There is a special magic to skiing in the Alps. Nowhere else in the winter-sports world—not in the Rockies, the Andes, or New Zealand’s Southern Alps—are the peaks so sharp, pristine, and numerous. Nowhere else do the resorts have such charm, carved as they are from former farming villages, often centuries old. Nowhere else is the scene quite so glamorous, steeped as it is in old-world elegance and jet-set chic. And with the debut of several stylish properties this season, a sophisticated new breed of hotel is on the rise here, rivaling the posh chalets and grande-dame palaces that have long been the premier accommodations.
Part of the Three Valleys area in southeastern France, Courchevel became fashionable in the recreational skiing boom of the 1960s, and in recent years it has been the haunt of a certain international elite, including the Beckhams, Giorgio Armani, George Clooney, and a crowd of Russian oligarchs. Its new luxury hotel,L’Apogée Courchevel, is set in the quiet wooded Jardin Alpin enclave of the highest village, Courchevel 1850. The resort’s prime location next to one of the ski trails means guests can ski in and out. Though L’Apogée has a more contemporary look than many of its fellow Oetker Collection properties (Fregate Island Private in the Seychelles and Le Bristol in Paris among them), its 53 rooms and suites and five-bedroom chalet have a comfortable familiarity.
The intention of the designers, Joseph Dirand and India Mahdavi, was to create a cozy, welcoming space—”a home transformed over the years into a hotel,” Dirand says. The guest rooms feature furnishings upholstered in wool plaids and leather, all in a palette that favors deep jewel tones. From the lobby, a dramatic double staircase leads to the hotel’s brasserie-style restaurant, Le Comptoir de L’Apogée, while the sybaritic 7,500-square-foot spa contains a large mosaic-tiled pool.
About 50 miles northeast of Courchevel as the helicopter flies is the Swiss resort town of Verbier. With its rugged off-piste terrain and robust nightclub scene, this village in the canton of Valais appeals to a youthful, affluent clientele. And this winter it, too, has a chic new hotel, W Verbier, the first ski-destination property from Starwood’s W, a brand that targets the same trendsetting crowd.
The Amsterdam-based design firm Concrete has given the 123-room hotel a cool, clean look. The bedrooms have a mix of surfaces—tiles and deep rugs on the floors, buttoned-tufted velvet panels and pine on the walls—and splashes of bright color. At the hotel’s restaurant, Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola has devised a modern Spanish menu featuring tapas with a Swiss twist. The W’s central location is key to its appeal. Verbier’s famous nightlife is within easy reach, as are the slopes, thanks to the proximity of the main ski lift.
Northeast of Verbier, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, the village of Andermatt is undergoing a makeover that promises to put it squarely on the ski-resort map. Once a major crossroads, Andermatt was bypassed in 1882 by a railway tunnel and survived only as a garrison town. The exquisite backdrop has long attracted visitors though, and its steep slopes claim a dedicated following among serious skiers. But Andermatt had little room to grow—until the Swiss Army drew down its troops in the 1990s.
A developer who took on the site in 2005 is investing $2 billion to construct six new hotels, 42 apartment buildings, 25 chalets, and a golf course. Jean-Michel Gathy, the designer behind several St. Regis and Amanresorts properties, was hired to create the master plan and conceive the first hotel, the Chedi Andermatt, which opens this winter.
Though its profile recalls a chalet, the Chedi is more exotic inside, offering 104 sumptuous rooms and suites with dark-wood cladding and subtle lighting. The most striking public spaces are the lounges, with their central fire pits and suspended metal chimneys. Gathy designs his hotels to be, as he puts it, “charismatic, with comfort and energy”—in other words, a new kind of allure for an Alpine setting, but one well suited to the region’s stylish character.