Sleepy charm beneath the glamour and glitz of Gstaad
“Come up, slow down.” This is the official slogan for Gstaad, in the Swiss Alps, but they seem to have forgotten one last important phrase — “And blow some serious cash”. For most visitors, money is no object, but Gstaad is trying to attract those with less giant budgets.
While chalet owners such as Madonna give the resort its showy reputation, there is another side to this Swiss village where the cows outnumber people. Gstaad is picture-postcard pretty. In the village centre you’ll often see a horse-drawn carriage jingling around the streets. An old Bernese mountain dog named Nico rides in the passenger seat. And while the streets are lined with high-end designer boutiques, the sweet wooden chalets that house them are pure alpine charm.
This charm comes at a price. But a growing number of three and four-star hotels are making it their mission to lower it a little. The four-star Arc-en-Ciel, a chalethotel at the bottom of the Eggli ski lift, has had a slick refurb, but its pizzeria provides one of the affordable dining options Gstaad desperately lacks. Meanwhile, the new HUUS Hotel opening in December promises a home-from-home vibe with cosy tartans and views across the mountains, minus the five-star price tag. This kind of accommodation makes Gstaad more accessible for families, which is good, because the resort is perfect for them. There are loads of long, gentle slopes ideal for giving learners confidence. In fact, over half the slopes are graded “easy”. More experienced adults needn’t worry about getting bored — the 250km of skiable terrain and nearby Glacier 3000 are plenty to keep advanced skiers entertained.
The most cost-effective way to explore Gstaad is to escape the glitz and glamour altogether. A few kilometres away lies Lauenen, a small village in the Saanenland region, known for its lake. Here there’s only one place to stay, Hotel Alpenland, a 1980s time warp with an equally retro menu. It’s tranquil and secluded. Another excursion is to Sparenmoos, which you can ski to cross-country from Gstaad, or take the bus to Zweisimmen and then the cable car. Head to the Muma Buvette and try a bottle of the local Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, which some call the best beer in the world. At first it tastes like a fruity wine, then more like an alcoholic cola. Like Gstaad itself, it is not quite what at first it seems. Having said that, it does cost the equivalent of about $45 a bottle.
HUUS Hotel in Gstaad