Scaling the heights | Posted: 09 September 2015
Holidays in the snow in Switzerland
Holidays in the snow in Switzerland
Holidays in the snow in Switzerland

Peter Gschwendtner is no run-of-the-mill hotelier. We caught up with him at the Hotel Castle in Blitzingen to find out more…

In truth, none of our Inntravel hoteliers are what you might call 'ordinary', but this is a man who is an experienced mountain guide as well as proprietor, and who feels equally at home on Himalayan peaks as he does in the kitchen.

Q: AS A NATIVE OF THE AUSTRIAN TYROL, HOW DID YOU END UP HERE IN SWITZERLAND'S GOMS VALLEY?
I came over to Switzerland to work as a mountain guide and ski instructor, but before I was due to go home I met Brigitte. So I suppose you could say it was love that kept me here, and my motto – “If something’s worth doing, do it properly” – meant that I stayed, then we got married. The rest, as they say, is history.

Q: HOW DID YOU COME TO OWN AND RUN THE CASTLE HOTEL?
First of all, we ran a restaurant along the valley in Lax. But I couldn’t afford to pay a chef, so I taught myself to cook. And as I just said, “If something’s worth doing…”! So we gained quite a reputation for our food. They thought I was mad, of course – a mountain guide becoming a chef. But I was determined, and we worked hard. And then we had two kids, and needed to support our family, so we looked to build a small hotel. But then the Hotel Castle kind of fell into our laps: it became available at a good price, and we went for it. It was the bit of luck we needed, but it was a challenge to get things the way we wanted. But now, 20 years later, I’m happy to say that things have worked out very well.

Q; YOUR COOKING IS HIGHLY PRAISED BY INNTRAVEL GUESTS. WHAT'S YOUR SECRET?
I started with a very simple philosophy and it has stayed that way. I call it “from the heart and in accordance with nature". In fact, this philosophy governs everything we do – not just the food. It’s all about high-quality, fresh local ingredients – we don’t cut corners and we never will. The style has changed a little bit, of course: the cuisine has become a bit lighter, but there is never any compromise, and the dishes you can enjoy – freshwater fish from the Rhône or locally raised beef – are just as tasty as they should be.

Related Holidays

Castle Hotel, Blitzingen

Spend a week at the charming 4-star Hotel Castle – famed for its outstanding hospitality and delicious cuisine – in the pretty village of Blitzingen, nestling in the Goms Valley, where you'll find some of Switzerland's best cross-country skiing.

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Taster Weekend in the Goms Valley, Switzerland

If you're not quite sure about a winter holiday in the snow, the highly-praised Castle Hotel in Blitzingen is perhaps the ideal place to go if you fancy an introduction to our kind of holiday on the 'quiet side of the mountain'.

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Q; WHAT MAKES THE GOMS VALLEY SUCH A SPECIAL PLACE FOR A WINTER HOLIDAY?
As well as being snow-sure, which is obviously important (we’re above 1,000 metres in altitude), I would say that it is the authenticity. The villages here are real; they are traditional. The old buildings, many of them dating from the 17th or 18th century, have a great deal of character. This makes it a special place to visit, and not at all like your average ski resort.

Q: GIVEN YOUR LOVE OF THE MOUNTAINS, HOW OFTEN CAN YOU ESCAPE FROM THE HOTEL TO ENJOY THEM?
Very rarely. There is so much to do here, to take care of our guests. I am the chauffeur, the receptionist and the chef – I wear many different hats and I love it! Sometimes I will go snowshoeing for an hour or two to keep fit, and it’s great to take guests out ski-touring, perhaps, towards the end of the season. But my job is to be here for them, and that’s as it should be.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOUNTAINEERING EXPERIENCES?
Mount Everest! That was a huge draw for me, to go to the very top of the world. But it has become so commercial nowadays and there are other Himalayan peaks I like just as much – Makalu or Manaslu – plus mountains like the Matterhorn or Weisshorn closer to home. I love to go mountain guiding or glacier trekking with guests during the summer months – it’s a real treat to be up in the high Alps.

Q: CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT OF EVEREST?
It’s incredible. For the first time, I really appreciated the curvature of the earth. We set off at midnight from Camp Four, and though there were thunderstorms over Kathmandu, it was unbelievably clear when we got to the summit at six in the morning. We stayed up there for an hour-and-a-half. The 7,000-metre peaks below us looked like small hills. It was truly amazing.

Q: WE HEAR YOU TRAVEL REGULARLY TO NEPAL AND HAVE JUST RECENTLY RETURNED. HOW ARE THINGS IN THE WAKE OF THE TERRIBLE EARTHQUAKES?
Nepal is such a fantastic country. I feel connected to the people there and I am greeted like a king because I am so involved in the lives of the Nepalese. We have helped to build schools there and been involved in many projects, so to witness the recent destruction was terrible. I was actually climbing Manaslu at the time [the world’s eighth-highest mountain] and there was snow like we’d never seen before in April. And then the avalanches came, and we were lucky to escape. With no helicopters available, we had to walk for 10 days around the mountain to get out. But despite the catastrophe, getting back to Kathmandu was a very good experience. The Nepalese have so little, but they are so positive, so kind. Now that I’m back in Switzerland I stay in contact with them every day, and I hope it’s not long before I can go back.



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