Lavish Minimalism: Stieralm in Nauders

New Stieralm On-Mountain Restaurant in Nauders, Photo Credits: Nauderer Bergbahnen

Originally an abandoned Alpine pasture hut at an elevation of 2,000 meters, Stieralm has been converted into one of Nauders’ loftiest fine dining experiences. It’s the most delicious way to celebrate a perfect day on the hiking trails or slopes.

What once was a humble and rudimentary shelter for cattle and Alpine herdsmen used during the summer months is now a cozy on-mountain eatery for foodies: Surrounded by Alpine peaks and wildflowers, new Stieralm in Nauders welcomes hungry hikers and skiers for a memorable fine dining experience. The sunny outdoor deck is truly a unique spot to celebrate a perfect day on the hiking trails or slopes.

“Cheers!” Restaurateur Boris Plangger serves me a cold beer and sits down next to me to tell me about the history and the present of Stieralm. It has always been a highly coveted location, up here at an elevation of 2,000 meters above sea level, wind-sheltered and with a view to die for. What’s new is that the new restaurant’s food easily matches the ambiance. “Sure you don’t want to give our Moosbeerschmarren a try? Served with housemade quark ice cream?

Hüttenarchitektur trifft in der Stieralm auf gehobene Kulinarik. Bild unten: Moosbeerschmarren mit hausgemachtem Topfeneis.

At Stieralm, cozy log cabin feel meets fine dining. Pictured below: “Moosbeerschmarren”, a fluffy pancake dish with fenberries and housemade quark ice cream.

The Alpine pasture hut on Reschen Pass, an area where three Alpine countries meet, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, was abandoned in 1972. For decades, it has been used to store materials by the local ski resort operators. In 2015, the ski resort decided to build an on-mountain restaurant on the site of the former Alpine pasture hut. An innovative project that dared to be different – instead of constructing another hip palace of glass, steel and textured concrete, Stieralm looks like Alpine pasture huts have for hundreds of years. Although the building is an entirely new structure, it appears timeless thanks to its traditional timber siding, which is weathered by snow and wind. From the outside, it is a legacy of simpler times. Yet Stieralm is so much more than that. Inside, state-of-the art facilities create a welcoming fine dining ambiance, high on the hillside.

Simple, Yet Innovative

Talking of fine dining, Boris Plangger tries to tempt me with culinary delicacies once again: “Would you like some locally raised bull carpaccio topped with raspberries and sesame? Or a crisp pork belly confit with creamy thyme polenta?” 23-year-old executive chef Dominique Pierre Thöni is doing amazing work at Stieralm. Passionate and deeply rooted in the area, the food here is well-executed local fare, made with fresh, responsibly sourced ingredients. Thöni is always experimenting with new flavours from around the world. His heritage plays a big part in the creation of new dishes and evolving Stieralm’s menu, such as white (!) tomato soup.

Back to the building itself. Stieralm is the work of local architect Stefan File, who created a structure that emphasizes architectural features native to the region. Alpine pasture huts are a building type that sustained a way of life in often harsh conditions. By taking vernacular elements of traditional Alpine design and splicing them with modern construction methods and amenities, the architect reinterpreted the traditional Alpine building typology—a far cry from the fake overgrown and overly ornamented buildings that can be seen as hotels and guesthouses throughout the country. Not many of these hospitality buildings that were built during the last few decades do qualify as architecture. But despite its rustic exterior look, Stefan File’s creation is also decidedly contemporary. And, not least, the interior design of Stieralm shows a certain daring in trying for something new while openly declaring homage to traditional features and crafts.

Reclaimed Timber Takes Visitors Back to a Bygone Era

The entire timber construction is crafted from solid Swiss stone pine wood, with its distinct aroma and great properties. In a nod to the history of the property, the building is intended to breathe and to age over time. Most of the surfaces at Stieralm are untreated and will take us back to a bygone era after decades of use. An updated take on classic Tirol farmhouse parlour style, built-in benches create a welcoming ambiance. Furnished without a back, they seem to blend with the wall. Traditional furniture with a modern and new twist gives a contemporary mix, which manages to remain perfectly reflective of “ancient and modern” year after year.

Throughout history, wood flooring has been found in Tirol in the most humble of spaces. The wide rough-hewn planks that were traditionally used in stables and barns were reclaimed and add warmth and texture to the floors upstairs and in Stierstube Parlour. Distressed as only age and the elements can impart (which in this case were bulls), this floor is a celebration of authenticity and uniquely one of a kind as the planks bear the characteristic saw marks, dents, pits, and random knots – and the signs of the animals that once have grated and rubbed the raw wood. The use of reclaimed materials gives the restaurant a rustic, cosy and intimate feel. Indeed, the walls in the vestibule are entirely clad in wood reclaimed from the structure of the old Alpine pasture hut. Carvings of a few names and more artistic attempts like the head of a stag once again take us back to a bygone era.

Bei der Renovierung wurde bewusst auf Glas und Sichtbeton verzichtet, die gesamte Holzkonstruktion des Hauses besteht aus Zirbenholz. Aus zersägten Bohlen, auf denen früher die Stiere standen, entstand der Holzboden im Obergeschoss.

Instead of constructing another hip palace of glass, steel and textured concrete, Stieralm is entirely crafted from solid Swiss stone pine wood. The wide rough-hewn planks that were traditionally used in stables and barns were reclaimed and add warmth and texture to the floor upstairs.

Yes, it’s true; Stieralm is a legacy of simpler times. It tells of the often hard life of mountain farmers – but it does so with the greatest of ease and with a good dose of elegance. It has a spirit of freshness and adventure that lifts the spirit, I feel. Boris Plangger nods approvingly and leaves me alone. A few minutes later, he returns with another beer and a steaming plate of fragrant delicacies: Homemade wild garlic ravioli with nut butter, artfully tossed with mountain cheese shavings. “You have to eat this now,” Boris orders, friendly. “To taste for yourself that it’s not only this place – above all it’s our food that lifts the spirit!”

Stieralm is located at the heart of Nauders Ski Resort and is open daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm during winter season.
Strongly Recommended: In the winter, ride a snowcat at night to indulge in a refined Alpine Dinner on Fridays or on Monday and Wednesday mornings for a delightful and eye-opening Breakfast.


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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