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Is The Alpina Gstaad ‘The Last Paradise In A Crazy World?’

Gstaad looks just like you want it to. The Swiss resort town is the perfect blend of chocolate box chalets, Brunello Cucinelli storefronts, and family run restaurants. At 3,280 feet above sea level, the winters are mild and the snow is powder white. Increasingly, it’s becoming a year-round escape—promising hundreds of scenic hiking and cycling trails in the warmer months, followed by 220km of skiing slopes to enjoy in winter. It’s all of these details that lured the likes of Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, and Roger Moore in the 1960s. And what prompted Julie Andrews to hail Gstaad, “the last paradise in a crazy world.”

It’s also the kind of place that can be resistant to change, which is a partial explanation for why when The Alpina Gstaad opened in December 2012, it marked the first newly built five-star hotel to take root in Gstaad for 100 years. What’s more, the project itself had been a complex one, taking more than 15 years to complete. It proved worth the wait. From the outset, The Alpina Gstaad had presence. (Despite standing at a somewhat modest six storeys, having adhered to the town’s strict planning laws.)

Megu by head chef and sushi master Tsutomu Kugota.
Megu by head chef and sushi master Tsutomu Kugota.THE ALPINA GSTAAD

Everything about the hotel is a marriage of tradition and cutting edge. And having been predominately built by local craftsmen, there’s a huge focus on sustainability throughout. You can almost feel the scraping, scratching, staining, and waxing that must have gone into the reclaimed-wood-clad walls and Turbach stone fireplaces.

Built on five acres of the Bernese Oberland, The Alpina Gstaad promises two views: mountain and valley. The first looks onto Gstaad and promises snow-capped sightings of Spitzhorn and Oldenhorn, while the second delivers rippling hilltops and stretches of lake over Schönried village.

“It was not driven by the usual hotel arithmetic,” Nachson Mimran, the son of Jean Claude Mimran, the property’s co-owner, commented in an early interview. A fact that is confirmed the moment guests arrive at the entrance, by way of a subterranean tunnel. Inside, the walls are brought to life via an impressive contemporary art collection, much of which has been culled from owners’ private collections. Highlights include pieces by Tracey Emin, Terence Koh, Jana Euler, Wade Guyton, and Nicole Eisenman.

The Alpina Gstaad's Lounge & Bar.
The Alpina Gstaad’s Lounge & Bar.RETO GUNTLI

Similarly, when owners Mimran and Marcel Bach were unhappy with the first attempt at a cigar lounge their architectural firm dreamed up; instead of finding another firm for the job, they sent the whole team off to Havana. There is also a plush 14-seat private cinema, with its own popcorn machine and a solid selection of films to watch.

There are four restaurants, all distinctly different and equally memorable. In 2017, Martin Göschel was appointed executive chef at the hotel, arriving with 23 years of experience, having worked with some of the most celebrated chefs in Germany and Switzerland at Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels.

Crowned “Rising Chef of the Year” by GaultMillau Germany in 2002, and awarded 18 GaultMillau points as well as one Michelin star, Göschel’s style is traditional with a twist. His dishes have a basis in French cooking, but also take inspiration from frequent trips to Southeast Asia and South America.

The wine cellar and events space.
The wine cellar and events space.DMITRY KOSTYUKOV

The tasting menu at Sommet is where Chef Göschel takes centre stage, offering unexpected delights, like the trout cooked at the table’s edge in a shell of beeswax collected from hives at the hotel; or the truffled scallop wrapped in a sliver of bacon. Appropriately, the hotel’s wine cellar holds more than 1,700 vintage labels, which guests can sample by arranging an evening wine and cheese pairing.

Sommet is also where breakfast is served, both buffet style and by way of an extensive daily menu. Looking out at the chain of snow-capped mountains over a morning espresso, it’s hard not to feel at ease.

Bordering Sommet is Megu, Switzerland’s top Asian restaurant, overseen by head Chef and sushi master, Tsutomu Kugota. Using slatted wood partitions inspired by the temples of Kyoto and bold red kimonos, the space is immediately transporting. It’s also home to Switzerland’s largest sake collection. Similarly, the neighbouring Japanese whisky bar houses some of the most exclusive bottles in the world.

The serene pool area.

And then there’s the 21,000 square foot The Six Senses Spa Gstaad. As expected, it’s a marvel. There’s a huge indoor pool, a high-tech gym, endless treatment rooms, and a a juice bar. Read up beforehand, as there is an ever-changing line-up of detoxes, yoga retreats, sleep programmes, and more.

Beyond the amenities are the 25 rooms and 31 suites, all considerably larger than the competition. Every room has its own balcony (with the requisite window box brimming with red geraniums too) and many feature vaulted ceilings and wood-burning fireplaces too. A mash-up of Swiss antiques and other Alpine touches—hand-blown glass cowbells on the lights and cashmere throws—the rooms feel more like a home than a hotel. Likewise, bathrooms promise deep-soaking tubs and walk-in rain showers complete with plastic free, brass reusable shampoo dispensers. (All the toiletries are consciously environmentally friendly, palm oil free, vegan, silicone free, and paraben free.)

The Six Senses Spa Gstaad.

In a place that is so calm and tranquil, it’s no surprise that The Alpina Gstaad puts a focus on sleep, which is why the hotel launched its very own sleep programme and sleep suite. The suite itself is fitted with a FreshBed, a unique product designed to regulate body temperature, promising deeper sleep over a longer period of time.

The experience begins on arrival, with a personalised Six Senses Spa sleep consultation within the comfort of the suite. From there, the therapist will advise on the best therapeutic remedies, ranging from teas to recipes to simple stretches.

Next, take part in a guided body balance treatment that incorporates elements of Tai Chi and Pilates, before enjoying a moreish sleep-inducing menu designed to calm the nervous system. And finally, dab a special blend of calming CBD oil under the tongue and await the ultimate night’s sleep.

A suite at The Alpina Gstaad.

Beyond the hotel, Gstaad awaits. Borrow a custom electric Fiat 500 (bought at auction in support of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation) and zip around the winding roads. Stop to hike a quick trail or settle in for a picnic, expertly packed and prepared by the hotel.

But perhaps the best view of the resort town is from above, which can easily be arranged courtesy of Paragliding Gstaad Switzerland or via a hot air balloon ride with Ballons Château d’Oex. With little more than fabric for wings, a backpack-style harness, and two long strings to steer, you (in tandem with a highly experienced operator) will soar through the air looking out onto the scenic landscape below.

The sitting area in a suite at The Alpina Gstaad.
The sitting area in a suite at The Alpina Gstaad.MICHAEL SINCLAIR STUDIO LIMITED

It’s hard to overstate the charm of this place and the consideration that has gone into every timbered doorway and cream-coloured throw cushion. Making it a place not to visit but to return to.

Source :Forbes