Not every skier wants to throw themselves down a double black diamond ski slope. For many, the actual act of skiing comes as an added bonus to simply hanging out at some of the world’s luxury ski destinations, where pampering and the finer things in life take precedence. Grab your snowboard and put on your skis as we explore some of the best luxury ski resorts across the globe.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
St. Moritz is arguably the most luxurious ski resort of them all, listing Europe’s royal families and Hollywood’s biggest names as regulars on its roster. To put this in perspective: over 10,000 private jets land each year at its nearby airport! St Moritz’ main street, Via Serlas, is also home to endless boutique stores like Chanel, Bulgari and Emilio Pucci and is frequented by shoppers arriving in horse-drawn carriages. And while most come just to be seen, its merits as a ski resort should not be overlooked – St. Moritz has twice hosted the Winter Olympics and each year hosts a World Cup ski event.
Aspen, Colorado, USA
Aspen is no stranger to the global ski resort scene. Each Christmas and New Year, numerous celebrity magazines document a who’s who of Hollywood holidaying in town, so its fame may not come as a surprise to some. But don’t let the celeb hype put you off, Aspen is so much more than a star-spotter’s paradise. This popular resort is also home to the US’s most famed ski-in, ski-out five-star hotel, The Little Nell. Thirst not – 50,000 bottles of the world’s rarest wines line the vast cellars of this plush establishment. Aspen offers four mountains to choose from, all of which are home to some of North America’s most charming mountain restaurants. And while luxury skiers do flock to Aspen in the thousands, there is still a great mix of ski bums and billionaires at the town’s bars and restaurants that gives the place an eclectic edge.
Lech is how Austria does luxury skiing. An understated high-end ski resort shorn of huge five-star hotel chains and an old farming town with a 600-year-old history, Lech is yet another accessible luxury ski destination. Stroll its rustic streets and you will find barbers, bakers and milkmen going about their business as they mix freely with some of Europe’s rich and famous, the latter of whom come here to get away from it all. Lech was once the late Princess Diana’s favourite ski resort and it is also highly rated by The Beckhams as well as the Dutch royal family. And while wealth isn’t flaunted here as it is in St. Moritz, make no mistake about it, Lech offers a seamless high-end ski holiday. From its ski-in/ski-out five-star pensions run by jovial innkeepers to its perfectly groomed slopes ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers, everything in Lech is effortlessly perfect.
Located on one end of the world’s largest ski area, Les Trois Vallées, Courchevel is actually made up of four villages. Its highest village, Courchevel 1850, is where the wealthy throng. For here, up high in the French Alps where some of Europe’s best snow can be found, you’ll find more plush hotels than any city in France except Paris. 11 hotels with five-star ratings and three hotels with France’s most prestigious six-star ‘Palace’ rating await. If you’re hungry, there are more Michelin-starred restaurants here than in other any ski resort. Five of the lot even carry a two-star Michelin rating, so it is safe to say you’re in for a treat. And if you didn’t pack all you needed for your trip here, fear not. The Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dior boutiques that line its tiny main street are filled with an array of high-end products for you to fill your suitcase with.
Tennis ace Roger Federer built his holiday home at Lenzerheide, one of Switzerland’s luxury resort beacons. And while it’s not a household name outside Switzerland, Lenzerheide is famous for its numerous Michelin-Star restaurants and highly rated hotels. Despite the presence of such plush amenities, the resort has managed to keep its cosy and homely appeal. Here, on its sun-filled slopes (Lenzerheide’s unique geographical properties allows you to ski in sunshine all day long) you’ll ski by cows in paddocks, traditional villages with cobblestone streets and 800-year-old Catholic churches lit up like Christmas trees. A cable car was recently built to connect Lenzerheide to the neighbouring ski resort of Arosa, so there are now over 225 kilometres of groomed trails with barely a skier in sight.
Whistler-Blackcomb is how Walt Disney might’ve imagined a ski village – nestled below two huge pine-covered mountains connected by the world’s longest and highest gondola. Home to some of Canada’s finest hotels and restaurants, Whistler-Blackcomb combines some of the delicate things in life with the stunning natural beauty of the area with aplomb. Take shelter in hotels such as The Fairmont, Four Seasons and the Westin, which will cover all your ski-in/ski-out needs and boast jaw-dropping vistas of the surrounding peaks and pistes, and keep an eye open for black bears (at the start of the spring) as well as elk and deer, who roam the snowy slopes freely. While you’re here, you may as well throw in a heli-ski pickup from your back door and a dip at the Scandinave Spa Whistler Spa.
In Cortina, skiing is secondary to simply being seen. But let’s get one thing straight: the skiing here is some of the best in Italy, so much so that it was the host of the 1952 Winter Olympics. Beyond the slopes though, the village of Cortina is also a sight to behold. Here, grand 19th-century mansions dominate the streetscape and you’ll walk through cobbled, snow-covered streets on your way to chairlifts. Glamour in these parts comes in an understated, if not beautifully-done package, as two-star family-run Michelin restaurants compete for a share of the spoils.
Val d’Isere, France
Once a quaint alpine farming village, parts of Val D’Isere are now referred to by locals as ‘millionaire row’ – and with just cause. 45 hotels offer visitors a luxurious stay in some of the fanciest rooms for miles around. Crucially, the invasion of wealth hasn’t tarnished the traditional feel of Val D’Isere, which, as part of L’Espace Killy, forms one of the world’s most serene ski areas. A lively après ski culture reigns supreme here, as several lavish cocktail bars dominate the scene, flanked by two Michelin-star restaurants and six-star private homes for rent. You’ll have to reach deep into your pockets though. When you’re done with the spoils, treat yourself to some riveting slopes, serviced by five-star cable cars and funiculars that first came into service in the 1992 Winter Olympics.
Deer Valley, Utah, USA
Snowboarders detest Deer Valley on account of it being one of only four resorts worldwide that refuses to let them in. For skiers though, Deer Valley is a welcome oasis of white that trumps Aspen for the title of America’s best luxury ski resort, even though the former does hog the limelight. Like Switzerland’s Lech, understated luxury is the order of the day, as picturesque hotels operate with minimum pomp and flair. And the slopes speak for themselves – six mountains with some of the best snow, a stone’s throw away from your hotel, form the backdrop for many a World Cup event, year after year.
Close to Lech, Zurs is even more intimate and fancy, but in that gloriously unimposing Austrian style. The slopes here are never crowded as most of its high-end clientele prefer après ski and coffees in the sunshine over all-day riding (though one does have access to one of Europe’s largest ski networks). Après ski isn’t about all-night parties in these parts: think dimly-lit piano bars serving classy Bollinger champagne, giving the resort an intimate, if not romantic feeling. With barely 20 restaurants and hotels, quality trumps quantity in Zurs, with accommodation options such as the Royal Suite of the Hotel Zürserhof (personal butler included). Don’t be surprised if you rub shoulders with regulars such as Princess Caroline of Monaco and other gentry in this family-free ski destination.
Baqueria Beret, Spain
A luxury destination amongst luxury destinations, Baqueria Beret is fit for a king. In fact, King Juan Carlos himself has a cosy abode in these heavily-snowed parts. Its location in the Catalan Pyrenees, a mere two-hour drive from Toulouse, France, makes it easily accessible and its varied pistes provide a challenge for all skiers. The ultimate charm, however, lies in the Valle de Arán (The Aran Valley) – a Pyrenean spectacle that is home to several small Roman-era villages that have retained their rustic ways. Drop by the Möet Chandon lounge in the village of Baqueria for tapas and a glass of the good stuff.
Megève is to France what St Moritz is to Switzerland – a ski destination of a plush, if not unrivalled stature. The resort started hauling in the rich and famous in the 1920s, though it has gotten more accessible for all since then. Nestled near the Italian and Swiss borders, in the south of France, Megève is most easily accessible from Geneva, a one-hour car ride away. Enjoy the quiet pistes and drop into the town’s cobbled streets for a spot of shopping at one of its lavish shops.
- Everything you need for the ultimate ski holiday – a comprehensive guide for every type of skier