Sleepy charm be­neath the glam­our and glitz of Gs­taad

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GE­ORGIE LANE-GOD­FREY

“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.

• gs­taad.ch/en

THE SPEC­TA­TOR

HUUS Ho­tel in Gs­taad

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