Perfectly groomed slopes, Michelin-starred restaurants and celebrity spotting make these resorts the best for a swanky ski holiday
With the new ski season underway and a fresh layer of snow beginning to fall, it is time to hit the slopes. For those looking to reward themselves at a first-class resort with plenty of quiet privacy after a hard day on the piste, check out these luxury resorts around the world.
1. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is synonymous with luxury. As one of the most popular skiing destinations in the world, Aspen is essentially a collection of four ski areas – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. Collectively known as Aspen Snowmass, the ski areas cover 5,517 acres (2,233 hectares) with 336 trails served by 43 lifts.
Aspen has a collection of posh hotels that allow guests to relax like royalty. One of the most popular is the St Regis Aspen Resort. The resort’s award-winning Remède Spa is where guests can indulge in the most decadent experience imaginable. At round 4:45pm each day, don’t forget to join other guests for a daily champagne sobering ritual to celebrate the transition from the day into night.
2. Lech, Austria
It is said that Princess Diana took her two sons on their first ski trip here in 1991. A favourite of other royal families and celebrities, Lech has no shortage of five-star comforts but it still maintains its traditional charm. Overcrowding is also rarely an issue – Lech was the first European resort to limit a maximum of 14,000 day passes a day.
At the foot of the Schlegelkopf mountain lies Hotel Almhof Schneider, a magnificent hotel that offers the convenience of doorstep skiing. After a long day on the slopes, there is a resident masseuse ready to help soothe your aching muscles with a Tibetan massage, hot stone therapy or reflexology in one of the treatment rooms.
3. St Moritz, Switzerland
Welcome to the land where its guests in designer ski wear look as if they have just stepped out of a fashion magazine. As the first all-round winter sports resort in the world, St Moritz has had plenty of years to perfect the luxury ski experience before anyone else – and it has done exceptionally well, welcoming kings and queens, presidents, fur-clad movie stars and business tycoons to the secluded village since 1864.
Although it is a standout for its winter glitz, St Moritz is also a magnet for sports enthusiasts – alpine skiing, night skiing, cross-country skiing (including a marathon), freeride snowboarding, ski jumping, ice climbing, ice golf, horseracing on ice, polo on ice, cricket on ice, hockey, curling – if you can name it, you can probably find it here.
When it comes to accommodation, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, Kulm Hotel St Moritz and Carlton Hotel St Moritz are just some of the top choices here.
4. Whistler-Blackcomb, Canada
The largest ski resort in North America, Whistler-Blackcomb consists of two side-by-side mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, and they are linked by the 4.4km (2.7 miles) Peak 2 Peak gondola, a marvel of modern engineering offering guests unparalleled views from 436m (1,427 ft) above the valley floor. Back on land, Whistler-Blackcomb has over 200 marked runs and 16 alpine bowls for winter sports enthusiasts to tear through.
When it comes to luxury accommodation, most people believe Fairmont Chateau Whistler is the best but we like Four Seasons better as it is more intimate – Four Seasons has 273 rooms in comparison to Fairmont’s 528 rooms. To satisfy the most demanding clientele, Four Seasons also features 37 residential units to provide the ultimate home-away-from-home experience. Guests will have a personal mountain guide, a ski concierge, and on top of that, you can also pay for a private chef, personal butler or personal chauffeur.
5. Courchevel, France
Courchevel is a collection of villages namely La Praz1300, Village 1550, Moriond 1650, and Courchevel 1850 – the numbers refer to the altitude of the town in metres.
Courchevel 1850 is the largest and most famous village with many north-facing slopes offering deep powder for every skill level. The town’s 15 five-star hotels and seven Michelin-starred restaurants also appeal to some of the world’s wealthiest clientele.
The 36-room Cheval Blanc, which sits elegantly at the top of Courchevel 1850, is often the favourite because it offers one of the best ski-in ski-out experiences in the area. For those who are ready to splash out, book the penthouse apartment which offers lavish living areas and panoramic views of Courchevel. After a day of skiing, enjoy a fine meal at Le 1947, the first three Michelin-starred restaurant in Courchevel. This restaurant is created for serious gourmets – each dish is skillfully prepared and artfully presented, absolutely delicious yet not heavy.
6. Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Hokkaido, the northernmost main island in Japan, is where those-in-the-know will often head to. Once you touch down in New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, Hokkaido, drive 108km (67 miles) west and you will hit Niseko, a collection of four ski resorts – Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko and Annupuri – they are collectively known as Niseko.
Niseko is well-known for light, dry powder that blankets the resort from late November to early May each year, although the best time to ski is between December and March. Accommodation wise, our advice is to skip one of the few standard five-star hotels. Instead, check yourself into a Japanese Ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn. Our firm favourite is Zaborin Ryokan, a hot spring resort 13km (8 miles) from Niseko Grand Hirafu.
Combining modern comforts with the philosophy of Zen, this elegant ryokan oozes harmony and balance in every corner. There are only 15 villas here – and each has an indoor and outdoor onsen (hot spring bath) filled with volcanic water. Averaging US$1,500 a night, it is significantly cheaper than many other ski resorts mentioned here. The best part? Breakfast and dinner are included.
7. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
158km (98 miles) north of Venice, Cortina d’Ampezzo (or just Cortina) is a charming resort in the heart of the Ampezzo valley in the Dolomites. The resort is linked to the Dolomiti Superski, one of the world’s largest ski circuits with 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) of slopes across 12 ski regions.
Skiing in Cortina comes second to the social sport of seeing and being seen. Wealthy Italians escape to Cortina for a taste of la dolce vita, a life full of pleasure and luxury. Elegant boutiques and art galleries line the pedestrianised main street, Corso Italia, while fine restaurants serve up delicious mountain dishes. A must-try here is Casunziei, half-moon shaped pasta stuffed with beetroot and topped with poppy seeds and parmesan, a local speciality.
Accommodation wise, Cristallo is a grand five-star hotel features flawless rooms with wood panelling to accentuate the warm atmosphere. It is certainly a fine place to put your head down after a day of skiing… or shopping.
8. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
The legendary Corbet’s Couloir is high on many skiers’ bucket list. A narrow chasm between two rock faces packed with snow, this is the place where skiers come to test their skills – lying on their stomach, inching out head first over the abyss, turning around gingerly, before plunging at least 3.6m (12 feet) into the steep gully and making a quick right turn to avoid smashing into one of the rock walls.
To reward yourself after the triumphant jump/run, check into Amangani, a secluded luxury mountain resort featuring polished redwood beams and heated floors in every suite. Relax in the deep soaking tub or take a shot of whisky by the fireplace – you have earned it.
9. Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is one of the top ski destinations in Europe. The snow conditions seldom disappoint, the views are gorgeous (particularly when you look up at the mighty Matterhorn), and with the highest concentration of gourmet restaurants in the Alps, your stomach will thank you after a long day on the slope.
Designated as a car-free zone, Zermatt allows visitors to stroll the streets without a care as they pass by shops selling everything from high-end ski equipment to sparkling jewellery and Swiss watches. At the heart of Zermatt is Mont Cervin Palace, a five-star resort with an ambience of a private club. Here, you will find a heated outdoor pool with mountain views and a lounge for cigar connoisseurs to relax by the fireplace. Plus, Mount Cervin is described as an “Eldorado for gourmets”, providing guests with a choice of regional specialties, international delicacies and well-known classics at their restaurants.
10. Chamonix, France
Chamonix is home to the highest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc, standing at 4,807 meters (15,771 ft). With some of the best snow conditions in the Alps, this popular ski destination attracts millions of visitors to its 16 villages. Although it may not be ideal for a tranquil getaway, Chamonix is highly regarded for its freeriding, complete with a heroic landscape that makes other resorts feel tame.
The amazing ski conditions are matched with high-quality resorts, including Le Hameau Albert 1er, named after the Belgian King who loved this ski resort. All 35 rooms and two chalets have traditional décor with a touch of modern luxury. If for some unexplainable reason you get tired with the views of Mount Blanc, visit the two Michelin-starred restaurant on-site for a gastronomy pilgrimage – it will certainly make your taste buds very happy.
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This was first published in 2011 and was updated on 10/12/2019.