6 of the best luxury ski resorts
Words by Charley Olmer
As the snow clouds descend upon the mountains in the Alps and the Americas, it can only mean that ski season has well and truly arrived. Throughout the years, skiing has become much more available to the masses, package deals and budget hotels have popped up in various mountainous regions.
However, there are still a number of resorts that are reserved exclusively for the super-rich. The local airports are lined up with private jets, the opulent chalets are prepared to perfection and Dom Perignon is stockpiled. From the royals to celebrities and the 1%, these are the slopes that cater to their champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
Courchevel 1850, France
Arguably the most glamorous and well-known glitzy ski resort, wealthy skiers descend on Courchevel 1850 every winter to tackle the immaculate pistes and descend into debauchery at après ski. Situated in the Three Valleys region, Courchevel has 63 chair-lifts and 117 runs, catering to all ski levels. In addition, the Three Valleys ski pass grants access to three more fabulous resorts in the region, Meribel, Val Thorens and Les Menuires, making it a paradise for skiers wanting to catch the first and last lift of the day.
However, the fun really begins in the afternoon when the sun is blazing and the skiers are ready to refuel. The legendary Mykonos beach club, Nammos, created it’s winter venue in the luxury French alps resorts, serving the finest seafood and steaks and flowing vintage champagne in a fur-seated stylish setting. Be ready to pop bottles and dance as the music gets louder and the cheque gets longer.
When the last chair lift goes up and the sky gets dark, Courchevel’s Michelin star restaurants are packed with hungry skiers, before they let loose at the famous La Grange, racking up huge bills as they party until 5am. Stay in ultra luxury at the piste side Hotel Barriere Les Neiges for ski-in-ski-out benefits, or for those looking for private luxury should stay at the Chalet Edelweiss. At around £6,000 per person, per week, the seven floor 3,000sqm opulent and exquisite chalet sleeps 16 in eight double en-suites, complete with a team of staff on hand to cater to your every need, perfect for the luxury skier with the most discerning of tastes.
A firm favourite of Prince Charles, Harry and William, Klosters has maintained its reputation as one of the most elite and exclusive ski resorts in Europe. Of course, to attract the royals it comes with a sense of chic calmness and privacy, something many of the other luxury resorts lack, favouring a party atmosphere and vintage champagne showers. Klosters is a large resort and is home to 33 chair lifts and 97 pistes, mostly attracting intermediate skiers, but experts relish the thought of the off-piste powder snow and glade skiing.
Reserve a suite at the royal favourite, the Walserhof hotel for intimate luxury, close to the slopes and a short walking distance into the local town. But for the best experience, rent a luxury ski chalet for your whole party with full service put on by chalet staff. The Chalet Chimera sleeps ten, has a spa, stylish living rooms and en suites and stunning mountain views. Due to its clientele, après ski in Klosters is famous for their discretion, with royals often seen partying into the night. The Casa Antica nightclub and The Chesa Bar are two famous hangouts in the plush ski resort.
The Aspen Snowmass is home to four magnificent mountains, reaching all levels of skiers and each offering something different. With over 300 days of sunshine each year, it is understandable why Aspen is considered one of the best ski resorts in the world, and why there are year round events in the mountains. It isn’t just the well-groomed pistes that are known to be world-class, the hotels, restaurants and après ski is what gives Aspen its luxurious and fancy reputation. A-listers from all over the world descend on Aspen in the winter months, tackling the slopes, letting loose at après ski and splurging in Aspen’s designer boutiques.
Nestled in the mid-mountains is Cloud 9, the bistro that serves up one of the wildest parties, twice a day, every day. Yes, the fondue is steaming hot, but that’s not the attraction to this place. Music pumps all afternoon as hedonistic skiers and some very famous faces douse themselves and others in superbly chilled Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot. Apres ski is just as wild and revellers find themselves packed into hotspots, The Belly Up and Escobar.
Aspen has a number of 5 star luxury hotels to stay in, the ski-in ski-out Little Nell Hotel is a favourite among stars. Not only does it have some exquisite restaurants and a master sommelier, but the outdoor heated pool provides unspoilt, beautiful views across the mountains.
Verbier lies in the heart of the Valais region and is the largest ski resort in Switzerland with 410km of runs, perfect for all levels of skiing and snowboarding. The pristine slopes draw in avid skiers, gliding down the mountains in the day, and enjoying the glamorous ski town in the evening. The Etoile Rouge Supper Club is close to Place Central and one of the most expensive venues, serving up a European/Scandinavian cuisines, followed by a roaring party afterwards. Keen partygoers can continue on into the early hours at Farinet nightclub, a favourite of the young royals.
Home to some of the most expensive and luxurious ski chalets in the world, it is no surprise that celebrities and tycoons including Richard Branson, Prince Andrew, James Blunt and Bear Grylls have snapped up real estate here, while celebrities including the Beckham’s, Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ed Sheeran have all been spotted in the Swiss resort.
The W hotel presents contemporary alpine design and provides a memorable stay for skiers, but the most chic way to do Verbier is by renting a ski chalet. Book a stay for 18 in Richard Branson’s The Lodge, complete with Michelin star chefs, a spa, luxury suites, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, starting from £87,500 in the winter months.
Deer Valley, Utah
A little different to its European counterparts, Deer Valley, Utah isn’t a party resort, but more for avid skiers looking for some tricky terrain and fabulous pistes while residing in luxury. Deer Valley has come a long way and big investments by luxury hotels have transformed the resort. With 300 inches of annual blanketing the six mountains, expect plenty of powder snow days and skiing for all abilities. Thrill-seekers can challenge themselves on the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games runs while others can take the stunning, scenic runs down, all before warming up with the free, rich hot chocolate and marshmallows.
The Montage, St. Regis and the Forbes five star Stein Eriksen Lodge are some of the most luxurious and opulent hotels in the resort, promising top service, amazing spas, indoor and outdoor heated pools, and food prepared by leading chefs. The extravagant but quiet surroundings have attracted celebrities including Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.
While there isn’t a buzzing bar/nightclub scene in Deer Valley due to Utah being a conservative, Mormon state, it has some fantastic dining options. Grappa is the Italian go-to restaurant while Fletchers is a welcome edition. Opening in 2014, the restaurant also houses a vibrant lounge-bar, their melon vodka mule is the perfect drink to sip on after a long day on the slopes.
St Moritz, Switzerland
St Moritz is one of the most famous and glamorous ski resorts in the world. Even its name exudes elegance and style, which is exactly what the Swiss town brings. With 350km of excellent pistes, divided across four main areas, each hold a range of slopes for different levels of skiers, set beneath a dry and sunny climate, (a big reason why it hosted the Winter Olympics twice). For the 1%, this is the winter ski resort of choice with expensive cars the norm and shopping in top designer boutiques. The nearby Samedan airport is lined up with oligarch’s and celebrity private jets, giving you a taste of what is waiting for you in St Moritz.
The hotels in the Swiss resort cater for the glitterati and the Badrutt’s Palace, listed in the ‘Leading Hotels Of The World’ boasts panoramic views across the Engadine Alps and Lake Sankt Moritz. Guests have included Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich and Alfred Hitchcock and the hotel has managed to uphold its elite reputation since. Other stars including Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Hurley, the Monaco, Swiss and British royals have all been spotted on the slopes.
In addition to the world class skiing and hotels, there are plenty of Michelin star restaurants including Ecco and IGNIV, filling you up with frois gras and vintage champagne until your heart’s content. After dinner is when the resort presents why it is the billionaire’s winter playground. The King’s Club in Badrutt’s Palace is among the most talked about and buzzing nightclubs in St Moritz, expect plenty of Cristal and Dom Perignon and bills rack up into hundreds of thousands, each trying to outdo their neighbouring table. However, the night of spending is far from over as high-rollers head over to the St Moritz Casino in the Kempinski Grand Hotel. This is one ski resort for the ultimate hedonists.