Swiss resorts actually ran a (relatively, domesticonly) full season in 2020/21. Zermatt’s big infrastructure development was the ultramodern, 10-seat automated Kumme gondola lift (no lifties – just cameras, sensors and an operating system which has not become sentient and murderous). It offers stunning views of the Matterhorn, as will the Matterhorn Mountain Crossing cross-border cable car connecting Zermatt with Cervinia in Italy, opening next season. Anyone in need of an equipment upgrade after the break can try the new Matterhorn Test Centre on the Theodul glacier – ski in on your old planks, ski out on shiny test sticks.
Large chalets are hard to find in Zermatt, but Oxford Ski has acquired Chalet Tuftra Findelbach – six bedrooms and a bunk room on the Moosweg piste, with sociable shared space, gym, steam room, onsen bath and a sauna with views of… guess which mountain?
The Three Valleys’ “secret” fourth valley becomes more accessible this season with fast new lifts making a circuit from Courchevel across to Orelle more realistic. However, freeriders will be distracted by the new La Masse gondola in Les Menuires, allowing multiple loops of the connoisseurs’ off-piste area. Purists can try the now secured and patrolled ski touring zone at Borgne, Val Thorens; speed demons will prefer the Éclipse piste in Courchevel – freshly shaped for the 2023 World Championship Downhill. Arguably, Courchevel 1650 (aka Moriond) has overtaken Courchevel 1850 for cachet – perhaps clinched by Chalet Bacchus (available through Consensio Chalets). One floor of the seven-bedroom, open-plan building is dedicated to a spa and cinema, while Bacchus’s main floor is appropriately dedicated to entertaining, with a wine cellar and cocktail bar.
While the major Coin de Val redevelopment in the town centre seems to have stalled, other projects are complete. For those considering taking remote working to its logical conclusion, luxury apartment developer Alpine Collection is offering sales in its next project, Vail Lodge, and rentals in its freshly completed Alaska Lodge. Prefer a traditional holiday in a family-run hotel? The new Le K2 Chogori is owned by locals, but it also happens to be the first of their five-star properties – complete with Valmont spa – outside Courchevel. Le Ski is one of the few full-service (flights, transfer et al) chalet operators to have survived the off season. Chalet Valpierre has been added to the accommodation available – a huge four-bedroom property which, designwise, adds Louis XVI flourishes to the usual Modernist Alpine look. It’s as if Marie Antoinette went on a ski break – cake included.
Anyone dreaming of returning to the wide open spaces of Verbier may be given pause for thought over the usual huge crowds at the Médran I gondola in a post-Covid world. Well, the old 1980s lift is being replaced by a 10-seat gondola with 67 per cent greater capacity, so you can breathe more… confidently.
Chalet Marmottière had the dubious honour of winning the Best New Chalet of the Year* gong at the World Ski Awards (*the year when no one could visit it). At 1,500sqm, it’s actually two interconnected chalets with nine bedrooms. Those are all en-suite but only the two masters have dressing rooms too. As far as the toys go… 17m swimming pool, spa facilities, 3D cinema, billiards room, air hockey, table football and bowling alley… rumours that Joey and Chandler from Friends designed this chalet are unconfirmed.
Switzerland has long had a British influence; now that is manifesting itself in an unexpected way – it’s whisky galore in the Engadin Valley. Orma Whisky has opened the world’s highest distillery, at the 3303m top station summit of St Moritz’s Corvatsch cable car. It’s a stunning location for a tasting event. (It opened back in October 2020 but they have stock distilled and matured elsewhere.)
The Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina has had a subtle but sumptuous makeover by interiors guru Pierre-Yves Rochon, who also worked on its sister hotel, the Kulm, in the centre of St Moritz. Bedrooms have the designer’s signature muted natural colours, while furnishings in the public rooms are a modern response to the protected Baroque interior decor. The extensive spa facilities include a luxurious pool, 13 treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness centre.
St Anton & Lech
In theory, the Arlberg became one of the Alps’ great interconnected ski areas – and one of the biggest in the world – in 2016/17 with the opening of the Flexenbahn connecting St Anton’s slopes to Lech and Zürs. In reality, for many, completing the circuit was a stress-filled race against the clock. This winter’s replacement of two clunky, 50-year-old chair lifts with fast, high-capacity lifts into and out of the Zug area gives skiers time to appreciate the 340km of Austrian pistes.
Very few people had the chance to experience St Anton’s new star chalet, the Lena, when it opened in the curtailed 2019/20 season. A grand exterior with the air of a Habsburg palace gives way to a Tyrolean timber interior with modern furnishings over five floors and 900sqm. As well as nine bedrooms, Chalet Lena has all the mod cons you’d expect, including an indoor/outdoor pool.
Images: Steve Hadorn; verbier.ch; Melody Sky