Switzerland’s winter wonderland.
When it comes to spending the winter and holiday seasons in style, it doesn’t get much better than the Swiss Alps. Few other destinations offer up the same combination of extravagantly extreme sports and lavish leisure—visitors can ski down pristine trails after being dropped off by a helicopter in the morning, enjoy drinks on a glacier before dinner and relax in a 5-star spa the next day.
A roll call of Switzerland’s Alpine resorts—Gstaad, Verbier, Zermatt and St. Moritz, just to name a few—reads like a who’s who of famous playgrounds for celebrities, families and businessmen alike. Each locale offers up its own unique smattering of ultra high-end lodgings and a range of activities that would make any winter getaway there well worth its while.
In Gstaad, there is no shortage of 5-star hotels such as Le Grand Bellevue, which is located right on the village’s Promenade, was originally built in 1912 and acquired a century later by a young couple, Daniel and Davia Koetser. “Our dream is to create a buzzing destination in the heart of the village that captures the spirit of Gstaad but looks to its bright future too,” they say about the hotel’s new direction. In addition to traditional mountain-related endeavours, enjoy the culinary delights of the resort’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Leonard’s, the 2,500-square-metre Le Grand Spa, a cigar lounge, private cinema, and even an independently run Yacht Club. For even further relaxation, the hotel will also host a Yoga Snow Flow and Spa Retreat from March 14-18 led by Nike Yoga Brand Ambassador and Yoga Expert, Jacqueline Lysycia. On a more culture note, Gstaad will be hosting the 9th edition of the New Year Music Festival from December 26 to January 4, 2015, a series of over 250 events with over 400 musicians under the artistic direction of Princess Caroline Murat.
Verbier, the main resort in Switzerland’s largest ski area, Les 4 Vallées, is known for its spectacular scenery and lively nightlife as well as a variety of extreme sporting events due to challenging terrain. At the foot of the slopes is the much-touted and recently opened W Verbier, the latest outpost of the world-renowned chain that takes chic luxury to the next level by blending Alpine influences with urban design. There are dining options available 24 hours a day including a 25-metre-long tapas bar, Eat-Hola and the Swiss-Spanish fusion hotspot, Arola, run by Michelin-starred chef, Sergi Arola.
Those looking for a more nature-oriented stay should try Cervo, located above the car-free village of Zermatt. As the locale’s only ski-in-ski-out resort and just a cable car ride away from the city centre, Cervo represents a perfect blend of traditional and modern, offering guests a certain level of tranquillity with breath-taking view of the Matterhorn. The hotel offers standard rooms and suites in 6 surrounding chalets and a completely private 240-square-metre “Owner’s Lodge”, which boasts a master bedroom, roof room, forest room, living area and outdoor whirlpool. The resort also offers a sun terrace, private spa and its restaurant serves modern fine dining with an Alpine and Mediterranean influence. This December, Cervo will open another eatery called Ferdinand, dedicated to fondue and barbecue.
If you’re looking for private luxury closer to town but that still flirts with the gorgeous natural backdrop Zermatt’s famous for, check into the 300m2 Heinz Julen Loft where Swiss designer Heinz Julen once hosted intimate, well-heeled celebrity gatherings. Selected by the London Times as one of the ‘20 coolest chalets in the Alps’, the dwelling sleeps 6, comes fully catered, boasts a fireplace, Steinway baby grand piano, and looks out on sumptuous views.
Probably the most famous of the Swiss resorts, at least in pop culture, is St. Moritz, which will be celebrating 150 years of winter tourism, launching on December 5 with City Race, a series of sporting events right in the city. December 1-3 will see the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival, which over the course of 20 years has welcomed 182 international master chefs from more than 30 countries. The Snow Polo World Cup brings the best of Great Britain to the Swiss Alps as international champions gallop through freshly fallen snow from January 29 – February 1, and the White Turf St. Moritz horse-race on frozen Lake St. Moritz is the only skijoring race in the world, kicking up its own share of powder on February 822.
For lodging, visitors have their choice of luxury options from classic institutions like the 5-star superior Kulm Hotel (the first to open in St. Moritz in 1856) to more contemporary establishments like the 4-star superior Nira Alpina, located in Surlej, just five kilometres away. The latter resort, which claims to be a place for “independent, nomadic travellers”, is connected directly to the Corvatsch cable car station, bringing you to 3,300 metres in just 15 minutes. Nira Alpina also offers pre-organised packages such as the ladies-only “Best of White”, a two-day experience that includes a stay at the hotel and accompanied off-piste or heli-skiing alongside other services like a well-deserved massage at the Nira Spa.
Rounding out the report is a newcomer, The Capra, opening in Saas-Fee this December. Described as a contemporary take on traditional chalet design, The Capra promises to offer complete relaxation in a setting of understated luxury, proposing a slew of activities that go from night sledding to wine tasting, proving a more low-key alternative to the ultra-trendy resorts mentioned above.
Whether choosing the classic delights of Gstaad or the more vibrant Verbier, luxury and leisure go hand in hand in the Swiss Alps with a range of resorts that are certainly worthy of the reputations that precede them.
Article by Christine Lee