Beat the retreat - Issue 85 - Magazine | Monocle

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Housed in an imposing Tyrolean-style lodge and centred on a pristine lake (long-renowned in these parts for its curative waters), Midori Haus is a mountainous – but for now merely imagined – escape for weekend unwinds or brisk fitness-focused pursuits. Designed to address the stuffy, space-starved gyms or hemmed-in courts that are often tacked onto hotels, our retreat is a timely intervention for guests in need of exercise and escape. Criss-crossed with cycle lanes, sculpted running tracks, trails and rock-climbing walls, we also have abundant gym facilities, free rein for swimmers and berths for those keen on topping up their tan by the lakeside pier.

In terms of our retreat’s style, we’ve opted for a Mitteleuropa medley. We take our cues from Swiss health resorts and Austria’s many Kurhaus (spas). Architecturally there’s a grand Viennese vernacular but a slow Italian pace of life pervades. The main hotel building is much more than a place to rest your head or enjoy a post-workout shiatsu. Each wood-floored room has a south-facing terrace for alfresco smoothies or a nutritious snack overlooking the lake. Think goose-down duvets, snug chairs and Moessmer loden-wool sofas for loafing on. The hotel’s panelled walls, grand staircase and tiled floors are centuries old but have been carefully smoothed and remastered by carpenters in the area, under the watchful eye of our chief designer Harry Thaler.

In the knowledge that a mental workout can be just as liberating as a physical one, the jam-packed shelves of the hotel’s library are home to thousands of well-kept books. As well as an enviable design archive and a plethora of paperbacks, we also have a great number of screening rooms, individual reading nooks and stube-style snugs nestled throughout the hotel’s spacious interiors.

Ours is also a year-round resort and as the seasons shift, different crowds can be discerned among our visitors. With winter come hardy skiers and fewer swimmers, while spring and autumn bring breezy runners and ramblers. Summer is high season, when the lake reaches a clement 19C.

Our numbers are strictly limited and most guests treat their week here – or sometimes longer – as an opportunity to take stock, reconsider their work-life balance, exchange ideas with other visitors and possibly also shed a few pounds. Most gravitate towards others as tennis partners and become track buddies before exchanging business cards. So turn off your phone, kick off your brogues, slip on your white Vital sandals and join us for a run-through of our ideal sporting retreat.

Out and about

Clearings and private spaces can be found between the evergreens throughout the hotel grounds but it’s the cycle lanes, running tracks, trails and river that are the heart and soul of our retreat.

Lungfuls of fresh air and a little sun are an unrivalled way to kick-start your creativity, and given the view here it would be a shame to confine your sporting activities to the indoors. A quick exploration on foot will reveal vineyards, tended gardens and trails for anything from gentle rambles to testing gradients.

As well as manning the shallow kiddie pools, our staff are adept at keeping younger visitors busy. Playgrounds, nursery slopes, climbing walls, mini sports teams and nature walks are all on the agenda. There’s an accepted demarcation between the children’s and adults’ areas so singles can relax in peace while boisterous minors are encouraged to play to their hearts content, climb trees and learn about the flora and fauna from our gregarious gardener.

Be a sport

Tennis courts (clay and grass), basketball hoops and beach-volleyball pitches are abundant and well maintained. Trainers for each sport are happy to step in and help you improve anything from your lay-ups to backhands, and they will also make necessary introductions to players of a similar standard to encourage a little competition.

There’s a 3km running track that skirts the lake and outdoor equipment for alfresco sessions. Our on-site sports shop is, for many, a reason to visit in itself. Brimming with essentials such as Nike training tops, Tracksmith shorts, Asics trainers and Daylong sun cream, it also has a quick restringing service for broken rackets and a kit shop stocked for any diversion.

Yoga courses have become popular of late and are bookable (morning sessions are the busiest) but in our opinion not a substitute for a workout. We think getting outdoors and keeping the blood pumping is best.

Doctor's orders

You’ll be assigned a clinician, trainer and dietician on arrival, who will be at your disposal throughout your stay. Those who fancy getting on with it needn’t linger for a physical but guests with questions are entitled to a tailored training regime and full health check-up. Many opt for the full detox, which can be completed in a week.

Training sessions are scheduled for an hour a day and vary depending on your skill level, age, weight and desire. Briefings include guides to warming up and down (a minimum of four minutes is advised before any exercise) as well as standing stretches that address each of the major muscle groups. Long and short-term health-and-fitness goals can be drawn up or revisited and variation in your routines is suggested.

Pet palace

Taking our cue from Jay Spencer’s pet-centric Barkyard in Bangkok, a separate Isay Weinfeld-designed compound welcomes pooches for a pampering, too. There’s a saline pool that’s good for fur, a grooming parlour and a team of handlers happy to indulge your pooch.

Our gift shop is chock-full of pet products that can be delivered for free: beds from German firm Cloud7, wooden bowls and toys from Sfera and canine cosmetics from Japan’s Retaw. Training, classes and walks are complimentary. Just let us know what time you’ll be back to fetch Fido.

Ride the wave

The lake’s southern reaches are divided into swimming lanes, with kiddie pools for waterborne tots (overseen by lifeguards). A track and sports facilities dominate one bank while a wooden pier next to the parasol-lined, beachy western shore is the place to unwind and grab a bite.

There is no competition for service and Embru Altorfer Liegestuhl are abundant, as are cabanas for changing and attendants to cater to any whim. Pedalos, kayaks and rafts can be used to access the secluded beaches of the central island.

For visitors after a secluded stay, personal cabins are found throughout the retreat, some in the shade of tall trees and others on the sandy banks of the lake. There is a feeling of independence but guests are never more than a call away from our staff (in their Breton-striped shirts, white shorts and deck shoes) who are happy to rustle up a snack or consult on a gym regime.

Work it out

Despite the many alfresco offerings here, our state-of-the-art gym (close to but not within the main building) has more than enough Technogym treadmills to accommodate guests if the clouds roll in. There are also rowing machines, free weights and plenty of fluffed towels. This is anything but a frenzied testosterone-driven affair.

Slatted-oak partitions add an air of privacy to proceedings and unobtrusive staff are ever ready to answer questions. Bathrooms are finished with Cotto tiles and sinks from Toto, as well as toiletries from Susanne Kaufmann and a wide array of tinctures and rubs for any ailment, sourced from all around the world.

Turkish-style hamams, a Japanese onsen and Finnish saunas are also present. Gym users always look out for one another and are happy to interject a motivational word, though most focus on their training and save the chitchat for the warm down. Tinny headphones are banned, as is the kind of faux-motivational pop music that many gyms insist on.

Grow your own

The restaurant serves simple but hearty dishes, the produce from which is harvested daily from the garden. Nutritious Italian food is our forte but the team are happy to cater to requests (based on your training regime, of course). There’s also a vineyard, turning out a great gewürztraminer and pinot bianco; guests can enjoy a post-workout tipple and most leave with a few bottles in tow.

Health may be the headline but for those who fancy letting their hair down, the cobbled streets of the Old Town are a 10-minute cycle or 20-minute walk away. The locals are friendly, industrious and keen to mix with visitors, if only to challenge them to a game of cards (allow “local variations” but watch out for wily rule bending). There’s also an array of homegrown producers and artisans selling tasteful take-homes.

Meet the team

GM, Ludwig von Schloss: At the helm for the past 25 years, our impeccable GM remembers guests by name (as well as whether or not they like to stop and chat or would rather keep their head down after a jog).

Medic, Dr Kirchlechner: Our wise head of healthcare keeps the medical team sharp. His warm Swiss precision has enhanced the wellbeing of more than a few patients who’ve passed through his examination room.

Personal trainer, Horst Strüngmann: Strüng by name but strong by nature, Horst designs all of our training regimes and classes and oversees the sports facilities. Challenge him to a foot race or game of volleyball at your peril.

Lifeguard, Fabio Fabrizio: Our easy-on-the eye head lifeguard has the best tan in the retreat. You’ll find him regaling anyone who’ll listen with tales of daring rescues. We’ve never witnessed him needed in the water, though.

Head gardener,Enzo delle Erbe: Keeping the roses pruned has kept Enzo busy since he started as a helping hand on these grounds almost 30 years ago.

Perennial guest, Mademoiselle Papillon-Schmetterling: Our longest-staying visitor can be seen traversing the running track every morning. She books her favoured fourth-floor room for four weeks each summer to get in shape.

Dog, Biscotti: Our schnauzer roams throughthe hotel and grounds but more often than not can be found snoozing in the pet palace.

Barber, Giuseppe Barbarossa: Stay trim in every manner at the hands of our hirsute in-house hairdresser, who is simply known as “Jo” to his loyal regulars.

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