If St. Moritz is the glitzy diamond of Switzerland, Gstaad is the family heirloom that's been handed down through generations. Having maintained much of it's old-world charm even amidst an increase of new development and new money into the Swiss Alps, Gstaad has managed to preserve it's authenticity in a way that is uniquely it's own. Don't get us wrong, this is not, by any means a low-key, no-frills situation. There are plenty of frills. Below are some of our favorites.
In the 1950's, Gstaad passed regulations mandating that all new buildings must adhere to the Simmentaler style, and as a result the village is charming and traditional. A pedestrian town center features world class shopping and dining, all while staying true to the chalet aesthetic.
Many of the locals are here as a result of Le Rosey, the most expensive private high school in the world. Located in Geneva, the school (often referred to as "the school of kings") has been operating from it's Gstaad campus from January through March, since 1916. Not content to merely visit their offspring, Le Rosey parents have been known to snatch up chalets in Gstaad and the surrounding villages. The large alumni contingent has contributed much to the current makeup of the town.
Where to Ski
While the resorts around Gstaad don't offer a ton of expert terrain, their wide, intermediate cruisers can be just what the doctor ordered, especially if last night's apres ski turned into an apres-apres ski.
With six separate ski resorts, sprawled across 12 villages, Gstaad's skiing is most definitely spread out, but accessible easily by bus, tram, or funicular. There are some fantastically long runs here...From the Diablerets glacier (AKA Glacier 3000), one run stretches 8 km back to a bus stop in Reutsch, on the road back into Gstaad. Heli skiing outfits operate here as well, and from the top of the glacier, one can see the Matterhorn and well into France and Italy.
Where to Apres
Apres-ski is done well here, whether in the ultra-exclusive, mostly aristocrat private Eagle Club (Sir Roger Moore was a lifetime member), or in the chalets dotting the mountainside. The Gstaad Palace Hotel's lobby bar is our pick, morphing from buzzy apres-ski scene to suited fine dining later in the evening.
Where to Stay:
The Gstaad Palace Hotel is over 100 years old, family owned, and perched over town like a castle. Featuring a truly huge spa, five restaurants, a nightclub, the Palace is a Gstaad institution. In fact it's frequently said that "if you haven't been to the Palace, you haven't been to Gstaad."
While the hotel's suites are gorgeous and well-equipped, their Walig hut is a bit more our speed. Built in 1786 and barely renovated over the years, this mountain lodge sleeps two, and can host dinner for up to 14.