Well, certainly its peaceful and spectacular setting in the heart of the Dolomites makes it the most remote and beautiful. Just to reach the five-star Adler Mountain Lodge you need either a pair of skis or snowshoes, a horse-drawn sleigh, or a very understanding taxi driver.
On arrival at the hamlet of Compatsch, high in the Alpe di Suisi, we ran out of real road. The final ten minutes of the journey involves negotiating a narrow track and crossing two pistes with skiers whizzing by. It’s not actually one of the 10 FIS Rules of Skiing, but an Audi estate must give way to a guy in a helmet going past the bonnet at 50mph.
Our 90-minute cab-ride, which began at Innsbruck Airport, ends suddenly and unexpectedly in front of a giant Narnia-style wooden door set into the otherwise virgin white mountainside.
One floor up from the cavernous underground garage and the full glory of this hedonistic mountain retreat reveals itself.
But first to catch the eye is not the building itself, a heady confection of pale spruce and glass with a central gas fire and deep sofas and armchairs, but the view from the picture windows that form one wall of the giant sitting and dining area.
It’s an optical feast with no European parallel. Only the view across Laguna del Inca and the Andes from Portillo in Chile bears some comparison, but even that pales into relative insignificance in the face of this magnificence.
Three soaring 1000m cathedrals of Dolomitic rock rise out of the gentle snowfields of Alpe di Suisi (in German, Seiseralm). At 2000m, this is the highest plateau in the whole of the Alps with virtually guaranteed snow from December until April.
To put it in perspective, the hotel is at the same height as Arc 1800 or Val d’Isere. Snow cover should never be a problem, although it has be said that white on ground outside the windows was sparse over Christmas 2015.
From the terrace I can see a horse and sleigh slowly crossing the landscape beneath the peaks of Sasso Piatto and Sassolungo. I am correct in thinking that the third rock formation looks familiar: it’s Gruppo del Sella, centerpiece of Italy’s most famous ski circuit, the Sella Ronda.
Unlike the main Alps, the wonder of the Dolomites is that you don’t just experience the mountains in the distance. You feel them, you can actually touch them.
Time to tear my eyes from the view and examine the hotel itself rather than the surroundings.
The hotel’s greatest feature is the warm, quiet and homely atmosphere and – unusual for a five star – a total lack of formality. As soon as you step out of the lift from the garage you start to unwind. There are no liveried staff over-anxious to please. In fact, mostly, you help yourself to whatever you want.
A robust local red with a mid-afternoon bowl of soup, platter of cheese and air-dried meat at the end of the skiing day? A glass of prosecco before dinner? Snacks like this are laid out between meals from 2pm until 5pm every day.
All food and wine is included in the price along with ski guiding, snow shoeing, toboggans, daily yoga sessions and even star-gazing (a complete lack of light pollution makes this a magical experience). The only extras on your holiday are lift passes, ski rental, ski school, spa treatments, and sleigh rides across the plateau.
Ingredients for lunch on the terrace or the nightly six-course dinner are all organically sourced. From the homemade bread and pasta to the locally reared lamb, the standard of cuisine is exceptional.
The owners were inspired by a trip to Namibia, so the overall theme is mountain retreat meets safari lodge. The main building has 16 light and airy junior suites and two family suites all with huge balconies, walk-in cupboards, and rainforest showers.
Add to this 12 private two-storey chalets modelled on old Sudtirol huts, each with a log fire and sauna. The chalets have a bedroom set on a mezzanine overlooking the sitting room and two of them are for families (children have to be over eight years old to stay at Adler Lodge) with an extra bedroom downstairs. All rooms and chalets are decked in natural larch and spruce.
The small spa has a lovely bathwater-warm indoor-outdoor infinity pool with a whirlpool and gorgeous views. There’s a relaxation room with rocking chairs and a central fireplace, a small modern gym, a Panorama Sauna with windows taking in the mountain view and a deliciously-scented Hay Sauna.
Treatments use natural mountain ingredients and include massages (signature Adler Mountain Lodge massage using a mixture of local and African ingredients is 81€), facials (from 40€ for 20 minutes), body packs (from 41€) to ‘Baths in the Wooden Tub’ from 33€ for one person, 47€ for two.
So, is it the Best Ski Hotel in the Alps?
That depends on who you are, how you ski, and what you want from a holiday on snow.
During our visit every room was occupied, but only a small proportion of guests seemed to actually ski. The majority lounged around the hotel, luxuriated in the spa, or went for walks or sleigh rides. There’s also extensive cross-country skiing to be found on the plateau.
Ski rental is from the hotel’s own shop, the piste begins right outside the door, and the nearest chair-lift is just 100m away. The immediate area offers 60km of gentle slopes linked by a network of ancient double chair-lifts. If you’re a blue run skier, this has to be bliss. However, if you want more than a gentle glide through beautiful scenery, you’ll need to venture further afield, but it’s none too convenient.
A chair-lift ride from below the hotel takes you up to a cliff edge above the Val Gardena and a gondola ride down to the delightful town of Ortisei, much the most charming resort in the area. A seven-minute walk across the pedestrianised centre takes you to a couple of gondolas that bring you up into the outer reaches of the Sella Ronda and a link by lift and piste to Santa Cristina, Selva and beyond. Alternatively you can take a 25-minute bus ride to Selva and enjoy the full Sella Ronda circuit.
But distances are great and the whole area is prone to bottlenecks at peak times. Far better to go for the anti-clockwise Gardena Ronda – an interesting alternative to the Sella Ronda and a full day out. From the hotel you gently work your way to the southern side of the Alpe di Suisi – keeping a careful eye out for a car with a fresh family of guests crossing the piste in your path.
A long red run takes you all the way down to the bottom of the Florian chair where you catch a bus. The hair of your average National Express motorway jockey would turn instantly snow-white at the thought of negotiating this tortuous 15-minutes single track through the woods. A posse of ski-tourers with rucksacks clinking with carabiners scurried out of our path as the bus, chains biting for grip, slalomed up the wall of a gully.
Monte Pana, where you clip into your bindings once more, is just above Santa Cristina and the vastly improved quality of the lifts shows that you have reached the main Gardena ski area. Circular links around the giant castle of Sella rock lead to Passo Pordoi and Arabba in one direction and Colfosco and Corvara in the other.
The secret of skiing both the Gardena Ronda and Sella Ronda is to make tangental diversions and explore the uncrowded runs off the edge of the circuits. We also found time to ski the Selva World Cup downhill with its iconic Camel Bumps.
The final sector of the circuit is the Val Furnes ski area on the northern side of the Gardena Valley, above Santa Cristina and Ortisei. An underground railway from the bottom of the downhill, followed by a gondola and a chair, bring you all the way up to the 2518m Seceda ridge with commanding views of the Dolomites to the south.
This is the start of a glorious, wide red run down to Ortisei. It’s marked on the signpost as a mighty 10.5km although our Ski Tracks app clocked it at a little over 7km. On tired legs you don’t have to do it in one – it’s dotted with welcoming rustic huts along the way.
A stroll at dusk across Ortisei takes you past Café Demetz, renowned across the Alps for its teatime cakes. “Sadly, it’s not my family’s,” smiles our mountain guide Gregor Demetz. “Everyone is a Demetz around here – I’m even married to a Demetz, and her family doesn’t own it either.”
Gradually we leave the apres-ski razzmatazz of Ortisei behind as the gondola brings us up once again into the Alpi di Suisi in the gathering gloom.
Just below us through the woods Adler Mountain Lodge is bathed in tranquility. The last light of the day has turned the towering rock faces across the plateau to a glorious shade of pink.
The bath-temperature infinity pool, a hay sauna, and a glass of prosecco before that six-course dinner await us.
Best ski hotel in the Alps? Well, at this moment at least, I think so.
Seven nights all-inclusive – that is full board, all drinks, ski guiding, non-ski activities, flights and transfers – at the Adler Mountain Lodge costs from £1,850 per adult/£1,595 per child sharing (8-15 years). £2,095 per adult/£1,795 per child in the chalets. The only extra costs are lift passes, lessons and equipment hire. Visit Snow-wise for further information and bookings.