In the beginning, the Almhof was a tract of farmland with a rustic mountain farmhouse—over the centuries, and before tourism, this region lived mostly from agriculture and was far from the luxurious hamlet it now is.
On a given winter’s day at the Almhof Schneider, Gerold and Katia Schneider can be seen chatting with guests, checking with staff, organizing orders and construction, busily doing things that hosts do. Hannelore Schneider, Gerold’s mother, appears in the Tagesbar to make sure things are running smoothly. Elegant wooden staircases creak just a little, hallway lights are atmospheric, seating everywhere is comfortable. This is not your usual hotel, it feels more like a great big home.
The Almhof story began long time ago in 1451, when the Schneider family first appeared in the Arlberg region along with many other “Walser” (a group of Swiss people from the Valais region who migrated to Arlberg and colonized the area—to this day it remains a mystery just why). In the beginning, the Almhof was a tract of farmland with rustic mountain farmhouse—over the centuries, and before tourism, this region lived mostly from argiculture and was far from the luxurious hamlet it now is. For the Schneiders it was no different.
Things would take a turn around the turn of the past century. The concept of skiing as a leisure sport was beginning to take hold in Europe, and the Arlberg became the place to learn to ski, due to one Hannes Schneider from nearby village of Stuben. Still considered the father of modern skiing, his ski school began drawing people to the region.
Almhof’s history of hospitality began with its first guests in 1929—Gerold’s great-grandfather Wilhelm and grandfather Leopold transformed part of the farmhouse into guestrooms. The atmosphere was more rustic and athletic back then, and remained so for several decades.
“It was really a sporty hotel, up until the 80s,” says Gidi, a fixture in the hotel, overseeing the restaurants and generally making sure everyone feels wonderful. He started working under Mrs. Schneider and her husband Gebhard 46 years ago. Gidi, in fact, watched Gerold grow up here.
Gerold and Katia are now Almhof’s primary hosts. Back in the mid-1990s, they first recognized the need to make another generational shift and meld an international contemporary approach with the hotel’s long Alpine tradition. Gerold spent his childhood here and later studied philosophy in Vienna; Katia is an architect and former child actress. Both had big ideas of how to set the stage for the family property’s future.
“Gerold isn’t just a hotelier,” says his mother. “He has true vision.” Some of this is visual: Many subtle updates in design allowed both the older and younger generations of guests to experience the family’s legendary hospitality. More extensive construction came with an almost sculptural parking garage and an extensive spa, which were added in 2015-2016, an expansion adding rooms to the attic will come before 2020. “This will accomplish our contribution to the history of our hotel.” The other part of his vision is social: “A hotel is only a tiny part of a destination. I think we will have to re-negotiate the long term future of this village in the years to come.”
He seems easiest to catch in the evening, when he sits down with guests—90 percent of whom are returnees. Like friends of the family, really.