With pristine pistes aplenty and a flurry of glitzy boutiques, the storied ski town of Gstaad, Switzerland draws a notably cool crowd. Discover the best things to see and do on a three day ski break with our need-to-know guide.
Rise with the lark to catch the first lift - the handsomely groomed pistes that await are worth every last second of lost sleep. The slopes encircling Gstaad form the Gstaad Mountain Rides ski area - home to miles of idyllic woodland trails as well as steep, black-graded descents to make your pulse quicken. Boarders can get their kicks throwing shapes at Saanenmoser’s terrain park while easygoing skiers can glide along the supremely lovely nine-mile run winding down from the Diablerets glacier. For a hearty lunch with head-lolling mountain views, wood-clad Wasserngrat is a must - snag a table on the terrace order the beef tartare with frites on the side.
Make a beeline for Leonard’s - Le Grand Bellevue’s achingly cool Michelin-starred dining spot - for a spoiling supper washed down with Merlot. Refined seasonal dishes (many with a firm nod to Alpine flavours) are the order of the day here, and the menu spans melt-in-the-mouth veal cutlets to orecchiette with broccoli and roasted almonds. Don’t leave without trying the kaiserschmarrn - a sort of shredded sugared pancake studded with raisins and dolloped with vanilla ice cream. After supper, mooch across to moodily lit Bouquet, where resident DJ, Guy Macquart spins electro-swing beats ‘til the early hours.
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Gstaad’s snow-cloaked main drag is bordered by supremely lovely chalet-style outposts of Prada, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren, making it prime shopping territory, and it’s a top spot for people-watching, too. Amble along the promenade, dipping in and out of the boutiques, then when you’re all shopped out, grab a great hunk of walnut pie from Early Beck or stop off at Charly’s for a thick, indulgent hot chocolate. If you’re keen to explore the surrounding landscapes, head out on a horse-drawn carriage ride. You’ll trot through the town and out into the fields, where postcard-perfect vistas make Instagram fair game.
In nearby Saanen, join locals at cosy-as-they-come 16 Art where wholesome, cockle-warming dishes are served in pleasingly relaxed surrounds. The beef cheeks are outrageously good - ever so tender and topped with lashings of gravy - and the white truffle ravioli is worth the trip alone.
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To get the day off to an exhilarating start, head up to Glacier 3000 for the Peak Walk by Tissot. Strung between two frostbitten peaks, the vertiginous suspension bridge offers up magnificent views over to the Mont Blanc Massif. Then, chase the chill away at Le Grand Spa - Le Grand Bellevue’s pine-scented temple to wellbeing. All earthy hues and billowy drapes, it’s suitably serene with whisper-quiet chill-out spaces and a tension-melting list of Alpine-inspired therapies. In the glowy Thermal Oasis, hop between the hay sauna and the salt inhalation grotto before padding outside to the steaming relaxation pool for a restorative soak. Designed to soften the skin and soothe skied-out muscles, the Goat’s Milk and Honey Bath is supremely calming, while the Pure Oxygen Facial leaves complexions cushiony plump and radiant. Post-treatment, cosy up in one of the egg-shaped hanging chairs with your current read.
Slip into your ski gear and catch the last gondola at 4.15pm to the Igloo Village up above Saanenmöser where mugs brimming with piping hot glühwein await. Once you’re settled, the evening unfolds in a torch-lit riot of chit-chat and velvety-smooth cheese fondue, then at last light, get set for a cinematic mountain descent led by one of Gstaad’s nimble ski guides. Not a bad way to round off the trip.
Where to stay
A stone’s throw from Gstaad’s snow-dusted Promenade, Le Grand Bellevue is a honeypot for the style set. Here, each and every space has been impeccably designed yet the atmosphere manages to feel more snug than show off. In the lounge, eclectic prints mingle beside rich velvet upholstery, a log fire roars heartily and the ceiling is hung with swinging birdcage chairs softened by tawny leather cushions. The can’t-do-enough-for-you staff take every request in their stride, tempering swift service with warm informality, and outside there’s a dazzling Rolls Royce (which once belonged to Roger Moore) to run you around town. Swathed in a palette of butterscotch and biscuit, the light-drenched suites flaunt marshmallow-soft beds and balconies just right for mountain-gazing, while bathroom shelves are stocked with fragrant Bamford treats. There are morning yoga sessions to stretch out in, a sumptuous 18-seat cinema for late-night screenings and at Le Petit Chalet - a teeny, tiny hut in Le Grand Bellevue’s grounds - excellent fondue is dished up alongside bacon and egg-topped winter salads. It’s cool and cosseting all at once - a glorious jumping off point for a weekend of slopeside frolics.
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How to get there
Swiss flies from London to Geneva from £67 one way including taxes, fees and surcharges, one piece of hold and hand luggage plus snacks and refreshments; visit swiss.com. The Goldenpass train runs from Montreux to Gstaad from CHF 26 (approx. £20) one way; visit goldenpass.ch/en. Rates at Le Grand Bellevue begin at 650 CHF (approx £499) per room based on two people sharing a room on a half-board basis; visit bellevue-gstaad.ch to book.
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