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Ice Spy: Skiing in Solden, the Austrian ski resort beloved by Bond

HighLifeChannel November 21, 2018

James Bond has always had a thing for the mountains.Roger Moore and his banana-yellow ski suit; George Lazenby and his white goggles and single ski; Pierce Brosnan and Sophie Marceau swooping around the Caucasus in furry hats. And then there’s Daniel Craig in assassin’s black, wrecking nice old wooden huts in the Alps.

Hardly an adventure goes by without a quick trip to the mountains. And who can blame him? Fresh air, invigorating exercise, a spot of light murder… Especially since, according to Ian Fleming in Octopussy, the closest Bond really got to a father figure was an Austrian ski guide called Hannes Oberhauser.

Understandably, the Austrians are keen to strengthen those ties. Das Central hotel owns Ice Q, in Otztal, West Austria, a most elegant and minimalist mountaintop restaurant – which did service as a swanky private clinic in Spectre – right next door to a new museum, 007 Elements, dedicated to all things Bond.

The building, as stylish as any villain’s sub-volcanic lair, houses Moore’ s weaponised ski poles, the golden gun itself, a huge exhibit on the snow chase in Spectre, and video clips by Naomie Harris (Miss Moneypenny), director Sam Mendes and so on. It’s satisfyingly lavish, and geeky enough for the most devoted espionage addict.

When you’ve had your fill of explosive watches, you simply clump up the steps, still in ski boots, to feast in Ice Q.This restaurant, which commands a view of over 300 peaks of the Alps and Dolomites, manages to serve up excellent white caviar, steak tartare and bouillabaisse at 3,048m above sea level. James would expect nothing less.

There are other aspects of Das Central that are just as louche and sybaritic as those mountaintop thrills. Take Wasser welt Venezia, Das Central’s gigantic spa complex. It starts with a huge relaxation room lined with chaises longues and Renaissance-style balustrades, with one wall housing a giant video screen projecting a view of Venice’s Grand Canal from what looks like the terrace of the Bauer Hotel.

There is a dizzying array of different saunas and steam baths, ice plunges and showers, all designed individually. In classic Austrian style, you have to be naked to join in – and the pool attendants are very firm about this. Swimsuits are tolerated in the child-friendly section of Wasserwelt down the corridor, where there is a full-sized replica of a gondola perched above the swimming pool and plenty of hot jets of water.

This means you’re not really missing out if, like us, you’re far too prudish to sit starkers, steaming gently, next to an array of fellow guests you’re very likely to meet an hour later at dinner. The massages are as good as the effleurage in Thunderball.

Daniel Craig (and Rachel Weisz, who came with him during filming) are far from being the only famous faces to be seen on these mountains. While other resorts pay the price of poor snow and warmer winters (though not last year, with its noble dumps of Alpine snow), Sölden is always reliably icy, with 90 miles of skiable slopes, including glaciers, which guarantee a decent day on the piste. No wonder our driver from Innsbruck airport was full of tales of encounters with an array of British royals and Beckhams and even Vladimir Putin. MI6 should be told.

Spies, despots and royalty don’t necessarily sit well with family holidays. And there’s been research recently which shows that skiing is becoming less popular with people looking to entertain children, particularly during that most miserable of holidays, February half-term. But fleeing the misery of a rain-lashed tail-end of British winter for a Caribbean shore is a shattering, and shatteringly expensive, business – even for an Ultratravel reader.

These mountains have the navy skies and complete change of air that you look for on a paradise island, but are much nearer to home. Plus you can burn 1,000 calories an hour cross-country skiing.

That is an essential consideration, because the food here is not slimming. Das Central has modern touches but it’s really an old-fashioned, family-owned resort hotel where the female staff wear dirndls and the men those traditional collarless jackets that Coco Chanel remodelled so brilliantly.

In the main restaurant, you always sit at the same table, which makes you feel like a regular and is reassuringly cosy. On the other hand, there’s no danger of getting bored with the food, as it changes from day to day. On our first evening, the cooks offered up a buffet, including sushi made before our eyes and 11 different kinds of ham. There’s also a smarter restaurant, where the chef adds dabs of gold leaf to his foie gras.

There are wines to match – a 2010 Romanée-Conti will set you back a Goldfinger-worthy £11,425. But the most exciting of the food options is, inevitably, the fondue. We had both the Bourguignonne meat option and the cheese one, with a choice of aioli, yoghurt, sweet chilli, pink cocktail sauce, pickled onions, gherkins, apple and artichokes, olives, bread sticks and on and on.

The ancient square table groaned under the weight. We were wholly unable to do it justice, and even my nine- and 11-year-olds made only the feeblest inroads into the chocolate fondue pudding .

That appetite is soon regained on the slopes, though . And once you down your poles, the opportunity to explore a slice of film history through 007 Elements adds another layer of fun, exhilaration and culture to this particularly glamorous corner of Austria.


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