How the Tirler mountain meadow
became a Dolomites Living Hotel.
Why do people come to the mountain meadow, hoteliers Sandra and Hannes Rabanser asked themselves. They both may understand you better than you think. Because they need what you have in mind: to be free, to find peace, to feel at home. Not forgoing anything here. Are they right?
Inns are handed down in South Tyrol. Even on the mountain meadow. With a bit of luck, the Rabansers bought the alpine meadow inn Tirler on the Seiser Alm in 1994. Hannes Rabanser’s mother had long been looking for a mountain meadow hut. When the Tirler, then owned by the state of Hesse, went up for sale, Franz Rabanser slapped the money on the table. The Rabansers then lived in Urtijëi in Val Gardena, down in the valley. They were neither hoteliers nor innkeepers. “My father is a beverage wholesaler,” says Hannes. He wanted to become a psychologist. It had nothing to do with the Tirler, so he dropped out of school …
Hannes is dreading school. The long road to psychology scares him off. Friends advise him to go into gastronomy. He becomes a waiter. And in the end, everyone is happy about it. When the search for new tenants proves to be rocky, Hannes helps out at the Tirler, more and more often, then completely.
Everything is too tight: youth hostel with bunk beds.
A quarter century has passed since then. Hannes just turned 40. The building that he took over was once a summer alpine hut for dairymen and farmers, and in the 1990s a modest youth hostel: “With iron bunk beds and shared toilets,” he recalls. The income bobbed up and down, the rooms, he says today, were so simple that they were soon no longer available for rent. In 2004, he decides: we are remodeling.
In South Tyrol, hoteliers decide to do this all the time. Only one thing: On the Seiser Alm, at 1,750 meters above sea level, in the middle of the nature reserve, different rules apply than in South Tyrol.
Looking ahead: four architects are three too many.
Hannes Rabanser and his family had four start-up attempts. And four architects. One after the other. The first project did not succeed, because a new law prohibits adding new stories to existing buildings. Then Hannes had the idea of grouping twelve huts around a village square, but the building commission spoke of “urban sprawl.” Rejected. “I was really frustrated,” he says today. He put the plans in the drawer, instead building his private home next door, where he lives with his wife Sandra and their two daughters. In 2009 he tried it again. What was originally twelve scattered huts, he now puts together to form an L: “Now I did not like it anymore.” So he turns everything into the U-shape. The third architect said so you cannot build a hotel like that.
The right architect: Hugo Demetz can build with the U.
He could. He meets the fourth architect, and he says, “I think the U is good.” Hugo Demetz wants to try it. The Val Gardena architect is a hotel specialist. “Everything originated here on site,” says Hannes Rabanser. Here, above it all, decisions were made on materials, craftsmen, standards. Sometimes the workers would be tearing their hair out. However, Hannes Rabanser did not give in: “We wanted to build according to the concept of the UNESCO biosphere reserve,” he said. Natural, healthy, sustainable, aesthetic. Allergy friendly. That’s what the Rabansers saw through.
Above it all: free from electrosmog and allergies.
Hannes is someone you have to let be in charge. He loves freedom, he admits almost timidly, and adds, “I like to fly.” He is serious about that. At twelve, his uncle, one of the first hang glider flyers in Italy, taught him paragliding. Today he flies a hang glider on his own. He recently passed the helicopter test in Bolzano.
The new hotel was completed in 2011. The roof of the connecting building is planted with greenery, water splashes from the building’s own spring, the chefs do it all to make people with lactose, gluten and other intolerances forget the hardships of doing without. At night you decide for yourself whether your room should remain free from electrosmog. Freedom, just as Hannes Rabanser wants to feel it.
The realization: stay on top, forever.
Every day he drives his daughters to school to Urtijëi in the valley. As soon as he leaves the house, he looks at the mountain range of the Molignon, dark spruce forests, short-grassy alpine meadows. It is, in fact, calm up here. The children know the forest like the back of their hand. Suppliers accept the requirement to show up at 9 am.
He did not have to become a psychologist to understand: he would not be leaving life up here.