Whether you’re more of a ski hotel or a chalet person, Daisy Finer and Felix Milns choose the very best winter wonders
Blessed with a crowd of different gradient slopes accessible to all levels of skill, Andermatt has been a skiing resort for a hundred years. Now a new alpine-Asian hotel has brought a high-end feel to the ex-army village, enough to rival Gstaad or St Moritz. Its vast 2,400 sq/m spa uses Ila, REN and Alpienne products developed from locally grown plants and herbs for body polishing and exfoliation, while Balinese four-handed massages and oriental bathing ceremonies are a must. Three marble hot plunge pools and a Jacuzzi look out onto snow-covered fir trees, and a 35-metre swimming pool faces a pond that transforms into a winter rink where skaters sip mulled wine. Post-treatment, homely golden lighting cascades onto the bar’s enormous sofas like a snowdrift, a scene only improved by their signature blueberry martini. Nine black metal flues hang over huge fires, while walnut, oak and pine give the expansive space a stately intimacy. The restaurant has four kitchens, each with a speciality, and their Japanese restaurant boasts a tempura or a sushi and sashimi bar. Given its commanding site at the centre of the Swiss Alps, the Chedi is uniquely poised to dominate a sizeable slice of the outdoor set’s glamorous winters. Doubles from £450.
The first thing to remember when you’re staying 1,800m above sea level is to drink at least one extra litre of water a day. The alpine air is dry, but oh how delicious it is to gulp it down in lungfuls. This five-star belter of a hotel is not a looker from the outside but it’s a creature entirely comfortable in its own skin; from the textured wallpaper to each piece of furniture, everything has been chosen by interior designer Carlo Rampazzi because it has a story to tell. The place has bags of style and a quirkiness (a recurring stag theme, pop colours and modern art on the stairwells) that gives it character. Five restaurants means that dining never gets dull, with Michelin-starred chef Tobias Jochim at the helm, you can fine dine on sous vide king crab or, just as fun, is to dip your bread into a classic truffle, champagne and cheese fondue. But you’re really here to get out onto the mountains; for hiking, tobogganing, skiing or snowboarding – you can get straight out via the hotel’s own express train. There’s a wealth of every type of run and, thanks to a new pass being opened, space to roam. It’s the rfect place to start the kids skiing, plenty of gentle slopes without the frenetic pace of the bigger resorts. After a day in the snow, head to the Mario Botta-designed spa; he sculpted the 5,000 sq/m temple to wellness out of the mountain and cleverly added seven ‘sails’ to cleverly reflect light into building. This is the hotel’s calling card and a superb one it is too. Doubles from £424 B&B.
3. Valbella inn
Only an elite few knew of the joys of Lenzerheide before the new peak-to-peak gondola link to better-known Arosa, but one of them just happened to be the CEO of the Lego group, principal investors behind the Valbella inn. Another was tour operator Powder Byrne, swift to discover Swiss family skiing’s best-kept secret. The hotel has two giant kids’ areas designed by Lego, a fabulous pool, two excellent restaurants, on-site ski shop and a stand-alone, four-storey spa building to rehab those weary ski legs. It spreads over four distinct buildings, with 2013 seeing the launch of Tgiasa Fastatsch, whose spacious rooms have a simple, clean aesthetic of oak floors, cow hides and textured taupe. The Fastatsch restaurant is the epitome of mountain contemporary cool; slatted timber spindles over soaring walls of glass overlooking the Grisons mountains. You can sip hot chocolate from its sunny terrace overlooking the ski school kinderland. The skiing is awesome and blissfully quiet, and the hotel a true hidden gem. In fact, they fit together like Lego. Seven nights B&B from £3,085pp, incl flights and transfers.
In an emerald green forest high above the ski-centric village of Leogang, in Austria’s Salzburgerland, Forsthofalm is a nature/nurture hideaway made entirely from fragrant timber, stone and glass all held together by thousands of eco-friendly beechwood pegs. Built by visionary hotelier Markus Widauer, these strong green credentials have been expertly teamed with a fiercely cutting-edge design. This is highlighted in the heavenly, energy-boosting 1,000 sq/m rooftop Sky Spa – the jewel in Forsthofalm’s crown. The pure life force of the mountain views – seen through floor-to-ceiling windows – acts as a gentle natural tonic too. After all this you will be ready to sleep for a week. The nature theme also extends to the 52 rooms and suites. Doubles from €138 to €309 per person, half-board.
5. Le Kaila
Méribel’s first five-star hotel has a superb ski-in ski-out village location at the foot of Chaudanne, the main hub, with glorious views of Le Face, the ladies’ Olympic downhill course. While the location is spot on, so is the service. With 20 years’ experience, hotel manager Christophe Brocade has a more than steady hand on the tiller; all his staff are low-key yet wonderfully attentive, as required. The hotel has adroitly identified its target market; it’s not trying to bring neighbouring Courchevel to Méribel but, instead, has a very gentle, unpretentious and laid-back vibe. Start the day with a detox breakfast with fresh wheatgrass, ginseng and pollen shots, alongside Iberico hams, fresh eggs and unmistakably French clay pot yoghurts. You will need to detox after you have enjoyed the excellent Michelin-starred dinners. Either that or swim and sweat it off in the cave-like pool and spa. Seven nights B&B from £1,105pp.
Avoriaz is an architectural triumph. A futuristic shingle-clad clifftop vision from the ’60s, it is still as compelling today. The Hotel des Dromonts was the first building to be constructed, and remains the only hotel in a resort dominated by Pierre & Vacances apartments. While its red cedar-clad exterior remained utterly captivating, internally it needed a facelift. Step forward famed hoteliers the Sibuet family from Megève. They have done a marvellous job, creating a Thunderbirds-style HQ decorated with iconic ’60s furniture in bright orange and cowskin. To eat, there’s the signature Sibuet blood-red Enfants Terribles restaurant, and a timber-clad bistro with chandeliers made from vintage skis. One of the best views of the iconic building is from the outdoor hot tub, accessed down a Space Odyssey mirrored corridor. Wonderful. Seven nights B&B from £678pp, incl flights.
7. Chalet Husky
Radically refreshing, Chalet Husky turns conventional ideas of chalet design on their heads. The top floor of the chalet is almost entirely open-plan, with a double-storey void under a vast sloping glass roof. Necessity being the mother of invention, this throws natural light down into a lower-level atrium with glass-walled bedrooms and 12-foot high palm tree. Upstairs there’s a recycled denim-clad sofa, retro Charlie Adam mountainscapes, neon box Perspex dining chairs with sheepskin cushions, funky architectural lighting and more traditional lounge with open fireplace. Lurking behind a door is a games room quite literally built off the cliff face, with a natural climbing wall, archery and laser-shooting gallery. Madcap but completely brilliant. It’s a flagship Scott Dunn property so comes with complimentary bar with Sipsmith spirits and Perrier-Jouët, personally designed menus and well-honed service with a smile. Each bedroom has a different theme, be it glam, upcycled or timeless mountain, the gym has a vintage punchbag and montage wall of old comics, and the spa comes with an indoor glass-walled pool and waterfall. Seven nights chalet board from £1,675pp (based on 14 people exclusive hire), including BA flights and transfers.
8. Pine Lodge
Pine Lodge occupies a prime spot on the south-facing slopes of Selva Gardena in northern Italy. This luxe four-bedroom chalet blends traditional charm with modern detailing: red geraniums, blonde wood and muted fabrics contrast elegantly with splashes of exuberant glamour – think mirrored surfaces, roll-top baths and rich faux fur throws. Alongside the traditional log fire and Jacuzzi, you’ll find a subterranean entertainment area, complete with gym, mini-spa and cinema room. With a private butler, driver and chef on hand, you could happily never leave your cosy mountain hide-away. If you do venture out, access to skiing is superb – you’re just 300 metres from the nearest lifts and the famous Sella Ronda runs through the village below. Should you want culture, the concierge will arrange gourmet excursions (lunch at the mountain hut Gostner Schwaige is a must), tours through WW1 tunnels and trips to the new Zaha Hadid-designed Messner Mountain Museum. Regardless of how you spend your day, the best way to spend your evening is enjoying the chef’s refined Tyrolean and Italian dishes, from soft mountain cheeses to luxurious pasta, as the sun sets over the majestic Dolomites outside. From €1,300 a day for a minimum three night stay.
9. Baita 1697
A new addition to the Luxury Chalet Collection for winter 2015/16, Baita 1697 is a rare treat in the Italian Milky Way. Tucked away in a quiet hamlet near Sestriere, the chalet is an old stone farmhouse dating back to 1697; externally it is rooted in tradition yet, inside, it’s all pared-back understated glamour. The main communal spaces have sophisticated grey rough-cast plaster walls decorated with striking Tibetan portraits, beautifully lit arching stone fireplaces and ceilings, designer felt and leather armchairs, and antique timber panelling. A tray of candles hangs over the main square dining table bedecked with furs, and frameless glass balustrades lead up to stylishly minimal bedrooms, where hanging pendant bedside lights bring a touch of hotel glamour. One bathroom comes with antique oriental panelled cupboards and petrol blue walls, while another bedroom has a copper in-room bath. There’s even a hot tub on the concealed roof terrace. There are five double bedrooms and a kids’ dormitory, sleeping up to eight. While owner and interior designer Lucy McCullough has brought an authentic yet international feel to the interiors, the service is rooted in traditional Italian hospitality. Your hosts are Italian home cooks, so the food more than lives up to its inspirational settings. It’s a rare chance to get away from the mainstream chalet resorts, and the best possible base from which to explore the Milky Way. Seven nights exclusive hire chalet-board from €16,600 per week, not incl flights and transfers (sleeps ten, plus eight).
10. Chalet De L’Ange
Backdropped by woods and overlooking open snow-clad fields, Chalet De l’Ange feels wonderfully remote in the small, sunny hamlet of Montriond. It’s the flagship property of the small but perfectly formed local chalet operator AliKats. Ali and Kat both live year-round in Morzine, and pride themselves on personal service and excellent food. Kat personally trains her chefs for three weeks before the start of the season, and last season they won the prestigious Best Food in Morzine award. Justifiably given their hake with warm chorizo vinaigrette or melt-in-the-mouth Asian belly pork. The chalet itself is rather unique, with an indoor hot tub and 30-foot high ceilings, overlooked by a multi-levelled lounge and dining area. Huge walls of glass look out over the church spire to the mountains beyond. Old school tiled floors are lifted by retro ’50s style lighting and furniture and bathrooms come with sophisticated REN bath products, but Alikats’ vibrant personality shines through the confirmatory hip flask of toffee vodka for every guest and the rack of old onesies for guests to borrow. You can’t help but share their enthusiasm. Seven nights chalet board from £407pp, excluding flights.