The late show

The best winter in the Alps for years has opened up a choice of destinations for a late-season ski trip – so there’s no need to book a stay in a high-altitude concrete jungle

Travel and Wellbeing 19 Mar 2024

The best winter in the Alps for years has opened up a choice of destinations for a late-season ski trip – so there’s no need to book a stay in a high-altitude concrete jungle

The best winter in the Alps for years has opened up a choice of destinations for a late-season ski trip – so there’s no need to book a stay in a high-altitude concrete jungle (illustration: Marylou Faure)

After Covid-restricted seasons and last year’s snow drought, this is the best winter the Alps has had in what feels like living memory. And with Easter falling on the last weekend of March, there is still plenty of opportunity to squeeze in a(nother?) ski trip. Huge snowfalls across Europe, followed by consistently low temperatures, mean the base is pretty much guaranteed in most resorts until April. So, this spring, there is no need to follow the normal rules of late skiing by booking into high-altitude high-rise destinations. Instead, try one of these resorts, where a new or recently refurbished hotel – with its attendant myriad activities and amenities – will help extend the winter wonderland experience to the end of the season.


Bad Gastein, Austria 

This town surrounding a gorge was a spa destination centuries before it was a ski resort and is rich in history – it was visited by such notables as Frederick III (the Holy Roman Emperor), Emperor Franz Joseph I, Otto von Bismarck and Franz Schubert. The Belle Epoque town is the base for skiing in several different Gastein Valley areas, including snowsure Sportgastein, which rises to 2,650m.

Where to stay: Bad Gastein has recently undergone a major revamp, with several new hotels and buildings in the centre restored to their former glory. The highlights are The Comodo, a Mid-century Modern space that used to be a health clinic, and – even more excitingly, after three years of refurbishment (following 20 years of abandonment) – the stunning Straubinger Grand Hotel, an opulent mix of historical and modern design.;;

Crans-Montana, Switzerland

The resort on the “other” side of Valais from Verbier, Zermatt et al, is not 100 per cent reliable in most seasons, as it sits on a sunny terrace. But this season, its 140km of slopes (up to 3,000m) should stand up to the UV. Alternatively, the resort is a great base for other outdoor activities, thanks to a massive climbing wall and sports centre, dog-sled rides, e-scootpark for snowbiking, parklands and even a waterskiing lake (should the weather really turn).

Where to stay: The quality of hotels here has risen dramatically in recent years, and built into the mountain is a new Six Senses, which is, as ever, “experiential” beyond belief. On arrival, the ritual is to play cowbells and blow an alpenhorn. In the Earth Lab, you can make seasonal pickles, upcycled candles and reusable beeswax wraps. Meanwhile the vast indoor pool, wellness centre and spa are as luxurious as the airy, chalet-style rooms.;

St-Martin-de-Delleville, France

In the Les Trois Vallées, this is the traditional village alternative to Courchevel, Méribel and its valley neighbours Val Thorens and Les Menuires. It is best known as the home of the three-Michelin- starred restaurant La Bouitte. When the snow is good, though, it provides beautiful long runs.

Where to stay: Other than the rooms attached to La Bouitte, St-Martin had no luxury hotel until last season. The new M Lodge has 25 rooms, two private chalets and a spa with a 16m pool. Its mountain-modern design – all Arpin felt furnishings and Tom Dixon lights – make the space very now.;

Leogang, Austria

The Salzburgerland ski resort of Saalbach Hinterglemm has long been a popular package- holiday destination for Brits. For years, little Leogang – the so-called “Home of Casual” – was just a sidebar. However, in the past decade, this village has quietly become a leading Austrian luxury resort. It has seen improvements in ski-lift connections, the opening of showstopper restaurants such as the Hendl Fischerei mountain club (specialising in smoked fish, champagne and DJs) and – above all – the development of an abundance of outstanding hotels.

Where to stay: Naturhotel Forsthofgut is hardly new – the Schmuck family first opened their home to guests in 1960. But it has gradually expanded from the original building into a small hamlet of pampering, be it in the many spa areas or multiple restaurants. It is regularly adding extra amenities, the most recent of which is a world-class equestrian centre.;

St Moritz, Switzerland

March is a lively time in what locals claim is the cradle of winter sports holidays. Lake St Moritz is normally still frozen (which is just as well, given the 14,000 cross-country enthusiasts taking part in the annual Engadin Skimarathon), and the downhill skiing is likely to be good in all four sectors this year, not least the Corviglia resort area, at over 3,000m. If not, St Moritz is a proper year-round holiday town offering alternative sporting activities, spas and, above all, shopping on Via Serlas, with almost Bond Street numbers of boutiques – Bulgari, Vuitton, Gucci et al.

Where to stay: Prior to last year, it had been more than half a century since a luxury hotel opened in St Moritz – the might of The Kulm and Badrutt’s Palace is that strong. However, in summer 2023, La Margna reopened after nearly a decade of transformation, as the Grace La Margna. It has a more modern take on luxury, focusing on cocktails, vegetable-led food, and culture.;