SWITZERLAND

A very welcome escape to a winter wonderland in the magical Swiss Alps

By Arnaud Serie

In France, we are once again in lockdown and I know from my friends in Ireland it is the same.

It’s been a really tough year with very little golf and very little travel. However, prior to Christmas I got a wonderful opportunity to visit Gstaad, which is located in the South West of Switzerland. I haven’t been to Gstaad before for a winter break, as the French Alps are more or less on my doorstep, so I am a little spoiled for choice haha.

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I was so excited just to be travelling again after the lockdown and heading to Switzerland for a bit of snow and to create some new trick shots.

Gstaad was new for me and I was blown away with the hotel - Ultima Gstaad. Definitely one of the top three places I have ever visited.

Aside from watches, cheese and chocolate, there is hardly anything that people more clearly connect with Switzerland than its unique mountain scenery.

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As a winter ski destination, it is well known to many Irish skiers and I have heard many great stories about the place. Tucked away in the breathtakingly Swiss Alps, this charming resort town offers an appealing getaway where scenic vistas and an unhurried pace are a way of life. Visitors really do “come up to slow down.”

Gstaad sits about 79 miles from Geneva in the German-speaking Bern ese Oberland, but Swiss-German, French, and English are also common.

The town is the most renowned of the 10 Alpine villages in the region, sometimes collectively referred to as Saanenland or simply, Gstaad.

The travel time from Geneva is just under two hours by car and three hours by train.

It is indeed one of the world’s most exclusive and celebrity-packed ski resorts. Gstaad consists of five independent areas, including Glacier 3000, the only glacial area in the Berner Oberland region. For families and children, Heiti-Gsteig and Lauenen are favourites and are great for freestylers and snowboarders.

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Gstaad, named "The Place" by Time magazine in the 1960s, is widely known for its famous part-time residents and vacationers. Famous regular visitors to Gstaad have included Madonna, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Peter Sellers, Elizabeth Taylor and Roger Moore.

Designer labels including Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Chopard, Brunello, Cucinelli, Prada, Moncler, Ralph Lauren, and Cartier all have stores in Gstaad.

Although it’s long been considered a luxury oasis for celebrities and jet setters, Gstaad is not all hype. Never mind the cavalcade of exclusive boutiques, restaurants, and five-star hotels. There’s pure beauty here. A walk through Gstaad’s car-free village reveals shutter and flower box-adorned chalets poised against a backdrop of mighty mountains. The allure of the landscape is reason enough to holiday in this area of Switzerland, but the abundance of luxury certainly enhances the experience.

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For outdoor enthusiasts, Gstaad offers year-round events and activities and for social travellers. In winter, skiers and snow boarders live on the slopes by day and linger in the village’s pubs by night. Summer brings endless opportunities for hiking the extensive 186-mile trail network while soaking up unparalleled views, where painterly and often snow-dusted peaks reach towards the azure blue skies. 

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With more than 130 miles of runs, Gstaad attracts skiers of all levels. The outdoor excursions are plentiful, from downhill to family-friendly courses, and from night skiing to snowboarding and there is nothing more romantic than a horse drawn sleigh ride though the glistening forests and countryside – it’s just magical.

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One of the region’s most celebrated attractions is Glacier 3000 Les Diablerets. It is the only glacier ski spot in the Bernese Oberland. Winter enthusiasts can explore 17 miles of runs at an altitude ranging from 4,100 to 9,800 feet. 

If skiing at those heights sounds too intrepid, there’s a softer adventure to be had. Ride the Gstaad cable car to the Scex Rouge station, then hop the Ice Express chairlift to the Glacier Walk, a marked glacier trail, to Quille du Diable. The hour-long trek over the glacier is available year-round, except for a few weeks of maintenance in October. Even in summer, you can expect snow so you need to dress accordingly. 

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The world’s first suspension bridge connecting two summits, Peak Walk by Tissot floats at 3,000 meters and is a must do for the views. I’m good with heights but I was a little nervous walking across the 30-inch-wide walkway, but it was worth it for the incredible panoramas of Mont Blanc (the highest mountain in the Alps), the Matterhorn, Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger.

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In winter the magnificent ski areas are served by about 60 ski lifts, which enable runs to be varied in accordance with individual abilities and cable cars will ferry you into the mountains.

In summer, Gstaad plays host to several world-class festivals and tournaments including the Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Swiss Open Gstaadand the Hublot Polo Gold Cup. In January, don't miss the hot-air balloon festival in Chateau-d'Oex.

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There are many exclusive hotels in Gstaad and I was staying in the best of the lot – Ultima Gstaad. It is an award-winning 5-star superior hotel, comprising three sprawling wooden chalets, blending traditional Swiss architecture and contemporary elegance. Recognised for its exceptional services, state of-the-art facilities, as well as gastronomic and wellness experiences, it has become one of the most exclusive luxury hotels in Switzerland creating an artful getaway for the world’s elite.

Upon arrival, you are met with the elegant atmosphere of the hotel's contemporary design, luxury Baccarat crystal chandelier, a grand piano and a blend of traditional wooden features.

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It is a place of master craftsmanship, known throughout the world for its unparalleled beauty and technicality of its creations. The same standards apply for the furniture designed exclusively for the boutique hotel.

Beauty can be found everywhere at Ultima Gstaad, including in the majestic and pure architectural lines, extremely soft and deep fabrics, precious materials, and scenic views of the mountains.

Newly renovated for the winter season, Ultima Gstaad reopened in December 2020 revealing a new world-class spa and aesthetics clinic by Swiss Perfection, a private cinema, south-facing outdoor terrace, 2 bars and a vibrant restaurant -  an authentic and sophisticated luxury Swiss experience.

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Ultima Gstaad’s exquisitely crafted chalets house eleven refined suites featuring chic-yet-lavish interiors, steam fireplaces for cosy evenings, and private terraces or balconies with breath-taking views overlooking the Alps. They have eleven ultra-luxurious suites, range from 46 m2 to 260 m2 and offer individual style and neutral colour tones. From bronze fireplaces to wooden walk-in wardrobes, offices, spacious lounges, and marble en-suite bathrooms, everything has carefully been designed to their distinct signature style to provide an extraordinary experience.

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Ultima Spa which covers an area of over 800m2 and offers unequalled standards of health and wellbeing treatments with a blend of state-of-the-art technologies and world-class experts. The dressing room is adorned with Carrara white marble, while Sahara black veined marble surrounds the long, 15-metre swimming pool. Ultima Spa partners with Swiss Perfection, a leading brand known for its anti-ageing therapies and treatments. The signature Swiss Perfection treatments are designed to rejuvenate the body and mind, restoring your youthful appearance and energy.

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For groups of friends or families looking for a cosy mountain escape, Ultima Gstaad also features six magnificent residences ranging from 160m2 to 250m2, each offering exceptional privacy along with the comfort of shared living space, which is where I stayed and it was absolutely stunning. My Ultima Residence comprised of four bedrooms, a kitchen and a lavish living area – it was the sort of place where you hate to pack your bags when it is time to leave, haha.

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Guests can opt for total seclusion while enjoying the full suite of hotel services, including the possibility of having a private chef to prepare custom menus. Connected to the hotel, the design follows the same decor and elegance as that of the hotel.

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All the Ultima Residence apartments are designed as complete living spaces with kitchen, dining room, bathrooms, dressing rooms and bedrooms. The 10-seater dining room gracefully mixes high-end leather and sumptuous velvet chairs with impressive crystal chandeliers. Filled with natural light, the high ceilings and remarkable beams in each residence make guests feel completely at home. This was the right place for a luxury golf trick-shot...

Ultima Gstaad offers unparalleled services to cater to the needs and desires of the world’s most discerning guests. It has dedicated in-house teams which provide on-demand Ultima Signature Services, ensuring a consistently high level of service to meet all guests pampering and wellness needs.

Apart from all the activities available in Gstaad (back to my golf folks), you have the Golfclub Gstaad-Saanenland, which is a well maintained 18-hole course, embedded in a nature reserve of national importance and with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The golf club offers a driving range and various practice facilities.

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Well, I have to say I didn't play golf this time... But I will come back in summer to check this course out.

Gstaad and Ultima Gstaad really are incredible, unique places and they surpassed all my high expectations -  I can’t recommend them highly enough.

From bronze fireplaces to wooden walk-in wardrobes, offices, spacious lounges, and marble en-suite bathrooms, everything has carefully been designed to their distinct signature style to provide an extraordinary experience.

Now is the time to get great value by making a booking for 2021 for you, your friends or your family. 

There is no better way to help get through lockdown than knowing you have already booked a winter holiday to Gstaad in Switzerland – Dreaming of a winter wonderland.

For more information: https://www.ultimagstaad.com/en

For Special Offers: https://www.ultimagstaad.com/en/offers

 

 

 

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