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Irene Heisz

Sublime Luxury: Kristallhütte in Zillertal Valley

Updated on 16.10.2018 in Food & Drink


With a sophisticated fine dining restaurant and a super stylish luxury hotel, Kristallhütte is hardly a ‘hut’. More “mountain chateau” than “quaint cabin,” this wonderful hideaway is perfectly positioned at the heart of Hochzillertal Ski Resort in Kaltenbach, Zillertal Valley.

Whenever Stefan Eder, the innkeeper at Kristall Hut, needs some “me time” he gets away from it all at the raised hide in front of the hut. With a steamy plate of “Kaiserschmarren” in tow. “It’s my place of choice to find some peace of mind. And for that overall view,” laughs the outgoing Zillertal native while enjoying his fluffy iconic of Austrian cuisine. His tasty pancake dessert is served with vanilla ice cream, applesauce and „Zwetschkenröster“ (stewed plums).

However, he doesn’t often need to get away from the hustle and bustle that is his mountain cabin at the heart of Hochzillertal Ski Resort. “I love being among people,” he says with conviction. “Even after all that time. I have been trying to perfect this place for eleven years and it never ceases to challenge me. Of course, hard work is sometimes part of it,” adds the 37-year old Tirolean.

The raised hide in front of Kristall Hut is popular with guests—and it’s the place of choice for innkeeper Stefan Eder.The raised hide in front of Kristall Hut is popular with guests—and it’s the place of choice for innkeeper Stefan Eder.

A New Breed of Ski Huts

There’s something incredibly special about a mountain experience, but none more so than in a mountain hut, surrounded by gorgeous nature. On a list of reasons to take a vacation, “getting away from daily stresses” might be at the top. City dwellers are electrified by the remoteness and isolation found up on the mountain, which can even be intimidating at times. Yet, one can come to terms with nature in such surroundings. Fresh air and awe-inspiring scenery are part and parcel of a ski holiday, but when experienced at the top of a mountain in isolated settings, the moment is elevated a thousand fold. That doesn’t mean “roughing it,” either—especially if you consider the new breed of hip ski huts and lodges in Hochzillertal.

There’s a range of options available up here – from an award-winning dining experience in a breathtaking mountaintop setting at the end of a perfect ski day to a deluxe bed for the night—with the added bonus of being already at the top when you step out of the door in the morning: Wedel Hut is Tirol’s highest-lying inn for foodies, Schneekar Hut atop Penken Mountain offers a one-off lodging experience in a futuristic pyramid while Platzlalm Alpine Pasture Hut combines a cozy cabin feel with family fun.

                   Der 2013 fertig gestellte Anbau begeistert mit großflächigen Glasfronten und einer geradlinigen Innenarchitektur.
                Der 2013 fertig gestellte Anbau begeistert mit großflächigen Glasfronten und einer geradlinigen Innenarchitektur.

And then there is the sublime luxury of Kristall Hut. Indulge in a little soak in the deep bathtub beneath a huge picture window, overlooking the jagged ridges and peaks of the Zillertal Alps. Enjoy moments of pure bliss at the Spa, enveloped by pure mountain beauty. Spend the evening indulging in an award-winning dining experience in a breathtaking mountain setting. When the diners go home, you’ll have the mountain all to yourself. Such beauty and such sublime emotions could even turn an agnostic into a believer…

There’s No Grocery Store Just Around The Corner

Kristall Hut innkeeper Stefan Eder is very familiar with such thoughts and emotions. However, running a business that aims to be a cozy mountain cabin, an award-winning fine dining restaurant and a luxury hotel in a stunning mountain setting all rolled into one, is not an easy task. Stefan Eder grew up in his parents’ hotel in Zillertal Valley and thus knows a lot about the hospitality industry. But, as he had to learn, operating a fine dining restaurant 2,147 meters above sea level is quite a different story. Stefan and his partner Verena along with the kitchen team under executive chef Christian Hotter are experiencing this each and every day.

There are a few factors at play. One of the main issues is, unsurprisingly, freshness – or, rather, lack of it. Logistics is key with the food served up there in this high Alpine environment. If you run out of a certain product, the next grocery store is just NOT around the corner,” says Eder. Moreover, food tastes different at altitude due to lower air pressure and a lack of humidity. It’s similar to the pressure in an airplane cabin, so you need to increase the seasoning, among others. “Water boils at a lower temperature as well so you have to bear that in mind. Soft boiled eggs take seven minutes up here, instead of four.”

Lofty Wining & Dining

As trite as the expression may be, Eder is truly a “people person”. That’s why he loves to mix and mingle with his guests at the lounge or next to the spectacular open fireside of Kristall Hut. Best enjoyed over a Black Angus ribeye steak that comes in a 500 gram serving and is served with corn on the cob and jacket potato. “Actually, this serving is for two people,” explains Stefan Eder. “However, a long day on the slopes can work up such an appetite that some meat lovers put away the 500 grams all on their own.”

Perched on the mountainside high above Kaltenbach with the uninterrupted views of the magnificent Zillertal Alps, Kristall Hut is the epitome of fine dining at its peak. Famous for its artful assemblage of fresh mountain fare featuring the finest regional ingredients paired with excellent vintages for the perfect dinner experience. The heart of Kristall Hut’s wine list is wines from Austria and Italy, rounded out by handpicked selections representing the most famous wine regions around the world. “Sometimes it just has to be a bottle of Bordeaux,” as Eder puts it. Like food, he says, wine tastes different at altitude: “Acidity and tannins get accentuated and you lose the middle fruit. So some white wines thin out considerably, whereas many New World wines will taste much better.” The logical conclusion? Wines are tasted on the spot, up on the mountain—and only those that taste fine at altitude make their way into Kristall Hut’s coveted wine cellar.

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Witty and sharp-tongued, Irene Heisz is a journalist and author who writes blog posts about Tirol, Tiroleans and their peculiarities – and there are many of them!

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