Just an hour’s drive from Innsbruck, Sölden is known as the official James Bond Resort, after starring alongside Daniel Craig in Spectre. Georgina Blaskey and her kids took the slopes to find out if the 007 magic works for families.
Sölden is officially amazing for families
Once your family gets the ski bug, you can look forward to years of snow-filled fun together. Having introduced them to skiing as toddlers, I’m delighted and dismayed in equal measure that this was the year my teenagers started racing past me on the slopes, one of my favourite aspects of this new stage is the adventures we’re having now the restrictions of ski school are behind us.
Discovering new resorts together is exciting, and skiing with teenagers is simply great fun. My 15-year-old son loves to pop off to the side of the run to find a bit a powder or a bumpy track through the trees, while my 17-year-old daughter sashays between moguls, finding picture-perfect pit stops for a quick photo opportunity.
At lunchtimes we pour over the piste map, looking at where we’ve gone and what do to next, making decisions together – or often just letting them choose, my husband enjoying no longer being solely responsible for plotting the day’s route.
So with that in mind, this year we went to Sölden, high in the Austrian Ötztal mountains. It was the first time any of us had been to the resort, which is just 15 minutes from Obergurgl.
While the latter is well known to British skiers, Sölden has been a well-kept secret amongst German, Dutch and Austrian families, but now it’s firmly on our radar, and about time. At only an hour’s transfer from Innsbruck, it’s easily accessible and works well for a short break with teenagers (we went for four nights) or even a full week.
Come for the world-renowned skiing
Let’s start with the skiing stats. There are three peaks in this resort over 3,000 metres – that’s unusual – and the Gaislachkoglbahn and the Giggijochbahn lifts, which claim to be the most powerful in Europe, efficiently get skiers on the mountain; in fact, Giggijochbahn can get 4,500 skiers up per hour.
For skiing and snowboarding, there are 144.2 km of slopes and 1.9 km of ski routes, and from October until May you can ski its Rettenbachfern and Tiefenbachfern glacier ski areas – snow reliability included (the resort also launches the Alpine World Cup at the end of October).
Views from the top are stunning; there’s a breath-taking panorama of the ski resort and the Ötztal Alps thanks to the Panoramasteg (panorama bridge) and viewing platform, which is suspended above a dramatic, steep drop (not for sufferers of vertigo!). Then, from the highest point in the resort, the Schwarze Schneide at 3,340m, there is a wide 15km descent all the way back down to the bottom.
Come for the James Bond connections
Beyond these credentials, the resort has another, very glamorous, claim to fame: it was a location in the James Bond film, Spectre.
At the top of the Gaislachkoglbahn is the restaurant ice Q. A cubic glass structure that is a triumph in both architecture and vision, it was used as the Hoffler Klinik and formed part of the snow chase sequence in Spectre. Guests can feel like 007 sipping martinis on the restaurant’s terrace with views across Germany, Italy and Austria.
Next door is ELEMENTS 007, a mountain-top cinematic installation that focuses on Spectre, but also features other titles in the long-running Bond film franchise.
Nine galleries guide visitors through a high-tech, interactive journey of the elements that define a Bond film, from characters and music to action sequences, cars and gadgets. After a morning skiing the glacier, we had a memorable lunch at ice Q and then visited the exhibition. It was an informative and fun experience we all loved.
Afterwards, stepping out onto the slopes where Daniel Craig had chased the baddies was a real buzz. With the iconic theme tune humming in our ears, we blasted down the mountain Bond-style back to the hotel.
Try the new Summit Spa for all ages in Sölden
We stayed at Das Central, a five-star hotel in the centre of town which has just undergone some major developments. Run by the Falkner family since 1969, November 2023 saw the unveiling of its new state-of-the-art spa and rooftop infinity pool, where relaxation meets a breathtaking mountain panorama.
The new Summit Spa, open to all ages on the fourth and fifth floors, has six new treatment rooms, saunas, a gym, and a bistro and barn. But it was the infinity pool that got the teenagers to put their phones down. Seventeen metres long and 17 metres above the ground, this is the place to float and watch the sunset behind the resort’s majestic peaks, while you spot the piste bashers’ moving lights as they prepare the next day’s runs.
Second favourite spot on top? The whirlpool with its own sun terrace. Some of us were brave enough to leave the sauna ‘Infusion’ experience and head straight into the ice-cold plunge pool. Others kept cosy in a fluffy dressing gown on the oversized daybeds, star-gazing through vast floor-to-ceiling windows. As spas go, this one takes some beating.
Das Central is newly renovated and more family-friendly than ever
As part of the new development, Das Central has also introduced 31 new rooms and suites. We stayed in Wellbeing Suite Söldenkogl, which had a private sauna on the balcony and was decorated in a minimalist Alpine design.
Some other rooms feature a more traditional Tyrolean style but every category has been renovated in the last few years, resulting in fresh and spacious rooms with luxury and comfort the priority. Family suites offer two separate bedrooms and bathrooms as well as plenty of space to spread out. Alternatively, double rooms with connecting doors can also be booked.
Days start and end deliciously at Das Central in Sölden
You can look forward to huge buffet breakfasts to fuel a day’s skiing. We were particularly keen on the ‘chilled’ pantry-style juice bar, along with the omelette station and extensive selection of cereals, fresh fruit and pastries. After that, you might think the five-course set menu each evening would be too much. Thankfully, after a day on the mountain we were up to the challenge and easily seduced into ordering all courses.
With both gluten-free and dairy-free requirements in our family, the chefs adapted the menu to feed us fresh, sophisticated dishes in the welcoming main restaurant, which is elegantly designed in stone and wood.
Wine lovers will also appreciate the 30,000-bottle cellar, featuring wines from seven countries and 40 regions, and be sure to try PINO 3000. This is a wine created with select grapes from Austria, Germany and Italy, and was an experiment by three renowned winemakers and the owners of Das Central.
In 2011, they started producing the world’s first three-country Pinot Noir but, believing this challenge was not great enough, they decided to mature the wine at an altitude of over 3,000 metres, on the summit of the Gaislachkogl.
Sölden is also a wonderful place to play
Beyond Bond, spas and fine wine, Sölden is a family resort for kids of all ages.
There are two main areas of nursery slopes, the best of these located at Innerwald, just above the resort centre and covered by a specialist day pass. There’s another nursery area at Hochsölden with some chair lifts nearby accessing gentle blues.
What we loved about the glacier runs was their width and length. And because the lift system is so efficient and the pistes so well planned, you can make some major descents on fantastically spacious runs: perfect for intermediates looking to gain confidence. Plus, even during a busy week I can’t image the slopes would feel that crowded.
Don’t miss Wednesday after-dark fun in Sölden
Tobogganing is also big news in Sölden and the toboggan run covers a remarkable 7.2 km, with an average width of 3.5 metres and a gradient of 12%. The run departs from the middle station of Gaislachkogl gondola to the town and is open daily from 9am – 4.15pm. On Wednesdays it’s also open at night, and the well-lit run takes many turns through the snowy forest down into the valley: perfect for an exciting family activity. Also, as in many Austrian resorts now, you can ‘night ski’ on Wednesdays too.
There’s plenty of family fun back at the hotel as well. To ensure that all members of the family have the best holiday, Das Central offers a scope of child-friendly activities, from kids’ ski lessons to child-friendly gourmet cuisine, a free ski shuttle service to both main lifts, and relaxing spa treatments for little ones. Kids from three years and up can spend an exciting time at the Kids Club with a devoted childcare teacher, allowing parents to enjoy some quality time off. Open six days a week, the Club’s program includes craft fun, face painting and quiz games.
After four days of satisfying skiing, excellent food, and maxed out spa time, we all agreed we’d come back. The good news is, Sölden is also very buzzy in the summer with its bathing lakes, biking routes, hiking trails, and the leisure resort AREA47. So perhaps we won’t need to wait until next winter
How to plan a family ski break in Sölden
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Innsbruck, from 2 hours
Innsbruck to Sölden, 1 hour transfer
Where to stay
Das Central Hotel offers double rooms from £172 per person per night, half board
Good to know
Sledges can be hired from the INTERSPORT Glanzer Zentrum located next to Das Central from €10