A sustainable paradise at Gradonna Mountain Resort

How is the tourism system today? What circumstances led a company create an ecological hotel? What does ecological tourism contribute that the one who proves it, repeats? How can we start enjoying eco-tourism? We interview Martha Schultz, owner of the ecological Gradonna Mountain Resort, nominated for the State Prize for Architecture for tourism and leisure in 2014, listed as one of the top 1,000 hotels in the world and, according to Geo Saison, one of the 100 most beautiful hotels in Europe.

We want to inspire all travellers to be the change they want to see in the world. Tourism continues to depend on several factors as a separate system. It is incumbent upon every tourist destination to address these factors in terms of the ecological, economic, political, technological or social-cultural factor, if possible. Unfortunately, some tourist destinations still have a strong imbalance in these factors. In Austria, the stability of these factors has led to a balanced tourism system and a very good basis. A good example is Gradonna Mountain Resort. The location of this resort, at 1,350 metres above sea level at the Village of Kals, at Großglockner, stands for high quality holidays in nature: The Hotel,  with its’ 3,000 square meters of Spa, bathing and sauna facilities as well as the 42 Châlets, have all been constructed using the natural element of wood and lay on a special place teeming with spiritual energy, where the magic of the mountains is truly tangible. Enormous glass facades mean us feel at one with the natural landscapes.

Gradonna Mountain Resort and its ecological character

Gradonna Mountain Resort idea came to the Schultz Group in 2006, because the small ski area around Kals was no longer profitable. “Due to the tourist’s unfavorable location at the end of the valley, a closure of the ski area and the dismissal of 40 employees would have been unavoidable. Especially in this region, one has already enough to deal with a high rate of emigration. So the idea came to connect the Kalser ski area with the nearby ski resort in Matrei via lift systems. A further boost for tourism should be the construction of a hotel resort on the high plateau in Kals, whose building permit has, of course, influenced the decision for the overall concept. Finally, as an economic company, we must ensure that our projects are based on solid economic foundations. This is also sustainability, to make something for the future on safe legs to run” – she says.

“We, as a family business in tourism, carry a high responsibility for nature, people and culture. This philosophy runs through the entire company, and we owe it to our children. We were the first ski region in Tyrol with its own waste disposal concept. Other regions have adopted the concept because it works. We also started working together with the environmental authorities early on in the construction of slopes” – declares Martha Schulz, owner of Gradonna Mountain Resort.

If we look at the equipment, architecture and location of the resort, we immediately notice that no one has gone there and said “let’s just build a hotel”. The Gradonna stands on a true natural power station, at the gateway to the National Park Hohe Tauern, with a view of the “King” Großglockner and many other 3000s. Here, the radiation of the earth is particularly important, which is not only esotericism, we can really feel it.

Nature + sustainability: enthusiasm

“Nature is at the same time our builder and also the inspiration source. The architectural style is adapted to the character of the small village of Kals, simple straightforwardness and frivolity, which has brought with it the hard life in the mountains for generations” – says Martha. Of course, a lot has come into the concept, also with regard to the demands they have at this resort. “The feedback and the enthusiasm of our guests are a confirmation that our concept has been implemented very well” – she underlines.

“Take advantage of the many natural areas to recharge your batteries.
Do things you have not done for a long time:
walk barefoot through the forest, set yourself back in the tall grass to look at the clouds. There are so many things you can experience in nature, especially with children. Just try everything to eliminate a possible, initial skepticism and you will see what variety is offered to you”.

“What is the ecological value provided by the hotel?” – we ask her. “The Gradonna is self-sufficient – with its own water source (drinking water) and woodchip unit for the heat supply, we have an enormous ecological value in relation to other houses. This is confirmed by awards such as the Tiroler Holzbaureis 2015, the nomination to the 2014 Architecture Prize or the Green Luxury Award 2013”.

During the construction of the resort, they mainly focused on regional products. For instance, for the Kalser marble in the entrance and spa area or for the various woods they have used… The façades are lined with larch wood shingles. Inside, they use native spruce and stone pine for sleeping rooms because it is proven to promote sleep quality. The furniture also comes from the region, up to the table top, which they deliberately selected from high quality, as they already knew that they wanted to do without table linen to reduce laundry mountains. They also processed domestic loden and felt.

The ecological tourism, becoming a “must”

Ecological tourism has to be reflected in the entire region by all partners. That is something logical. The people of the region must be able to preserve their possessions and be able to live and want to live their culture. That is one of the thoughts of Marta. “We would like to give our guests inspiration and ideas from the holiday home, in order to be able to live and enjoy consciously despite the stressful everyday life. Be it through natural souvenirs in our own shop, through creative recipes from our kitchen chef as a homemade herbal pesto or home-baked bread. Maybe even the daily morning walk or yoga … possibilities are enough…”

“The guest himself should feel that through his holiday he supports the ecological tourism and thus himself can set his `ecological footprint´. Transparency and clarification are particularly important here”.

Martha also believes that the region, with its natural circumstances, has offered them everything to carry out their sustainable plan without difficulty. “Thanks to the positive approvals, we were able to realize the Green Project” – she says – “Certainly there were some skeptics and hesitants on the ground. But you can not blame anyone, as some investors had already pulled their teeth in this region and, after many promises, did not follow any deeds. The Kalsers quickly realized that it is different for us, also that we worked with Herzblut on this project”.

“Ecologically conscious living – with it the `ecos´ were always combined in colorful jute clothes. This view has happily been normalized” – says Martha.

“I am sure that sustainable business should not be a luxury. This also includes the theme of “work-life-balance“, which is becoming increasingly important for many people. This balance act can only be achieved through minimalism, motivation, concentration on the essentials and the joy of life. Who better helps us to ground us than nature itself. Sooner or later everyone finds their way there. An open architecture creates the constant connection to nature and always leads us back to the essentials. But I think only a few want to do without luxury. Who wants to spend a holiday in an unheated clay hut, without running water and electricity? Therefore, there must be a certain but lasting luxury – also in ecotourism“.

“What would you say to a tourist who wants to start enjoying eco-tourism?” – we ask Martha: “In any case you should deal with the topic and also the offer of the destination. Especially if your own expectations of the vacation can be fulfilled. Many of our hotel guests were initially skeptical about our in-house products such as the new “Magdalena” line of care without artificial additives. At the end, however, all are enthusiastic about the countless fragrances and flavors that nature offers”.

The herbalist Irmgard is daily on the resort to find the many herbs and to bring the effect and use to the guests closer, also in the hotel kitchen the herbs use.

+ info: Gradonna Mountain Resort