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Great Escapes: Swiss skiing in style

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Special Ski Deal Prosperous Switzerland has never been a destination for the price-sensitive. But this winter one of its toniest resorts, St. Mortiz, aims to give skiers a break with its pass-included lodging deals. More than 100 hotels, including the elegant Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, will offer discount lift tickets at 25 CHF (about $27) per person per day for guests staying more than one night, through the end of May. For more information, visit www.engadin.stmoritz.ch /winter/en/skipass-inclusive/.

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By virtue of their extremes, both in height and locale, ski areas rarely have that buzzy center-of-the-universe vibe that emanates from certain quarters of, say, Paris or New York.

But Gstaad gets close.

The Aspen of the Alps, tony Gstaad — and specifically the glamorous mountain town’s new mountain-chic lodge Alpina Gstaad — offers a passing parade of Prada ski jackets, 300-Swiss-franc haircuts and oversized sunglasses that make everyone look like a movie star too vain to actually get away from it all while getting away.

Rarely do die-hard skiers need reassurance that Switzerland, gateway to the Alps, offers bucket-list runs. But in terms of true style, the country is inseparable from homey Bernese-style chalets and oozy fondue dinners or grand turn-of-the-century palace hotels with starchy dining rooms.

Now a trio of newcomers is remodeling the static Swiss image, maintaining high levels of service while modernizing interiors, injecting energy into five-star stays worth the long haul to the slopes.

ALPINA GSTAAD

Gstaad was a glitterati hive before the Alpina Gstaad opened last season, drawing everyone from Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier in the ’60s, to Madonna and Anne Hathaway last winter. But the newcomer has managed to invigorate the Swiss classic most closely identified with grand dame hotels, including the Gstaad Palace.

The 56-room, $320 million Alpina doesn’t so much reinvent the grand lodge as reinterpret it for contemporary tastes. Clad in centuries-old wood from farmhouses in the Bernese Oberland, the Alpina manages to fit into the landscape on 5 acres in the hillside Oberbort district, offering lofty views of the surrounding Saanenland countryside in southwestern Switzerland.

Indoors, sleek furniture by B&B Italia and a collection of contemporary art featuring works by Tracey Emin, Roy Nachum and Rob Pruitt updates the lobby, centered by a stone fireplace constructed from local river stones. Rustic, sauna-evoking wood paneling and light fixtures suspended on leather straps deliver Alpine-chic touches in the guestrooms.

Aimed at entertaining guests in situ, amenities include a 21,500-square-foot Asian-themed spa, two swimming pools, a private cinema, wine-tasting room and cigar lounge. Three restaurants include the only European outpost of the acclaimed Japanese restaurant MEGU, a traditional Swiss stübli or tavern, and the fine dining Sommet, helmed by chef Marcus Lindner, who earned two Michelin stars at Masa in Zurich. Only the ski resorts — including five options — are a shuttle ride away.

Details: Rooms from 850 CHF or about $900; www.thealpinagstaad.ch/

CHEDI ANDERMATT

Unlike Gstaad and other well-known Swiss resort towns like Zermatt, Andermatt has no name recognition or A-list following — for now.

But the small town about 100 miles east of Gstaad is poised to surface as the newest Alpine destination with the December opening of the Chedi Andermatt.

The first hotel planned for a former military outpost surrounded by undeveloped highlands, the 50-room Chedi is part of a master plan by Egyptian developer Samih Sawiris, who previously created the Red Sea resort of El Gouna, to include a pedestrian village of 42 apartment buildings, 25 chalets, six hotels and an 18-hole golf course ringed in snow-capped mountains.

Noted architect Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston International designed the Chedi as an oversized, modernized chalet, with extensive wood paneling, stone floors, fireplaces embedded in guestroom walls, a central lobby fireplace with a suspended hood and a skating rink in the courtyard.

A spa and wellness center clusters sofas beside the indoor lap pool. In addition to an après-ski bar and two fine-dining restaurants, a wine and cigar room includes a cheese cave devoted to local products.

Like everything else, the ski lifts here will be new, connecting to the nearby Sedrun resort with 130 kilometers of pistes, or runs.

Details: Rooms from 550 CHF or about $586; www.thechedi-andermatt.com/

W VERBIER

The trendy W chain started with urban boutique hotels and has since dipped a toe into the tropics with beach resorts from Vieques to Bali. But its new W Verbier, opening Dec. 1, is its first ski resort, as well as its first Swiss location, bringing the party to the slopes.

The hotel’s 123 rooms will be spread among four classic chalets with streamlined interiors featuring modern platform beds, built-in cabinet walls with a Scandinavian flair, fireplaces and mirror-walled bathrooms.

A resident DJ will pump the vibe in the lobby, and famed Spanish chef Sergi Arola will handle the food in both a tapas bar and a separate restaurant.

A spa with nine treatment rooms and serpentine indoor/outdoor swimming pool offers more physically restorative après-ski options.

A key element in the newly constructed pedestrian heart of the Médran, one of the four ski areas of Verbier, the W neighbors the main gondola, which whisks guests to more than 400 kilometers of runs up to 10,000 feet in elevation.

Details: Rooms from 500 CHF or about $539; www.wverbier.com.

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