Austria – Hotel Aurelio

Planning controls in the resort of Lech ensure that the three new ‘chalets’ of Hotel Aurelio don’t look unusual. But the ambition of the hotel, owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, is exceptional: it is, says the CEO of Deripaska’s hotel-management company, ‘a world-class hotel’ and ‘Austria’s most luxurious ski and spa lodge’. No one who has seen inside the third chalet, the nine-room Club, would argue with that.

In the two buildings that comprise the hotel proper, the Aurelio has just 10 rooms and suites, measuring 52 and 110 square metres respectively. They are sophisticated but very businesslike: the design, by Mlinaric, Henry & Zervudachi, uses African fabrics and Asian dark-wood furniture to quite forbidding effect. True, ‘flash-roasted’ pine (the process darkens the wood and adds relief to the grain) does cover many of the walls; but without the reminder provided by more than 200 images of Lech’s slopes on the walls, guests might forget that they were in a ski resort.

The spa has everything you could want, including herbal steam rooms and a 23-metre pool with twinkling lights on the bottom. And the restaurant stands up to the competition in one of the gourmet destinations of the Alps.

But superlatives must be reserved for the remarkable Club building, connected to the hotel by a dazzling, white-and-blue corridor. This is essentially a chalet, surprisingly traditional in style, designed for the use of celebrities, heads of state and, presumably, the owner and his friends. But all nine rooms can be booked individually, including the 240-square-metre Master Suite, an agoraphobic’s nightmare with its wide-open spaces.