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ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND
One of the world's most famous – and among the first – winter sports resorts, glitzy St Moritz has a lot going on beyond the slopes. Throughout the winter, the frozen lake is home to several sporting events: the Snow Polo World Cup has been running since 1985 and next year takes place from 27th to 29th February; the White Turf horse race on snow is held every year on the first three weekends of February and is a spectacular event where racehorse owners, trainers and jockeys from all over the world compete; for three days from the 8th to 10th February, a nine-hole golf course is created and the course is open for free golfing after the morning tournaments; there’s also cricket on ice from 15th to 18th February where six teams will fight for the Cricket on Ice Trophy. Most famous of all is the legendary St Moritz Tobogganing Club’s Grand National Cresta Run (on 18th February) where 21 men hurtle down the icy run lying stomach-down on a metal tray in search of fame and glory and the honour of being able to wear the club´s colours.
The resort also holds several foodie festivals, the most important being the St Moritz Gourmet Festival (20th to 28th January 2023) – next year, it is dedicated to Middle Eastern cuisine and ten guest chefs will create Arabic, Israeli, Lebanese, Syrian, Moroccan, Iranian or Turkish dishes. If the above is not enough to keep you entertained, there are lots of upmarket shops (everything from Chanel to Prada), excellent restaurants and lovely cafés – be sure to follow in the footsteps of Audrey Hepburn and head to the 120-year-old Confiserie Hanselmann for coffee and an Engadin caramel and walnut pastry. To enjoy the endless views from the top of the mountains, give snowshoeing a try or take a funicular to the top of Muottas Muragl for a winter snow hike.
Where To Stay
Ultra luxe: Located in the sunniest spot in the town with overwhelmingly beautiful views over the Engadine mountains, the opulent Carlton Hotel was built in 1913 for the Russian tsars. It has 60 spacious suites with huge marble bathrooms and balconies offering spectacular views. A shuttle bus takes skiers to the cable car station; for the non-skier, it is just a five-minute walk into the centre of town, or head to the three-floor spa where you’ll find an indoor and outdoor pool, a fitness room, steam rooms and saunas, as well as seven treatment rooms where you can choose from a range of massages, facials and beauty treatments. There are two restaurants: the Italian two-Michelin-starred Da Vittorio and the elegant Romanoff.
Luxe: The legendary grande dame Suvretta House is straight out of the pages of a fairy tale, with impressive turrets and a Belle Époque exterior. Situated about 2km from the town, the hotel was built in 1911 by Swiss hotel pioneer Anton Bon and remains in the family today. The 181 rooms vary in size and style but offer stunning views from every window. You can spend your days doing very little here, enjoying the views or enjoying a treatment in the spa. There is also a 25m indoor pool, and there’s a lovely 40-minute scenic walk into town, or you can take the shuttle bus. Within the hotel, there are two restaurants: The Grand Restaurant for fine dining (jacket and tie must be worn) and the bistro-style Suvretta Stube; you can also eat in the cosy Chasellas chalet which is only a few minutes’ drive away.
Luxe for less: Hotel Waldhaus-am-See is a charming alpine lodge by the lake, about 15 minutes’ walk from the town centre. Rooms are simple and traditional with epic views. The restaurant serves excellent regional cuisine, and the hotel also has a large selection of over 1,000 whiskies and an impressive wine list.
Kitzbühel is a small alpine town east of Innsbruck in the Austrian province of Tyrol. The fashionable winter resort, with its 230km of prepared ski runs, is best known for the annual Hahnenkamm races when the best skiers in the world take on the challenge of two downhill races and the slalom (16th to 22nd January 2023). The town is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of its snow polo world cup (12th to 15th January 2023) featuring eight international teams and over 120 horses. The traffic-free medieval centre offers plenty for non-skiers – the cobbled streets are lined with smart boutiques, bars and restaurants; you could also try your hand at curling on the lake or take the train for a day trip to Salzburg or Innsbruck. The 16th-century museum chronicles the history of the town and the area’s winter sports, with paintings by local artist Alfons Walde. Head to its rooftop terrace for sweeping views of the town and mountain scenery. The area also offers cross-country skiing, snowshoe hiking and tobogganing, as well as carriage rides.
Where To Stay
Ultra luxe: If you’re after an exclusive and totally spoiling stay, Kitzbühel has an extensive choice of lovely chalets. One of our favourites, and ideal if you are in a group of skiers and non-skiers, is the five-bedroom Hahnenkamm Lodge. It’s situated on the slopes and is ski in/ski out, but if you choose to stay in, you’ll find a large terrace with a firepit, a Finnish pine sauna, steam room, relaxation area and fitness area. The interiors are luxe but with an alpine charm and super cosy, too – ideal if you want to curl up with a book. Service is impeccable and you’ll eat the best gourmet food.
Luxe: The family-owned Relais & Chateaux Tennerhof is a romantic five-star hotel with lots of atmosphere. It’s located on a hillside with panoramic views of the town and the surrounding mountains. The 39 rooms and suites are spacious and furnished with the family’s antiques; some of the larger suites have open fireplaces. You’ll find three restaurants, an outdoor and indoor pool, and a spa with saunas, steam baths and relaxation rooms.
CHATEAU D’OEX, SWITZERLAND
This charming Swiss town is situated half-way between Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland and the small town of Gruyères in the canton of Fribourg. It is easily reached by rail from Geneva, with a change onto the MOB train in Montreux. Thanks to its favourable micro-climate, the area has developed into a hot-air ballooning centre, the highlight being the annual International Balloon Festival (21st to 29th January 2023) when Château-d’Oex is transformed into the hot-air balloon capital of the world, attracting balloonists from at least 20 different countries and bringing together around a hundred hot-air balloons. Created in 1979, this is one of the few hot air balloon festivals which takes place in winter and the blue skies, crisp white snow and multicoloured hot air balloons make quite a spectacle. One of the highlights is the Night Glow event – a dazzling light and sound show, where hot-air balloons, paragliders, members of the Swiss Ski School and pyrotechnicians come together and set the night alight. For skiers, there are only a handful of runs but from Rougemont there is a cable car connection to the pistes in Gstaad, and the ski areas of Schönried and Saanenmöser are a train hop away. This is a great place for cross-country skiers with 35km of trails through the snow-covered fields and forest. Other activities on offer include snowshoe treks, toboggan runs and winter walking trails. Classy and elegant Gstaad is nearby if you are after some high-fashion shopping – the Promenade is packed with boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Hermès, Prada…
Where To Stay
Luxe: Ideal for a homely, laid-back stay, the Ermitage is a charming lodge with stunning views. The rooms are traditionally styled with exposed beams and terraces. The restaurant serves small tasty dishes prepared with fresh, seasonal products from the hotel’s vegetable garden and surrounding farms.
BOHINJSKA BISTRICA, SLOVENIA
Slovenia is little visited in winter but has a lot to offer non-skiers who still want a snow holiday. The unspoiled village of Bohinjska Bistrica is near two of the country’s prettiest natural attractions – lakes Bled and Bohinj – which are quiet during the winter months but picture-postcard perfect when the surrounding mountains are dusted with snow. The area is great for exploring on foot and the free local bus service, which links the two lakes and passes through the village, makes getting to these beauty spots very simple. On Inntravel’s seven-night holiday, you’ll also get a number of excursions with a local mountain guide – from a torch-lit stroll along the shores of Lake Bohinj and a guided visit to a local cheesemaker to see how some of the best Slovenian cheeses are made. Snowshoeing is also available.
Where To Stay
Luxe for less: On this trip, guests will stay in the stylish heritage Sunrose 7 boutique hotel. This cosy digital detox hideaway is located on the edge of Triglav National Park – Slovenia’s only National Park – and has lovely views of the Julian Alps. It has a small spa and you’ll also enjoy excellent cuisine, using locally sourced ingredients.
SAINT-NICOLAS DE VÉROCE, FRANCE
Over the hill from fashionable Megève in Haute Savoie, this small resort faces the majestic Mont Blanc and forms part of the large Evasion Mont Blanc skiing domain. It is only 75 minutes from Geneva airport, so ideal for a short break. Activities for non-skiers include snowshoeing, horse-drawn carriage rides, dog sledding. The baroque church in the centre of the village is worth a visit, too, and as is the art museum next door. We recommend a trip to the thermal baths in St-Gervais-Les Bains (about 10km away). Located in a beautiful wooded park, there’s an indoor and outdoor pool both filled with naturally hot spring water from the mountains. Rich in minerals and sulphur, the water is said to be beneficial for the skin, the respiratory tract, and inflammations such as rheumatism and arthritis.
Where To Stay
Luxe: The 17-room, family-owned Armancette Hôtel opened last year and offers total privacy, peace and tranquillity. Built on the site of an old village bakery, skiers have direct access to the slopes via a chairlift by the front entrance. The lift is also perfect for non-skiers who want to join skiers for lunch in the mountains. Rooms are individually styled with gorgeous Italian textiles, local timber and stone and marble bathrooms. Larger groups can book into one of the three chalets on the slop above the hotel. Activities for non-skiers include dog sledding, snowshoeing, igloo construction, hot air balloon rides or railway train adventures. The hotel has a superb spa with an indoor and outdoor swimming pools, outdoor jacuzzi with a panoramic view of the Mont Blanc range, three treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness suite. Foodies should head to La Table d’Armante, a timbered dining room, which serves gastronomic French cuisine and has an amazing cheese trolley. For a more relaxed setting, cross the road to sister restaurant Le Mont Joly Bistrot which serves Alpine home cooking and Italian fare – think fondue, tartiflette, burgers, pizzette etc.
SAINT MARTIN DE BELLEVILLE, FRANCE
St Martin is the prettiest resort and most authentic village in the Three Valleys, the largest ski area in the world. However, there is also lots for the non-skier – take your pick from dog hiking, dog sledging along the bottom of the Belleville Valley, heritage walks or ice skating and cross-country skiing with a guide; or you could try out the luge on rails track. A fun thing to do in the evening is snowshoeing by night followed by dinner in a mountain hut. You can also explore the Three Valleys on foot and can purchase a ‘piéton’ pass for pedestrian lift access, enabling you to reach the summits via certain chairlifts or gondola lifts.
Where To Stay
Luxe: Opening this week (on 15th December), the five-star M Lodge & Spa boutique hotel is nestled in the heart of the village. The 25 chalet-style rooms and suites are sleek and spacious, with tactile design features like hidden bed panels and textured wallpaper. All have balconies with breath-taking mountain and valley views. For larger groups, there are also two private five-bedroom, fully staffed chalets. The hotel has a chic restaurant, La Table, which serves typical Savoyard dishes using local and seasonal produce. There is also a lovely spa with a 16m pool, gym, relaxation space and three massage cabins.
URHO KEKKONEN NATIONAL PARK, FINLAND
The tranquil taiga forests of Finland’s eastern Saariselka fells and Urho Kekkonen National Park are magnificent places for a winter break. The range of activities includes snowmobiling, husky sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and the evenings can be spent seeking out the magical norther lights. On a Discover The World trip, you will also meet the local reindeer herders and try reindeer sledging or mush a team of huskies through the snowy forests.
Where To Stay
Luxe for less: The romantic Muotka Wilderness Lodge is just a 35-minute transfer from Ivalo airport and is surrounded by the taiga forest. After a day out, evenings can be spent in the cosy lounge with a crackling fire or relaxing in the Finnish sauna. Or if you’re very adventurous (and brave), you can take an Arctic plunge in the river through a hole in the ice. Accommodation is either in one of the two hotel buildings, but we’d rather opt for a cosy panorama log cabin – these are situated a few metres from the main building and have a log burner and bathroom with sauna.
The Alpine town of Pinzolo in the scenic Rendena valley in Trentino’s western Dolomites is not a conventional ski resort but, from here, skiers have access to first-rate facilities in the ultra-chic Madonna di Campiglio area with its 150km of slopes and four snowboard parks. An express gondola lift will whisk you there in just 16 minutes. For non-skiers, there are toboggan runs, ice skating and many walking trails to discover either on foot or with snowshoes. Pinzolo itself is a pretty town, with a lovely 14th-century church. A visit to the deli, Alimentari Caola, is a must – here you’ll find shelves stacked with amazing local products – grappas, Trentino wines, honey, jams, as well as cheeses, hams and salamis. For €15, the owner Antonio will delight in letting you try some of the local wines, cheeses and salamis in the tasting area in the basement.
Where To Stay
Luxe: If you’re looking to combine winter activities with some serious spa facilities, look no further than the eco Lefay Dolomiti. It has one of the largest spas in the Alps, with an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, saunas, steam rooms, a saltwater flotation ‘lake’ and an ice plunge pool. Spread across four floors, you could very happily spend your entire stay dressed in nothing more than the fluffy towelling robe provided, trying out the wide range of massages, rituals and treatments, as well as osteopathy, physiotherapy and beauty treatments. The 88 suites are spacious, with natural fabrics, local wood and stone giving them a Scandi feel, and super cosy and comfortable. Most have balconies with glorious views of the mountains and the valley below. There’s also a choice of two restaurants – Dolomia, which serves a mix of Mediterranean dishes, and fine dining Grual where you can sample the eight or 12-course tasting menu.