Located in Kals, Osttirol, the Gradonna is about three hours drive from Innsbruck. The journey passed quickly because of the epic views en-route.
The Gradonna is a secluded hideaway at 1,350 metres above sea level, where everything is effortless. There is a choice of hotel rooms, suites and chalets that can sleep up to 8 people. The chalets surround the main building of the resort, some in a wooded area and because a ski run goes through the resort, you can ski from the top of Blauspitze to your door, fantastic.
The minimalistic and modern design surprisingly makes the resort become part of the landscape and inside gives this easy, spacious and free feeling, without taking away the homely welcome you expect in a hotel.
The attention to detail is impeccable, even the steam room seating is split levelled, just like the interior and exterior of the buildings.
We thought of James Bond’s Spectre when walking around the resort, with its reflective glass and strong structure that is capable to withstand the elements.
The installation of different works of art around the resort means you are not only inspired by the unbelievable views of the mountains.
The resort is car-free providing a relaxing atmosphere that is not felt very often, especially when living in a city.
This is also great for kids and dogs who are welcome. This resort is for everyone to all enjoy and relax together in harmony. I cannot think of a similar hotel, it must be because of its design, location and grand size.
At dinner I estimated there to be over 100 guests staying in the hotel, but during the day we felt like we were the only ones there. We felt part of a remote village in a snowy paradise with only a few inhabitants, it was great.
The resort was built using mostly stone and wood that was sourced locally. It has its own natural spring for water, supplied by the mountain it is nested on: the Blauspitze.
Furthermore, a wood chip factory and solar system makes the resort almost self-sufficient and they are a member of Green Pearls.
The little shop provides guests and locals the chance to buy local produce and products from companies in Tirol. The prices are similar to a supermarket, but the special part of it is there are many food products homemade in the hotel, which can be cooked in the Chalet or taken home with you, such as deer Gulasch. And of course, advertised in the shop is a Tirol Box.
To the spa
We arrived at lunchtime and as the room wasn’t ready until 15:00, they gave us robes and a key to the spa area and a locker.
The staff in the spa were all friendly and gave us a little introduction. In fact every member of staff we met were friendly and very helpful.
You really get the feeling of space in the 3000msq spa area. The entrance was also a chill out area, where you could sit and enjoy a herb tea or lemon water with healthy snacks, all for free.
What caught my attention was the use of Alpienne products. Alpienne is the sister brand of Chrystal, which is regularly included in Tirol Box and comes from Pitztal.
These products are very special because they are 100% natural, handmade in Tirol and of high-quality. Every shower in the spa area and every room in the hotel had Alpienne Hair & Body. We also had a soap in our suite too.
When Alpienne products are in the hotel, you know they care about quality and support local Tirolean companies, so they share the same values as Tirol Box.
We went to the sauna area first. It was very spacious and clean with a clever non-slip floor. It included various saunas, steam rooms, showers, beds, relaxation rooms and two unique additions; its own pool for you to swim naked in and private outdoor cubic areas for you to jump into the snow after a sauna session.
The cubes included different human statues that had a tribal theme. These were very welcoming and subtle coloured lighting shone down onto them in the evening. There were also joining rooms with wooden slats to brush off the snow and to stop cold air getting into the sauna area.
The resort had fresh snow when we arrived and it continued to snow throughout the evening, so the snow catching cubes were fantastic. I had never experienced snow so fluffy before, especially when rolling around in it naked.
The only downside was if there was no snow, the only cold facility was the showers, which did not get extremely cold. I think a true sauna lover would want to have a freezing cold dipping pool/hose/bucket added to the sauna area to fulfil their needs.
There is only one Aufguss (sauna ceremony) per day at 17:30, perfect for after the slopes. If you wanted more, you can make your own with a bucket provided at the spa reception.
The Aufguss we had was good. There were three scents, the first was honey, then Swiss pine (my favourite) and then beer. The first two were superb, but the beer is an acquired taste. The idea sounds good, but the scent is not for my liking. I’ve had this before and it wasn’t very nice, this time around wasn’t as bad, it was much lighter, but still not to my liking.
Whilst we waited for our room, we both enjoyed a back massage in the treatment area. We both thought it was fantastic and for me, great care was taken with my shoulder that I had injured in a snowboard accident three years ago.
There were many treatments available including ones linked with cosmetic products such as Alpienne.
Other than the pool in the sauna area, there are two other pools (indoor and outdoor) and a swimming lake available in the summer, as well as a children’s pool with a slide. The indoor pool was surprisingly big for a hotel pool, again heightening the feeling of spaciousness. Helene loves swimming in the morning before breakfast, to “generate some appetite”, as she puts it …
A morning swim in the outdoor pool is very much recommended. The rising steam, the surrounding snow and the sun rising behind the magnificent mountains was sensational.
There is a yoga and pilates studio, a gym and a rock climbing wall too. Not to forget the kilometres of piste available literally on your doorstep, you will never be bored, especially with the daily activity programme and kids programme.
With a ski run going straight through the grounds of the Gradonna resort, you are really spoilt. There is a ski shop with ski, snowboard and sledge rental on-site.
Reception has the latest weather, piste, snow and avalanche reports laid out on the desk for you to take away with you.
There is a mini nursery slope with a magic carpet lift for beginners to practice on. Ski and snowboard lessons can be booked and they take place on the main nursery slope about 5 minutes away. The ski school picks you up from the hotel.
We were staying in the wonderful Turm suite on the 9th floor of the tower. Being up so high provides spectacular views. These views are enjoyed even more with the mini lounging area that has a huge ceiling to sofa window and wooden surfaces to place your drink or book.
The lounging area is half the width of the room and the other half is the balcony. Dusted with snow, it was very romantic.
The bed was very comfortable with two different sized pillows. There were separate toilet and shower/sink rooms, which I thought was a great idea. There was a huge TV in the room, of course never turned on when we had so much available to us in and around the resort.
Indulge and enjoy
After spending a few hours in the spa area and swimming pools, we joined the sports snack time in the bar. This is 14:00 to 16:00 daily and perfect to replenish energy levels after a session on the slopes.
To begin with, we were given our welcome drink: Hugo Alpin, which was Prosecco with plum foam. A lovely combination that we had never had before, yummy.
That sports snack consisted of delicious bacon dumplings, sauerkraut and leafy salad. It was very much enjoyed. Thinking about it, although it was classed as a snack, you could really have this as a lunch, meaning that this hotel provides you with full board if you wanted it and at no extra cost.
Later on in the evening was the dinner. The eating area was spacious and open. What I found great was the children’s eating area was separate to the main area, so they could be as loud as they wanted and it didn’t matter.
The food was absolutely fantastic and there were 5 courses made with ingredients sourced locally. I have to say I love my food and I was very impressed and very well nourished.
You do not have to have all the courses, you are free to pick and choose from the non-vegetarian or vegetarian menu. For the main courses, each menu had two choices.
The waiters and hosts were brilliant. For example, I had ordered a beer and it had arrived whilst I was losing myself in the endless choice of excellent starter dishes at the buffet.
Upon returning, the waiter came to the table and asked if I would like more foam in my fresh beer. I hadn’t even noticed it and he was already onto it, I said yes of course and he arranged it. No hassle, no stress.
To be honest I wouldn’t have cared that much, but that level of service and attention to detail made you feel very special and it was not over done, it was just right.
The red wine I had with my main dish was very nice too. They had a detailed wine list and the host knew it back to front and more.
I ate a lot, the food was just too good to miss. I knew from the moment of finishing the chocolate cake, we were going to sleep very well that night.
The evening finished with us relaxing in our lounge area of the suite, looking at the resort below, the village further down the valley and the surrounding snow covered mountains, all lit up by the moon above, it was just perfect.
The breakfast was also brilliant with a huge choice of dishes. Sunday meant there was a special addition of sparkling wine. It was very light and perfect for starting a relaxing day.
What I thought was special was the array of teas available that you can mix and match, plus the fruit juice machine where you can also mix and match. It invites you to create your own flavour and make your own drink, as if you were living in a tiny mountain village many years ago.
The food was delicious, absolutely wow. I also liked the local touch of Deferegger Senf, a mustard made about 40 km away, which is also featured in Tirol Box. You had a choice of different flavours and could also buy it in the shop.
Time to leave paradise
Unfortunately, the time came to leave this beautiful snowy retreat. We really did not want to leave. As we checked out, we were given homemade bread and two apples for the car journey home.
What a lovely gift, it brought everything together at the end: this resort gives you a very personal experience that allows you to just be. Be you, be relaxed, be free, be inspired. It reminded us a lot of a remote resort on the island of Koh Phangan (minus the snow and mountains of course).
There is so much on offer at this resort and we didn’t even scratch the surface. Your stay can be customised to your desires, such as having a chef cook for you in your chalet. Even though there is so much available to you, it is provided to you in a subtle way, so it is not overpowering, nothing is forced.
This resort is really for everyone who is looking for relaxation and indulgence, combined with winter sports. Couples, families, work parties, dog lovers, young and old – it’s fit for all.
I cannot wait to go back for a longer period and I’m looking forward to what the resort offers in the summer. To book your secluded retreat in a snowy paradise, go to their website.