Views to die for and the new Ice Q building were what attracted  the James Bond producers to Sölden. The town was sworn to secrecy, but now can finally tell the tale

The Ice Q, a three-story glass building in the Ötzal Alps became world famous overnight late last year when it made an appearance as the icily sinister health clinic in the most recent James Bond film Spectre. The modern gourmet restaurant, perched at 3,000m on the Gaislachkogel peak above the village of Sölden, is designed, as the name suggests, to mimic an ice cube. In the film, the Ice Q’s airy, minimalist interior serves as a front for the evil-doings of arch villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who was played with devilish relish by the Austrian baddie-specialist Christoph Waltz.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Spectre(Photo: Sony Pictures Releases GmbH)
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Spectre
(Photo: Sony Pictures Releases GmbH)

If you’ve seen the film, you’ll remember the scene. Daniel Craig’s black-clad Bond marches into the Ice Q, looking for answers in his battle against a shadowy global conspiracy. He narrowly escapes having to drink an alarming, slimy green health drink and instead makes off with the glamorous but conflicted psychologist Dr. Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux.

Then, this being a Bond film, the pair flee in a hail of bullets pursued by barrel-chested henchmen on a breathless chase through the mountains of the Ötztal region. This involves a race down the snaking Rettenbach glacier road, a rather unsuccessful attempt to fly a plane and the distressing devastation of some gorgeous timber huts. All very adrenaline-doused and – for me, sitting nervously munching large handfuls of M&Ms in a Viennese cinema – a strange but delightful experience to see one of my favorite Alpine skiing haunts transformed into an action film set for the world’s most famous spy. How did this happen? Why wasn’t I invited? I love the Austrian Alps and I love Bond movies. I could have played a minion! Licensed to ski, I pack my bags and set off to Sölden in search of answers.

For your eyes only
“It was the longest and hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep,” laughs Nicole Jäger of the Ötz Valley tourism
board when, fresh off the piste, I confront her in her warm office in the center of the village. In January 2014, just one month after the Ice Q restaurant opened for business, a location scout, fresh from the Moroccan desert, turned up in freezing Sölden.

soel_ice_Q_winter_07_14The producers were looking for modern architecture in the Alps but could also have chosen a site in Switzerland, Italy or France. The scout insisted on cloak and dagger discretion. “It was all a big secret; I couldn’t tell anyone about our conversation,” Jäger recalled. Then, shrouded in mystery, he left again.

It wasn’t hard to work out and two weeks later the scout was back in Sölden with the film’s associate producer, Greg Wilson. Soon after came Greg’s dad and boss, Michael Wilson with Barbara Broccoli, the producers of the Bond franchise. By the time director Sam Mendes showed up, plans were fairly concrete, yet Nicole was still sworn to secrecy. Over four months, the film crew returned some two dozen times with a team of 20 people. “And I still couldn’t talk about it.”

A view to…kill
After speaking with Jäger, I headed up the Gaislachkoglbahn cable car to check out the Ice Q for myself. As I enter, kicking snow off my green ski boots at the door, I half expect to face the glares of surly henchmen. Instead, a friendly and snappily dressed waiter lures me to the bar, where, rather than being offered of an algae-based monstrosity, I’m free to indulge in cliché. I order a rather expensive vodka martini and get a patient, pitying half-smile when I insist it’s “shaken not stirred.”

soel_ice_Q_04_15

The glass walls of the restaurant repeatedly give you a panoramic view over 250 mountain peaks (no, I didn’t count). During filming, the splendor was enough to melt the tough heart of ex-wrestler Dave Bautista, who played Blofeld’s terrifyingly muscle-bound assassin Mr. Hinx. “It’s surreal,” he said of the view. “It’s like being in a painting.”

The Ice Q is certainly enticing – as long as nobody is firing guns. It’s -15°C outside on this frosty winter’s day, a biting cold, but from within the glass walls, one could enjoy the sun-drenched mountains in comfort. So I glance at the menu, and for a millisecond, consider the three-course meal with champagne. Seeing the €73 price tag, I decide to flee at speed, like Bond before me, dashing down the mountain. It’s unlikely I’ll find a Bond girl there, but I’m suddenly more interested in a cheap and cheerful serving of hearty cheese dumplings in a wooden hut. Special agents charged with saving the world are better paid than travel journalists.

Nicole Jäger says the production team was “friendly and down-to-earth” as they prepared the shoot, but once filming began in earnest, nobody saw much of the huge crew. You need space and privacy when blowing up planes with Hollywood superstars on board, so the mountain was cordoned off.

Back in the village, every tiny movement of star Daniel Craig, staying in the luxurious Hotel Bergland, soon became part of local legend. He was seen buying shoes in a sports shop and enjoying a sausage in a local restaurant. In a raucous Irish bar, a rather red-faced man tries enthusiastically to persuade me that Craig was in there regularly, drinking shots and playing darts with the locals. But I’m a journalist; I wasn’t born yesterday.

Tomorrow never dies
Nicole Jäger said she was so excited before the first screening that she couldn’t sleep the night before. Movies use every art of technical trickery to create a unique, fictional world – the original locations are merely raw materials. When the Sölden team was invited to a pre-release screening in Innsbruck, Nicole was blown away. “It was a surprise. It was amazing. I loved it. All that nervous waiting had been worth it.”

Now on Wednesday nights there is a James Bond show at the midway station of the Gaislachkogel cable car and journalists from as far away as India, China and the USA have written about the small Tyrolean village. Daniel Craig has famously said that he would “slit his wrists” before reprising the physical role of 007, but up in the Ötz Valley, James Bond fever is expected to burn for years to come.

 


 

Being Bond in Sölden

There is no reason to slum it when you’re at the top of the world. Here’s how to travel like 007 in Sölden.

 

ICE Q
This glass colossus houses a panoramic restaurant, a protected exterior terrace and a bar, where you can sip your martini in style.
Gaislachkogelbahn 3a
A-6450 Sölden, Ötztal
soelden.com/iceq
daily 11:30 – 15:00
GLAISLACHKOGLBAHN
A modern moster gondola brings you to the Ice Q. It cost €38 million to build and carries riders form the
base station to the middle station, where you can see the James Bond show and then venture further to the
top station to the restaurant at Ice Q.
17.06.-25.09.2016
daily 8:30- 16:45
Adults €32.00
Children €17.50
bergbahnen@soelden.com

 

HOTEL BERGLAND
Holiday like Daniel Craig at this luxurious spa hotel. You can swim in the same pool he did as as you take
in the beautiful mountainscapes.
Dorfstraße 114
A-6450 Sölden, Ötztal
+43 5254 22400
info@bergland-soelden.at

 

For further information or help finding accommodations or ski information visit:
ÖTZTAL TOURISM