Upscale and utterly beautiful, the alpine village of Gstaad in southwestern switzerland has been a magnet to high society and international jetsetters for more than 100 years, and not just for its exceptional skiing, writes Joanna tovia.
despite its history as a holiday destination for the rich and famous, Gstaad has managed to stay true to its rural swissGerman origins and genuine alpine lifestyle, albeit with more glamour. For visitors seeking an authentic and upmarket ski destination that truly allows them to get away from it all, this picturesque ski resort delivers. the setting alone is straight out of a children’s storybook, the lights from the smattering of chalets casting a golden glow on snow-covered fields when the sun goes down and the magnificent alpine backdrop fades to black, only to rise up in all its mountainous glory when the onset of dawn heralds another action-packed day ahead.
staying indoors is tempting, despite the crisp mountain air and fun-filled activities that lie outside your chalet door. Five-star service isn’t hard to find, with numerous luxury hotels designed to meet the exacting standards of the most discerning guests – royalty, in other words. the alpina Gstaad is a sophisticated offering, and home to a six senses spa and michelinstarred restaurant. should you wish to experience the meditative benefits of holidaying without conversing, this hotel provides a silent badge so staff members are aware of your wishes. Just as grand, Gstaad Palace has been accommodating celebrities in lavish style for more than a century.
Call of the mountains the promise of adventure will lure you outside eventually, whether you’re a seasoned downhill skier or an absolute beginner. the resort is home to the only glacier ski area in the Bernese oberland, and there are 220 kilometres of slopes for skiers of every skill and experience level. as well as being one of the top cross-country ski areas in the alps, toboggan fans and freeriders will find themselves in snow heaven. don’t miss Glacier 3000 – alpine Coaster, the world’s highest-altitude toboggan run. If you haven’t tried bike riding in the snow, now’s your chance: fat bikes (mountain bikes with thick balloon tyres) can traverse winter trails with ease.
When the day’s activities draw to a close, a leisurely stroll down the village’s car-free promenade will entice you into exclusive boutiques, art galleries and delis filled with sausages and cheese produced just down the road (the region is home to more than 7000 cows). Just don’t fill up too much before dinner – Gstaad has 100-plus mouthwatering dining options ranging from cosy raclette restaurants to gourmet dining establishments with amazing views. Be sure to book a table at the michelin-starred Chesery, a chalet-style restaurant offering a warm welcome and some of the region’s finest cuisine.
Generational travel is encouraged in this stunning part of the world, with many of exclusive hotels offering family package incentives – parents pay full price, grandparents half price and children stay free in their own rooms.