Over the winter break, I was fortunate enough to have been taken not once, but twice to the Kitzbühel Country Club in Austria – the second time being to its New Year’s Eve gala, which gave me ample opportunity to have a cheeky poke around the new members’-only club, which opened last August.
The club is the brainchild of Richard Hauser – from the family behind the 400-year-old Stanglwirt, one of Kitzbühel’s most famous resorts – and is a 4,000sq m space with a spa, restaurant (second picture) and bar, cigar room and cinema, in addition to the 38 suites (from €370 in the winter season, example third picture).
Yet, despite its exclusivity – members have to be invited and approved – there’s an inherently warm feel to the club. Take a bow Tyrolean designer Hermann Holzknecht, whose contemporary aesthetic has merged traditional alpine accents with modern finishes (the 25m pool, for example, is made of natural stone and serpentine, and the bar features leather and wood and a gold-leaf ceiling). The restaurant is looked after by chef Reinhard Brandner, who hails from one of the finest local establishments, and his genius was clear in both a sumptuous dish of foie gras with poached egg and parsnip cream, and a seasonal chestnut and truffle soup.
Upstairs, the cigar room’s 1,000sq m terrace (fourth picture) was great for watching the fireworks. A professional cigar roller, sitting next to a roaring fire surrounded by fresh tobacco leaves, was on hand that night and, although the various black-and-white photographs of Che Guevara and Winston Churchill hanging on the wall might look kitsch anywhere else, amid the panorama of the Wilder Kaiser, Kitzbüheler Horn, Hahnenkamm and Rauhenkopf peaks, it all seemed to work.
Individual memberships start at €1,800 per year, plus a one-time admission fee of €1,800. Perks include a 24-hour concierge service, access to exclusive hunting and fishing grounds, airport transfers, yoga and fitness classes, plus membership of about 250 clubs around the globe as part of Kitzbühel’s inclusion in the International Associate Club (www.iacworldwide.com). The suites sleep either two or four (those mit sauna, from €720 in the winter season) – and bigger parties can book The Forsthaus, a five-bedroom, private chalet in the centre of town.
With the Hahnenkamm race coming up next weekend (January 25 and 26) and the club organising a special party just for it (Arnold Schwarzenegger supposedly came last year, as part of a soft-opening bash), I’m already trying to wangle myself a third invitation…