Courchevel 1850 has long been the flagship for exclusive ski holidays in France. It is at one end of the huge Trois Vallées ski area but couldn’t be more different from its neighbours Meribel and Val Thorens. Courchevel boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants, one at the Chabichou Hotel and the other is La Bateau Ivre, but the place to be seen is Le Cap Horn which is up on the slopes at 2,050m. From Le Cap Horn you can watch other diners flying into the tiny snow covered Altiport airfield, right below the restaurant deck, for lunch with the rest of the Euro elite. In recent years the Russian Oligarchs have taken over Courchevel 1850 in the first week of January for their New Year party, but the best time to go is in March to catch the sun on one of the many beautiful mountain restaurant decks and, of course, to be seen.
Our favourite hotel is Les Grandes Alps because of its location and excellent spa area.
There are numerous beautiful, chocolate-box chalet-style resorts in Switzerland but the two most exclusive resorts are a little different. The king of bling is the incomparable St Moritz in the Graubünden region. Here the adventurous eccentrics of the gentry risk their lives on the infamous Cresta Toboggan Run, race their horses on the frozen lake, and then try a little skijoring (skiing dragged behind unbroken horses on the lake at speeds over 50kph). The skiing is great, but the people watching combined with the off mountain activities make it a mind blowing destination. Go in February to do the Cresta and see the horse races.
The second most exclusive resort in Switzerland was a tough choice but we have given it to Zermatt because Klosters is found in the Graubünden region with St Moritz. No view anywhere in the world can match the magnificence of the Matterhorn. Zermatt is a large town but it keeps its charm due to the absence of cars, with all arrivals by train and all traffic is electric. The old Zermatt area has a lovely rustic feel and the new area has tried very hard to keep the alpine style and elegance. This is a huge resort with countless stunning mountain restaurants that all seem to face the Matterhorn but our favourite is the charming Chez Vrony.
Zurs am Arlberg
The best ski area in Austria is the Arlberg region which includes the famous resort of St Anton. Just around the corner from this riotous extreme skier’s paradise is the lovely and refined resort of Lech which is on the same lift pass and linked by a 15 minute bus ride. The skiing here is on wide and perfectly groomed pistes, and they make any skier look very good indeed. The town is full of traditional styled hotels and range of restaurants is first class. This resort is renowned for its snow record and attracting the beautiful people of Austria and Germany.
We recommend the Arlberg Hotel which has one of the best wellness centres we have seen. It is also right on the slopes with two memorable restaurants. You have to book this early as it sells out quickly.
Our second recommendation for Austria is the Spa resort of Obergurgl. This incredibly popular resort is the highest parish in Europe and has an excellent snow record. All the accommodation is of high quality and it is a popular destination year round for spa visits. The number of beds here is limited and the exclusivity attracts a repeat crowd every year. There are never queues here and for the adventurous there is the large resort of Sölden with a huge glacier just 15 minutes down the road.
We recommend the Hotel Edelweiss and Gurgl for its great name and central location near the lifts and town centre.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler Hotel
I’ve stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs in Banff and it is hard to beat for a glamorous ski resort hotel but my vote goes for Whistler Blackcomb which attracts the jet set crowd from across the world to ski its two amazing mountains and experience the Canadian hospitality. The ski school and guiding services here are arguably the best in the world and well worth the costs. The amount of terrain which is available from the lifts is staggering and a guide will show you the tricky little entrances to some of the finest bowl skiing on the planet. Heli-skiing here is very popular and needs to be booked early. It is also a great resort to try skidooing.
There’s no point looking past the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Hotel. It is simply superb.
Narrowing down the selection for the most exclusive resorts in the USA is very tough but three do stand out from all the rest.
Aspen, Colorado has been the home to celebrities and billionaires for 40 years but still stays true to its mining town roots with down to earth locals and strict adherence to an architectural code. For posing and celeb spotting you have to ski on the Ajax Mountain right above the town. The restaurants here are typically large American fare but you can also go very upscale at Piñons, Renaissance, Olives in The St. Regis, and Syzygy. The J Bar in Jeromes Hotel is probaly the best restaurant/bar to catch sight of a few celebrities, but a town like Aspen is way too cool for anyone to consciously notice. We prefer Little Nells which is less pretentious.
The next selection for the USA is our absolute favourite resort anywhere and it stands out in so many ways. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a serious skier’s mountain and attracts the best of the best. The county of Jackson Hole claims to have more billionaires per capita than any other in the USA. This is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The national park has abundant wildlife and you will see moose, elk and deer on the slopes. The town of Jackson is at heart still a country town with lots of shops selling cowboy gear. In between those shops though are some of the most expensive clothing botiques and art galleries in the world. The Millionaires Cowboy bar is a regular movie setting and is adorned with pictures of the actors who have visited there. The village of Teton is at the bottom of the ski area and I recommend staying there rather than in town which is 20 minutes away. North Coulter Lodge is one of the finest chalets in the USA and is right on the slopes in Teton Village.
Finally for the USA we have selected Beaver Creek which is part of the Vail group of resorts and part of the same lift ticket along with A Basin and Keystone. The buses between each resort are regular and don’t take long. Vail has the best skiing but the resort is ugly with a massive freeway going right through it. Beaver Creek is where most of the best ski in/ski out hotels and restaurants are. The hotels here offer ski concierge services. They help you get your skis and boots off and offer you slippers to wear indoors. When you return the next day your skis are waxed sitting on the ground to ski away on and your boots are warmed and dry. These are the kind of luxury touches we like.
We recommend the Ritz Carlton for its grotto and outdoor pool and for being in the brilliantly named Bachelor Gulch.
There can be only one choice for Italy and Cortina is the place where the affluent and fabulous Italians spend their winter breaks. The Italian way of skiing follows pretty closely to their laid back lifestyle and in this resort skiing after lunch is only for the foreigners. The village is very pretty and the shopping straight out of Milan and Florence. In Cortina you rise late, ski in a beautiful setting all morning, find a great mountain restaurant for a 3 hour lunch, siesta, shop, and then eat late and drink well into the morning. Sounds pretty good!
The Miramonti Majestic Hotel is a few minutes out of town but it is magic.
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