Luxury hotels

10th January 2013, by Dave Watts

This Zermatt hotel is pretty luxurious

This Zermatt hotel is pretty luxurious

Much as we like staying in comfortable chalets and apartments, we also enjoy staying in good ski hotels – not poncy 5-star palaces but friendlier, comfortable well-run places with good food and good service. You’ll find plenty of those in the ‘Staying there’ sections of the resort chapters in the book. Here we pick out a few of the best in both Europe and North America, including some of our own favourites.

Let’s start with France. In many high, purpose-built resorts – Flaine and Avoriaz are prime examples – comfortable, friendly hotels of the type we like don’t exist. But there are honourable exceptions. Tignes, for example, has the smartly rustic Campanules, upgraded to a 4-star last year. Les Menuires has the chalet-style 3-star Isatis with 17 suites, each with a hot tub on its balcony. Val Thorens has several really nice hotels. A favourite with our readers is the cosy, woody, ski-in/ski-out 3-star Sherpa, but we also like the elegant, very central 4-star Fitz Roy and the Val Thorens next door, which is being renovated this summer and is to reopen as a 4-star rather than a 3-star, we hear. The resort’s first 5-star, the Altapura, opened last season, and a trusted reporter liked its ‘unfussy atmosphere with tip-top food and service’ but found it ‘ferociously expensive’.

Courchevel has lots of extremely swanky places, but most leave us cold. Megève, where the old money still goes, excels in the rustic chic that seems to elude Courchevel – places like the Chalet St Georges, Fer à Cheval and Coeur de Megève. In Méribel, the Grand Coeur and the Allodis are the editorial favourites. In Val d’Isère the Christiania and Blizzard are our hotels of choice.

Traditional or modern – take your pick

Austria has lots of reliable, traditional, family-run 4-star hotels where you can be sure of a comfortable time, substantial 4-, 5- or 6-course dinners and fabulous breakfast buffet spreads. Check out, for example, those advertising in our Lech and St Anton chapters. But Austria is also leading the way, along with some Swiss resorts, with ‘hip hotels’ (or ‘design hotels’ as it prefers to call them) where minimalism rules, along with smooth, hard surfaces of hardwood and glass. There are hotels like this in all sorts of resorts from glitzy Ischgl – the Madlein claims to have been the first ‘design hotel’ in the Alps – to rustic Mellau in the Vorarlberg-Bregenzerwald region, where we’ve enjoyed staying in the 4-star Sonne Lifestyle, and traditional Obergurgl, where we loved the 4-star Josl. In Switzerland, Zermatt is something of an Alpine design hot spot. Cool places there include the 5-star Omnia, reached by a lift that goes up through a rock, and the 4-star Cervo.

Italian highlights

A lot of Italian 3- and 4-star hotels can be pretty ordinary, so you have to know where to choose – read our book to find the best places. But some resorts have lots of good hotels. In Courmayeur, we’ve really enjoyed staying at two 4-stars, the Auberge de la Maison in Entrèves and the Villa Novecento a short walk from the centre; and reporters consistently praise the 3-star Bouton d’Or. Tiny Champoluc in the Monterosa region has the very comfortable and woody Breithorn and the Rouja, both 4-stars that we have stayed in very happily. And it has some great places up the hill too: Stadel Soussun, Rascard Frantze and the Aroula are all essentially mountain restaurants with charming rooms, and the new Hotellerie de Mascognaz is a lovingly restored group of stone chalets in a very isolated spot reached by skidoo. And we’ve had wonderful stays in two hotels in the Sella Ronda area of the Dolomites: La Perla in Corvara and the Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano – both have superb Michelin-starred food, lovely spacious and well-furnished rooms, fabulous service and a great relaxed atmosphere.

North American options

Not surprisingly, North America has its share of deeply comfortable lodgings, but some of it is too corporate and impersonal for us. In Aspen, we like the Little Nell, the historic Jerome and the boutique Lenado. At Deer Valley in Utah, Stein Eriksen Lodge is the place to go. Big chains sometimes deliver: the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole takes some beating. In Whistler, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler has the edge – but at Lake Louise another Fairmont Chateau comes second to the perfectly relaxing Post hotel.

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