I sat in the passenger side of our SUV, all packed and ready to bid farewell to an incredible first ski vacation in magical Sölden, Austria. I was reading emails on my iPhone when a man with a warm side smile approached my door. I rolled down my window. The stranger took my hand to say goodbye, and I immediately knew he wouldn’t be someone easy to forget.
To secure his wonderful impression, he ran away only to quickly return with a token of Austrian hospitality – alcohol. “It’s medicine,” he said with sarcasm (well, half sarcasm) and that smile. Hand-painted on the bottle was the name of the magical ski hideaway I was departing, his hotel Grünwald Resort.
That was exactly one year ago.
That unforgettable moment was an absolute first for me…but for Grünwald Resort owner Benjamin Kneisl, it was likely just another gesture of what he and his girlfriend Sabrina Schitter do spectacularly on a daily basis: connecting personally with each of their guests, and leaving them with a deep desire to return.
That special departure left me with a strong curiosity to know the history of Grünwald Resort, and deepened my attraction to the charm of Sölden — an Austrian town that has captivated my imagination and hasn’t let go.
What a pleasure it was to return this autumn and feed my curiosity for the story behind this award-winning resort. Like with all great stories, it’s one I can’t get enough of.
Perched atop the perfect slope in the heart of the Ötztal Valley, Grünwald Resort offers breathtaking panoramic views of Sölden – one of the Europe’s most popular alpine escapes for winter sports, Tyrolean cuisine, a thriving Après Ski scene and special taste of Austrian traditions.
Regular international guests flock to the picturesque resort annually because of its unrivaled ski in and ski out location in Sölden. Combine that with dreamy luxury chalets and apartments, newly renovated rooms with charming Tyrolean décor, glorious in-room saunas, two #1 awards from TripAdvisor and a young sports-driven team that make every moment feel like home, and it’s quick to see why Grünwald Resort has reached the summit of Austrian hospitality.
Despite the roster of accomplishments and a golden international reputation (which humble Kneisl will never admit to), the greatest “trophies” for Grünwald Resort are the long-lasting cultural connections made with guests. It only takes knowing Kneisl and the team for 10 minutes to notice their greatest joy is simply having a warm conversation with guests, and quickly analyzing what is needed to make every stay in Sölden a hand-tailored lifetime memory.
The resort is also home to the cozy hiking lodge Panorama Alm – a mandatory Après Ski and Tyrolean cuisine pit stop as skiers and snowboarders make their way from the summit of the slopes to the base of the valley. Note: the bartender has special enthusiasm for Schnapps, so make him happy by trying this special Austrian remedy.
A winter stay at Grünwald Resort hits the bullseye of luxury for modern jetsetters – a place that feels like home, a dream location and an inspiring story that makes you a better person simply by hearing it.
“I never needed help from anyone,” is one of the first things Kneisl ever told me, and it was from that moment I knew he was a strong force to make all his dreams a success. His plans for the Grünwald Resort were created at the ripe age of 19, and he nurtured that dream to life with a consistent flow of passion, endless enthusiasm, curiosity to learn and his contagious “it’s good, but it could be better” attitude. Kneisl’s mind is a non-stop parade of thoughts on what he can do to improve the Grünwald Resort experience…every single day, for 10 years.
“With a goal in mind, you can do anything,” Kneisl promises.
But…of all the impressions made during my wonderful mission to understand the Grünwald Resort story, my greatest discovery was on my first day. As I walked through the inviting entrance of reception, I noticed a familiar smile which I suspect was the most powerful compass for that 19-year-old boy’s dream.
He smiles proudly in a photo frame overlooking reception and radiates enthusiasm in his eyes…making every guest who checks into this beautiful, wonderful and completely perfect alpine gem feel just a touch more at home. His name is Karl, he is Kneisl’s father, and he generously passed down the same sweet, warm side smile that invited me into the Grünwald Resort story one year ago.
Thank you, Benjamin and Sabrina, for making every moment of this trip far too special.