Day had already slipped into dusk as we left Der Wolf, a mountain hütte with picture-frame views, and started our descent. The slopes were silent, except for the sound of our skis slicing through snow now sticky like icing on a Christmas cake. As the lights in the village below blinked into action, a quick right turn planted us neatly on the doorstep of The Arula Chalets, our home for the week.
Opened just before the pandemonium of the pandemic, being ski-in ski-out is just one of the double chalet’s many perks. Inside, somewhat macho design details and assorted boys’ toys — there is a darts board, a poker table and a self-playing Steinway for starters — are tempered with kid-friendly touches including bunk beds draped in animal rugs and a miniature ice rink. But what really sets these two chalets apart — which can be taken together or individually — are their spas, each of which is superior to many a hotel offering.
After days stretching legs and lungs on the mountain, these cavernous well-being playgrounds were an utter delight. I made the most of our chalet’s on-site therapist to book a spontaneous massage that started six minutes later; I soothed my tender calves in the steam room; and swam against a ‘tide’ in the indoor pool. But the spot I loved the most was the womb-like Himalayan salt room, where I stretched out on its waterbed and basked in the pink glow.
Placebo or not, it was spectacularly relaxing. In the evenings, it was tempting to stay put, cosseted in this eagle’s nest of a chalet and put its four dedicated chefs to work. Warmed up with drinks around the fire, we kept our energy up with raclettes and traditional Austrian mountain specialties such as spaetzle, schnitzel and kaiserschmarrn, and lubricated our long nights of conversation with whisky sours and home-grown Austrian wines selected by the fabulous barman, Patrick.
But Lech demanded to be explored, too. We skied down right into the village, hunting down its elegant après scene at Hotel Krone, before settling in for wood-fired pizzas at the Schneggarei. When we wanted something further afield, Arula’s chauffeurs were swiftly dispatched to drop us wherever our hearts desired. One night, we hopped to neighbouring Zug, before jumping on a Ski-Doo to S’Aelpele for an old-fashioned fondue served by dirndl and lederhosen-clad staff.
On the few occasions we were not eating and drinking, we tested the theory that Lech is the ultimate winter sports destination. One epic day, we hunted powder with World Freeride Champion Nadine Wallner, who was born in the area, and skied part of the White Ring, which connects Lech with Zug, Oberlech and Zürs. The route is also where we found James Turrell’s Skyspace, revelling in the installation’s hypnotic colours. But for me, the greatest revelation of the trip was a new hobby: snowshoeing. On our final day, I tramped through the Narnia landscape near Zug, following our guide Johanna through towering firs as jumbo snowflakes made icicles of our eyelashes. A little cardio, and pure magic — and back to Arula in time for the last sunset.
Arula Chalet 1 sleeping 22 guests starts at £16,679 per night, inclusive of private chefs, chauffeur, 24/7 concierge and butler (thearulachalets.com)