At Home, at the Stanglwirt
Balthasar Hauser found himself boss almost overnight. In 1966, after the death of his mother, the 19-year-old inherited Stanglwirt, a farm and an inn, located in Austria’s Tyrolean hills. The property dates back to 1609, opening as an inn for local miners before changing hands to the Hauser family in 1722. In 400-plus years, Stanglwirt expanded from a simple country inn to a luxury wellness resort all the while retaining the familial charm. Balthasar is innkeeper 17 in a long list of ancestors and the patriarch of the family.
“We see ourselves as an organic farm with an integrated luxury resort, not the other way around,” notes Maria Magdalena Hauser, the second of Balthasar’s four children, who, along with her younger siblings, Elisabeth and Johannes, make the 18th generation leading the family-run property. “Everything my father built was in honour of the very first farmhouse.” The trio is involved in the management of the family business in various functions (Richard, the eldest, now pursues other interests). In addition to the demands of operating a luxury hotel, they also maintain the organic farmland that surrounds Stanglwirt, the Lipizzaner stud farm and state-of-the-art riding centre, the PBI tennis academy, and the well-being complex. And while the siblings want to stay true to the company’s hallmark slogan “At home at the Stanglwirt,” there is the continual drive to scale up.
Stanglwirt is traditional, an Austrian pine lodge that seamlessly combines rustic farm with eccentric luxury. The staff wear dirndls, and almost every conceivable surface is made of Austrian stone pine (one step inside and the woodsy aroma will have you breathing deep). Staff and guests—a diverse bunch, including the likes of Prince Albert of Monaco, Buzz Aldrin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Roman Polanski, Hillary Clinton, and Muhammad Ali—say Morgen as they pass in the labyrinth corridors. The 171 chalet-chic rooms (opt for the one- or two-bedroom suites with huge pine beds, walk-in dressing room, sheepskin rugs, terrace, and view of the Wilder Kaiser mountain range) make you feel as if you are being personally hosted by the Hauser family. While there are plenty of outdoor activities to partake in at Stanglwirt—hiking, biking, climbing, riding, golf, and skiing at legendary Kitzbühel just up the road—it is the alpine hospitality and approach to wellness that undoubtedly contribute to the 80 per cent guest return rate.
There are seven swimming pools: some salt water, some natural, one for lengths, one for kids—both indoor and outdoor. There’s the sauna complex with pine saunas, stone saunas, rock crystal steam baths, and salt steam baths. There’s also a nude sauna area with a strict No Clothes Permitted policy (why not add swimming naked at the foot of the dramatic Austrian Alps to your bucket list?), and there are too many relaxation areas to count. Wellness is at the heart of Stanglwirt, but (thankfully) there are no controlled diets or eating plans. The 130,000-square-foot zero-emissions spa offers a 40-page treatment menu including Dr. Barbara Sturm facials. While the ambiance is hushed, the space is very much alive with moss on walls, natural stone grottoes, and reclaimed wood ceilings.
Stanglwirt’s sustainability credentials are exemplary, and it uses its own resources for the energy supply with underground pumps heating spring water from the Kaiser Mountains. The hotel/wellness complex encompasses 12 hectares of land, and “our energy costs are 3 per cent,” remarks Maria. The role as a hotel with organic food from its own farm and a close connection to nature is an essential part of Stanglwirt’s positioning. “Your inner motivation should always be to save our planet, but if you don’t listen to this, then at least listen to the fact that it is cost efficient,” says Maria.
The Hauser siblings spent their childhood in the hotel, but gained their first experiences in the hotel industry abroad. Maria went to Australia to study, later moving to San Diego to work for a luxury hotel before returning to Stanglwirt in 2006. Separating private life from work is not always easy in a family business. “As an entrepreneur, you never switch off completely,” Maria observes. Today, the children still have lunch with their parents, all three living within walking distance of the hotel, although not on the premises themselves as Balthasar and his wife, Magdalena Hauser, still do.
“As a child growing up here, it was very entertaining,” recalls Maria, a mother of two young daughters. At Stanglwirt, children don’t just have their own play area: they have a centuries-old farm. Days are spent riding ponies along edelweiss-speckled mountain trails, collecting eggs, feeding rabbits, and playing tag in the hay before venturing to the vast indoor water world to shoot down the slide. “We consider this our home and not the workplace of our parents. My father never wanted to build a hotel, rather a home for friends.”
Hotels don’t get more welcoming than Stanglwirt. Perhaps that’s why, upon arrival, you are greeted, “Welcome home.”
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