Shaken and stirred in Sölden
Arnie Wilson reports back from an exclusive screening of the new James Bond film ‘Spectre’ and skis the glacier slopes from the movie in Sölden:
James Bond may not actually ski in the latest 007 movie (disappointingly, no-one does) but he certainly gets a lot of air! Instead of demonstrating his (surely rusty skiing skills, by now) on Sölden’s glacier, Daniel Craig’s latest crack at 007 focuses on his expertise as a pilot.
He fights for his life in a Messerschmitt helicopter plunging crazily earthwards over Mexico City, and uses a light plane in the snowy forest above Sölden to ram various 4X4 vehicles carrying Spectre henchmen. The wings come off, and the still-surging fuselage ploughs through a mountain hamlet. Does he survive? I’ll let you guess. And as far as I could make out when I was skiing in Sölden during a visit timed to coincide with this special viewing of the film at Innsbruck’s Metropol theatre, the village of Hochsölden was still intact high above the town. So I guess the hamlet Bond’s aircraft destroys was a specially mocked up film set.
No fewer than 500 people worked on the sequences in Sölden. And although there’s no skiing in the film, the glacier resort certainly offers the special-effects team a feast of possibilities, with dramatic Alpine shoot-outs and car chases galore on snow.
The resort’s iconic Ice Q restaurant – all glass and stainless steel, perched on the Gaislachkogel, the resort’s third 3000m+ peak – plays an important part in the plot. The Spectre mountain-top lair is used by a latter-day Blofeld (the character who first appeared in From Russia With Love more than 50 years ago) to try out some unspeakably fiendish torture.
It was while we were having a wonderfully scenic lunch here under a cloudless late October sky that Jakob Falkner, the boss of both the restaurant and the lifts that gets you there, explained why the film we’d watched the previous evening had been – frustratingly – dubbed in German. The assembled journalists from far and wide, many of whom spoke no German, had been expecting at least English sub-titles. But it seems that the Bond powers that be in Los Angeles have a strict condition that wherever a Bond movie is screened it must be dubbed in the language of that country. Thus many of us were almost entirely baffled by what was going on in the film except for the many action scenes and – it has to be said – the gratuitous violence. Perhaps, my British journalist colleagues and I pondered, when your brain is not stimulated by understanding the plot, the violence seems even more indulgent that it might otherwise have done.
Needless to say, the good burghers of Sölden (1380m) and the Ötztal in general are thrilled that their truly spectacular valley (where the multi-coloured forests looked every bit as gorgeous in late October as their Vermont counterparts) was selected for such a major role in 007’s latest action-packed adventures.
During our visit we could hardly escape Bond’s influence. There were 007 bottles of Heineken at the cinema, a 007-themed après party after the screening, a Bond dinner at the Das Central five star hotel where we stayed in Sölden, (as did “Q” – played by Ben Whishaw) and local and regional magazines were packed with Spectre features. We were all given 007 posters, and there was even a slice of carefully boxed James Bond cake to take home.
But before we left, we knew we had to do what we really came for – and what Bond himself failed to do in the film: ski! Sölden’s ski area is pretty impressive with up to 90 miles of pistes depending on which statistics you look at. This includes an estimated distance of almost 10 miles from the top of the highest glacier slopes all the way down to the town. It can be quite confusing finding your way around even in the late autumn when many of the lifts have yet to open for the winter season.
There’s not one but two glaciers – Rettenbach and Tiefenbach – with skiing as high as 4430m, and some exceptionally long runs. There’s more than enough skiing to keep you busy for a week, but when you buy a six- day lift pass, for another 10 euros you can buy a day’s skiing in Sölden’s sister resort of Obergurgl eight miles or so further up the valley.
Linking the two glaciers, there’s a tunnel you can ski through and a rather sinister looking road tunnel a mile long – at 2830m Europe’s highest – named after Rosi Mittermaier, who dominated the women’s Alpine events at the 1976 Winter Olympics.
And the black run that kicks of the World Cup season in Europe very October? It’s steep but do-able for any reasonably strong and experienced skier. Daniel Craig just didn’t know what he was missing!
Experience Sölden with Ski Total this coming season from £514 per person, staying at the Chalet Hotel Hermann*
*Price correct at time of publishing.
Arnie Wilson was the Financial Times ski correspondent from 1986-2001, and then edited the Ski Club of Great Britain’s magazine Ski+board for 13 years. In 1994 he and the late Lucy Dicker became the first people to ski for 365 consecutive days, visiting 240 resorts in 13 countries. Wilson has also skied in all 37 of America’s “skiing states”.
Photography by Patrick Thorne – www.thesnowhunter.com