How To Have the Ultimate Swiss Alps Vacation

Blair Pfander

Alpina-GstaadThe newly-opened Alpina Gstaad hotel is redefining “Swiss chalet.”
After fifteen years and a $337 million renovation, the five-star property in Gstaad, Switzerland—accessible only by underground tunnel—combines familiar ski-vacation fare (fur, fondue and raclette) with luxe amenities like a cigar lounge and an outpost of the elegant Thai spa, Six Senses.
He may have his hands full with the the hotel’s long-awaited opening, but Managing Director Nik Leuenberger found time to share his top tips for hitting Gstaad in high style, including private sleigh rides and mountain-top lunch dates.
1. You Don’t Have to Ski. “Gstaad has been a winter playground for more than 100 years,” says Leuenberger. “But it is also glorious in summer and even in winter you don’t have to be a skier to enjoy it to the hilt. If you don’t ski downhill, there are still plenty of other winter sports in Gstaad, including cross-country. Gstaad has long been known as one of Europe’s top cross-country ski destinations with a total of 102 miles of trails and was named as one of the five best Nordic skiing regions in the Alps by the ADAC Skiguide 2011/2012.  There is also snow shoeing, sledding, ice skating and hot-air ballooning.”
2. Do Lunch. “There are plenty of traditional alpine restaurants serving delicious and hearty food including specialties such as fondue, raclette and rösti,” Leuenberger advises. “One favorite is Hotel Restaurant Hornfluh on the top of the mountain in Saanenmöser. New last year on top of Eggli Mountain is Snoasis, a modern take on the traditional Swiss alpine restaurant. Décor is cozy with contemporary touches such as banquettes covered in cow hide, black crystal chandeliers and trophy game heads studded with Swarovski crystals. Its menu differs from other more traditional places and includes everything from chicken wings and ‘snow dogs’—bread filled with cheese in the center—to homemade soups and quiche. It also serves typical things such as local cheese and bunterfleisch. They have a wonderful beef Stroganoff and they get the meat from the two butchers in Gstaad.”
3. Pack Properly.Dress is casual and sporty, but elegant, in Gstaad. Most residents and visitors wear ski clothes during the day and then change in the evening with cashmere throws, fur vests, designer jeans and, of course, après ski boots.”
4. Pick Up Souvenirs. “The Promenade is lined with shops and it’s fun to stroll and browse. Gstaad is the perfect place to buy a watch at jewelry stores like Chopard and Cartier. Early Beck—in the middle of Gstaad village—has delicious chocolates.  And a store called Pernet is one of Gstaad’s legendary places for gourmet items and edibles. You will find food and wine from all over the world there.”
5. Warm Up. “After skiing or shopping, people head to Charly’s for hot chocolate and pastries.  It is a great spot for people watching.”
6. Hail a Private Sleigh. “A nice winter option is taking a horse drawn sleigh around the village. Gstaad Tourism has an office at Promenade 41 and can suggest some excursions to everything from the Cathedral of Cheese to the neighboring villages of Saanen, Rougemont and Chateaux d’Oex.”

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