The new Eco Aparthotel OLM blends into the idyllic landscape of the Ahrntal, a side valley of the Pustertal, as a circular, energy self-sufficient feel-good address – a retreat for individualists who long for nature. We visited it at the end of November for the current issue of eMove360° magazine in german language.
By Sabine Metzger
Planning began in 2019 and was somewhat delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but after a year and a half of construction, the OLM celebrated its opening on December 1. Christian Lechner, a native of Ahrntal, bought the property from his uncle and developed an innovative eco aparthotel together with South Tyrolean Andreas Gruber Architects (AGA). A hotel block that disfigures nature? No way. The circular building blends so well into the landscape that you can barely see it as you drive across the wide meadow. Only the lights reveal that there is a house here. And what a house it is…
OLM as in Alm. The name itself is a statement: OLM stands for Alm in the regional dialect and refers to the location in the middle of this tranquil alpine landscape. On the other hand, it means perpetual in the sense of an endless circle, thus building a bridge between the past and the future. The round millstones of the former mill were the architectural inspiration for the circular building. “We wanted to create a refuge for people from urban centers who long for nature, want to feel free and don’t want to be forced into the corset of a hotel with fixed meal times,” explains Thomas Steiner, the hotel developer in charge of the aparthotel concept.
Enjoyment at will. The guiding principle at the OLM is casual vacation freedom. OLM head chef Berni Aichner, born on a mountain farm in the Ahrntal and sous-chef to Michelin-starred chef Norbert Niederkofler for many years, has developed a very special “Genuss nach Lust” concept together with Michelin-starred chef Theodor Falser from Restaurant Engel in Welschenofen as a consultant. Meaning: You book a room with breakfast. Beyond that, you are free to choose: Depending on your mood, you can use the apartment’s kitchenette – fine ingredients are available at reception – or you can let Bernie spoil you in the “Prenn” restaurant. Five times a week there is an aperitif lungo in the evening with South Tyrolean-Mediterranean specialties from the show kitchen. Twice a week Bernie invites guests to an exclusive themed evening with a creative tasting menu. It is a pleasure to watch him. His enthusiasm for cooking is infectious. He responds warmly to special requests and sometimes brings seconds when the egg on spinach garnished with truffles at breakfast or the fillet steak in the evening ask for more.
Speaking of warmth: from the reception by Dagmar “Dagi” Mair unter der Eggen, former professional snowboarder from Bruneck, and manager Astrid Hellweger, to barista Leo and the fairies from service, we have rarely been treated so warmly and cordially. Feeling good is made easy. Even under the magical hands of spa manager Markus. And as almost everyone comes from the valley and the surrounding area, there are plenty of tips for excursions.
Energy self-sufficient: three energy sources ensure that the OLM does not have to buy in any additional energy: water from its own spring, the photovoltaic system and geothermal energy. “This saves around 300,000 euros a year in energy costs,” explains Thomas Steiner proudly. Thanks to these explanations, I can swim my laps in the year-round heated, 25-metre-long sports pool with a clear conscience. It stretches from the sauna and relaxation area into the 60-metre diameter inner circle of the OLM with its natural bathing pond and wild garden.
Mountain views. It’s not far to the Kronplatz ski resort, which Reinhold Messner literally crowned with a crown. The Messner Mountain Museum MMM Corones (messner-mountain-museum.it), designed by the late star architect Zaha Hadid, tells the story of alpinism through countless items of equipment, pictures and impressive films. We stand in awe at the huge windows and gaze at the surrounding mountains such as the Puez and Odle groups, Marmolada and the Sasso Croce. The Lumen Museum of Mountain Photography (lumenmuseum.it) is worth a visit. So much mountain viewing makes you hungry. The adjacent Alpinn – Food Space & Restaurant is home to “Cook the Mountain”, the culinary concept of South Tyrolean star chef Norbert Niederkofler. Sophisticated regional and seasonal dishes, no-waste and a unique 360-degree panoramic view (alpinn.it).
Get moving. The nature around the OLM beckons you outdoors. In summer there are countless hiking trails, mountain bike routes and in winter cross-country ski trails, snowshoe tours and nearby ski resorts. Plenty of e-bikes have already been ordered for the summer. “With the fresh snow, it’s best to walk from Rein to the Knuttenalm,” Dagi advises us when we ask her at reception about a not too strenuous two-hour hiking tour. She didn’t promise too much, we think as we trudge through the first snow of the winter. It’s 200 meters uphill from the parking lot in Rein to the cosy mountain hut, which is also open in winter and, with its cleared paths, is a popular destination for families to go tobogganing. And for lovers of good food anyway.
Accommodation: A good four hours later, exhausted and happy, we return to our “alpine hut”, albeit a very luxurious one. The 33 apart-suites at the OLM measure more than 50 square meters, with their own kitchenette, cosy corner bench, free-standing bathtub and a bed you won’t want to get out of. Their solid wood paneling exudes a pleasant fragrance. We heat up our own sauna and look out of the rocking chair through the floor-to-ceiling windows at the snowflakes that slowly conjure up a white blanket over the meadows. Ever since I found out that there are also suites with separable work areas, I’ve been dreaming of an endless “workation” stay at OLM….
OLM Nature Escape – Eco Aparthotel, Unterwalburgen 21, Kematen, 39032 Sand in Taufers, South Tyrol, www.olm.it
Price: approx. 140 euros per person incl. breakfast Charging: 6 charging stations (modularly expandable)
Click tip for the region: www.ahrntal.com