours of relaxing and letting your soul dangle, there is still the “finishing touch”. Aveda’s founder didn’t want to send his customers out onto the street with the obligatory imprint of a headrest on the face or an unkempt hairdo. Horst understands women. At the end, there is still eye cream, concealer, and a puff of rouge before the guest leaves truly relaxed, hair brushed, and ready to further explore the 1500 square meters of sauna facilities.

Outer Beauty Inside

While most hotels only look great from the outside, Grand Tirolia is different. The true beauty of this building is on the inside. Grand Tirolia is neither a typical Tyrolean gem, nor an attention-grabbing designer hotel, nor an impressive palace hotel. First and foremost, it is  surprisingly modest in appearance. Upon entering the lobby, it is original, contemporarily rustic, and somehow relaxing at the same time. Even though nothing really fits at first glance – neither the red chairs, nor the chandelier, nor the thick blanket on the bed that looks like a hide and is more fitting for winter in Siberia than for Kitzbühel in spring – it works nonetheless. Surprisingly well, even.

I felt like Lara in Dr. Zhivago snuggling into the blankets that look like hide


“For us it was mainly about modern individuality with a down-to-earth, regional feel to make the resort unmistakable,”  explained marketing manager Gabriele Trinker, who collaborated with managing director Ulrich Drewitz on the design (both have left the hotel since my visit). There is a lot of wood, stone, and clear lines. Completely left out are all manner of ornaments, the ubiquitous flower arrangements, and Japanese decor.

In the middle of the 18-hole golf course called Eichenheim, rooms and suites are offered in nine categories – among them is the Presidential Suite with 300 square meters (expandable to 500 square meters) and space for 150 guests.  It can be had for a trivial 5,000 Euro per day. It is to be expected that many of the guests come here because of the well-known Kitzbühler Society Events, and are more than happy to return to the exclusivity of Grand Tirolia in the middle of the green. Here there is no trace of the hustle and bustle of Kitzbühel.

Kitzbühel´s charming village center is colorful and welcoming

There’s a lot going on

Grand Tirolia offers a variety of special offers, usually combining the splendid beauty of the Alps – golf, skiing, hiking – with the culinary pleasures and Spa treatments the house has to offer.  Taking about culinary pleasures: the hotel restaurant offers an exceptional breakfast, lunch, and five course dinner, that is simply outstanding. We feasted on crawfish from the neighboring province of Salzburg, lacquered sucking pig, vitello tonnato, raw milk cheeses, curd souffle´with hazelnut, and, of course, applestrudel, my favorite.

Joshua studying the wine menu — the thing is heavy like a small baby and makes for days´ worth of good reading and months of splendid drinking

Not only is Grand Tirolia a 5-star hotel, but it also has three aces up its sleeve, which the competition surely doesn’t have. Firstly, the impressive  Wilde Kaiser mountain chain is practically in the back yard; secondly, Yelena Baturina – wife of Moscow’s former mayor, oligarch and richest woman in Russia – is the owner of the hotel and a magnet for other millionaires; and thirdly, Jörg Lorenz, the house wine steward, who remarkably has memorized the details of over 1,000 wines so that the guests don’t have to plow through the wine list, which is centimeters think and as heavy as a small child.

Along the way, Grand Tirolia has also emerged as a wine mecca and offers plenty of high-quality wines. The palette ranges from local Grüner Veltliner to an exceptional red wine from France (I had written down the brand, but it is now, of course, lost) that costs more than 9,800 Euro per bottle. Only a few weeks after opening, the gourmet restaurant “Petit Tirolia”,  under the leadership of kitchen manager/chef Bobby Bräuer, was rated top new restaurant of 2009 by the Falstaff Restaurant Guide. Gault Millau even gave the Petit Tirolia 3 toques in its first year.

The cuisine at the Grand Tirolia is outstanding!

Aveda therapist Nicole, kitchen manager Bräuer, and wine specialist Lorenz all do their best to help that last bit of stress melt away, to let guests stretch out their legs and sit in the restaurant with a glass of wine watching golfers play 18 holes before dinner in front of the beautiful backdrop of the Tyrolean mountains.

The true strength of the hotel, according to guests, lies in the young and downright hospitable team, some of whom had already been hired before the opening of the hotel. Phrases like, “When we were still sitting on boxes at the construction site” or “when the wind was blowing here because we still didn’t have any windows” come up in conversation among employees, normally followed by a certain pride and joy when the guests feel satisfied. And for those guests, the satisfaction factor in the Tyrolean mountains is simply all the way to the top.

Grand Tirolia Golf & Ski Resort

Eichenheim 8-9

6370 Kitzbühel

Tel: 0043 5356 666 15



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Category: Explore the World With Me

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Explorer. Journalist. Trainer. Happy Camper (a trained skill). I LOVE hearing from my readers/viewers, so make my day and leave a comment or drop me a note at bettina (@ )!!

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