To my way of thinking, "Land of the Perpetual Grin" is a reasonable appellative for alpine Austria.
Wandering among the Tyrolean villages I'm invariably greeted with an affable "Grüss Gott" from sundry folk along the mountain paths. (Why shouldn't they be affable, living in one of the most beautiful places on earth?)
Tennis Director Adri Atkinson
coaching one of her younger clients.
This time I've come to Tyrol for summer sport — tennis, mainly, with a few hikes thrown in to help repel the caloric invasion which always accompanies my excursions into Mittel Europa.
Choosing a tennis venue in the Kitzbühel Alps is a no-brainer. Bio-hotel Stanglwirt, a short train ride from Salzburg or Munich, happens in 2008 to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of its working agreement with tennis management company Peter Burwash International.
Over the years, the venerable luxury resort and PBI have crafted a marvelous synergy consistently voted “Best Tennis Resort in Europe". It certainly is among the most scenic, nestled into the village of Going with spectacular views of the Wilder Kaiser range.
The tennis facilities are equally impressive: eight outdoor red clay courts in play from April through October; six indoor Granulat courts (a firm carpet surface admixed with granulated rubber and sand) available year round. The well-lighted Tennishalle includes a splendid pro-shop and pub.
The spa buildings at Stanglwirt
with their distinctive sod roofs.
Outdoors you can relax courtside with a local Huber Brau or rehydrate with ice cold spring water gushing out of a tree trunk. Come on now, where else this side of Eden can you drink water straight from a tree?
A little uncertain about tennis in a foreign land? Forget it. South African native Adri Atkinson, the lively director of tennis, was a top-ranked collegiate player in the US before joining PBI in 2002.
Stanglwirt includes a golf learning center.
The six full-time multilingual pros offer instruction in the distinctive Burwash mode—an emphasis on fun as well as solid preparation and individual attention. Players warble at one another across the net in a merry mix of European tongues which merely adds a festive touch to an atmosphere already geared to welcome everyone into the fold.
You may arrive as a team — as the Swiss often do — for a week of tournament strategies. Or you may wander in alone to find yourself amidst all the tennis you can possibly wish for — private lessons, drills with never more than 4:1 player/pro ratio, match-making service — for the length of your stay in any season.
It's hardly surprising that Stanglwirt, lovingly crafted by the Hauser family ownership over many decades, has maintained a long-standing relationship with PBI. Their methods of operation mesh perfectly: an emphasis on gracious service, attention to detail and the desire to create a comfortable atmosphere for their clientele.
The "Bio-hotel" name reflects an organic approach to the resort experience, from the seasonal farm-grown foods served up in its restaurants to the rich pinewood appointments of its 150 rooms and suites. The spa and fitness center is first class by any standard. There's even a Lipizzaner stud farm, replete with show ring a few steps from the lobby. This allowed me to try something I’d always dreamed of — put a Lipizzaner stallion through his paces, then collapse into a sauna on the same afternoon.
Rich pinewood furnishings
grace Stanglwirt's accommodations.
How do we combine horsing around in "the land of the perpetual grin" with serious tennis? Adri Atkinson and her cohorts find the answer in PBI's emphasis on "play". And I happily agree.
Listen up, Kinder! The Philosophy of Games 101 teaches us that successful play at any sport is fundamentally rhythmic. To find our rhythm — whether on a tennis court or a dance floor — we need to cultivate a mindset of relaxed concentration. Easier said than done, you say! True enough. But a few harmonious days filled with the varieties of PBI tennis can do wonders for your erratic backhand (or frazzled psyche, if you happen to have brought one along).
Suites at Stanglwirt are cozy.
The optimal learning curve for individual players involves coming for a full week program, beginning on a Sunday. This leaves ample time for two hours of daily drill, supplemented by private lessons and video analysis if you desire. Beyond that it’s match play, tournaments and round robins to your heart’s content.
And there’s still plenty of leisure to enjoy both the fabulous wellness area — which includes an Asian bath, Thalasso, massages and Ayurveda spa treatments — in addition to long mountain walks, biking, golf, and horseback riding which are the staple of Stanglwirt’s lavish summer offerings.
Stanglwirt's rich pinewood lobby
overlooks a Lipizzaner show ring.
Lipizzaner spirit at Stanglwirt.
Maybe it’s just the local bratwurst and lager talking, but I’m convinced that another week or two of this regimen would dissolve my chronic serve-and-volley troubles forever!
There’s so much to do at Stanglwirt and the alpine scenery so entrancing that it’s easy to spend an entire week without leaving the grounds. Keep in mind, however, that the resort is just a few miles from Kitzbühel, one of the great winter/summer sports capitals of Europe.
I happened to arrive in mid-summer, making it possible to take in both the Austrian Open tennis championships and the annual Boogie-Woogie festival.
Fats Waller echoing through the Alps?
Tennis at Stanglwirt includes occasional presentations of the renowned PBI Tennis Show, a sort of Harlem Globetrotters routine illustrating some dos and don’ts of the game that has played around the world and recently at the US Open. Note that if you’d simply like an occasional match or two, it isn’t necessary to sign up for the formal program. There’s a casual doubles mixer every Monday evening and the match-making service will find partners at your level of play.
Horsing around with a Lipizzaner foal.
A word to the wise on reservations for Bio-hotel Stanglwirt: plan ahead! This is perennially one of Europe’s most popular resorts with a 90% occupancy average year round. Rooms are particularly at a premium in the high seasons of summer and winter. Christmas? You may as well be asking for an audience with the Pope. Wait list time for late December is a matter of years, if not decades.
The porte cochere at Christmas.
For more details on reservations, accommodations and the tennis program, go to the appropriate websites: www.stanglwirt.com or www.pbitennis.com
— Feature story by Jerry Nemanic, Jetsetters Magazine Tennis Editor.