There is no denying that these are troubling times for the majority of the nation. But for the super-rich, the urge to run to the snow-capped Alps is greater than ever – skiing has never been more popular.
The luxury winter holiday market is booming. Bookings are on the rise for ultra-glamorous chalets with starting prices starting at €25,000 and rising to €620,000 per week. VistaJet (vistajet.com), which offers its members access to a fleet of more than 360 planes, saw demand for private jet travel more than doubled (up 62%) to Austria, France and Switzerland last winter.
The increase in long-term luxury rentals for a few weeks or more is also increasing rapidly. “There has been such an influx of international visitors who have placed their children at the local private school here that the second, ski-in/ski-out Copperfield International School opened in January 2021. ,000 (£35,000),” says Tom Avery, co-founder of Ski Verbier Exclusive (skiverbierexclusive.com), a specialist operator that caters to guests wishing to relocate to land temporarily.
As Rupert Longsdon, founder of specialist travel agency Oxford Ski (oxfordski.com), explains, ski holidays have always appealed to the highest echelons of society: “There is nothing new in the global elite choosing to make the Alps their winter lifestyle destination. From St Moritz in the 1920s and Megève in the 1960s to Courchevel, Lech and Verbier today, Alpine hotels and chalets are replacing many other destinations in terms of luxury and service.”
Yet the five-star plus ski resort is thriving. In the 1980s, the average cost of a ski holiday in the UK was £229, and luxury operators could pair a group of skiers for around £10,000 with a smart chalet with catered food and beverage service, a day of heli-skiing and bottomless champagne, and let them go. he could leave. , without any complaints. Today’s ultra-rich require the addition of luxurious touches at every moment of their winter holidays and fulfill their wildest whims with affordable price tags.
Yesterday’s exception has become today’s norm: at Chalet N, the world’s first self-described seven-star chalet in Lech, guests can expect a chauffeur-driven fleet of Land Rovers to pick and drop them from Innsbruck’s private jet airport. A world of bulletproof glasses, titanium cutlery, shower curtains made of Swarovski crystals, and pillows embroidered with initials.
Just across from the rinks, at the twin Arula Chalets, you’ll find spa walls made of Himalayan salt, a self-playing Steinway piano, a private ice rink and an army of staff working around the clock. Guests staying at the new Les Chalets Airelles in Courchevel will discover a ski valet each morning that places skis in the snow for guests, as well as nightly turndown gifts such as expensive Guerlain cosmetics or Fusalp ski suits.
Sarah Sundstedt of Alpine luxury operator Bramble Ski (brambleski.com) says: “Recent years have seen us adopting next-level service to tailor trips exactly to our customers’ very specific needs. From unpacking on arrival to packing at departure, we smooth every step of their journey and cover each piece with gold tissue paper.”
Indeed, tigers now need to be delivered as the finishing touch for a party to raise a well-groomed eyebrow (yes, it did). Michelin-starred chefs are taken by helicopter to their chalets to prepare lunch, fresh grass is supplied daily for the toileting needs of precious pet dogs, and drone light shows (to the fury of Verbier’s locals) above the expansive chalets dominate the night sky.
Instructor or ski butler?
An integral part of the ultra-luxury ski holiday experience is the pre-arrival concierge service, where individual personal preferences are shared with the chalet’s private manager. It has become standard procedure in the best chalets to secure preferred drinks, restaurant tables, heli-ski guides, yoga instructors, and masseuses long before guests arrive. With the most personal touches, some residences offer guests the option of framed family photos on nightstands.
Not surprisingly, the world’s best chalets are staffed by experts in customer service – yet many guests still insist on flying on their staff. As Longsdon explains, the exceptional service extends to the slopes, where instructors are often employed by a family each year. “The cream of the trainer crop may joke that by being ski butlers, spending more time changing their make-up and lunch outfits than teaching their clients to ski, they become trusted members of their guests’ staff.”
Founded by ski instructors, Bramble Ski capitalized on this trend with its Bramble Ski Pro service. This outstanding team is trained by the renowned Ecole Hôtelière Suisse in Lausanne, the pinnacle of hospitality management education. Instructors learn to be as adept at teaching ski drills as handling business man’s tantrums – then for two days free of charge (worth over €1,000) while staying at a catering Bramble Ski resort (from €27,820 per week). are at the service of the guests. ).
under the radar
With the slick interiors, quirky artwork, and properties that feature underground brands more typically found in member clubs in Hoxton, Hip Hideouts (hiphideouts.com), channeling hipster New York and Shoreditch that takes chalet life without exaggeration, has featured celebrity guests. accustomed to hosting. In Val d’Isère, value the ability of the operator to present discretion. As Caroline Mothersole, head of sales and marketing, explains: “Our customers now prioritize separate family time without any social media presence.”
He continues to explain: “We will arrange for an assistant to greet guests from their private jet, go through security and take them to helicopter transfers to Val. When we get here, we work with the best local ski guides to take them through the queues of chairlifts to secluded tables in mountain restaurants. We regularly host A-listers here for a week or more without anyone noticing.
Explosions and acquisitions
In the Swiss resort of Verbier, an arctic explorer and founding director of Ski Verbier Exclusive (skiverbierexclusive.com), Tom Avery has become adept at staging grandiose experiences and grand parties in secret locations. “As guests stay longer, they embrace mountain life and culture in all its forms and become a secondary element of ski trips,” he explains.
Avery regularly arranges for guests to have their own helicopter picnic, taking a scenic helicopter flight around the Matterhorn before descending 3,400 meters to feast on lobsters on a table carved out of snow. From CHF 15,000 (£13,240) for two for a 15-minute flight, followed by champagne, cheese fondue and petit fours (add £10,000 for 500g of beluga caviar), a modern interpretation of classic Swiss culture.
For those special occasions when even the larger ultra chalets in the Alps can’t accommodate, an increasingly popular option is the hotel purchase option. As Longsdon explains: “With just 30 to 40 rooms, many Alpine hotels are the perfect size for private-use events, such as Le K2 Altitude in Courchevel and La Mourra Hotel Village in Val d’Isère. Guests who want to take the boat out often work with a production company to choreograph a three-day fantasy.” Wealthy homeowners will splurge on what Longsdon loosely describes as a “seven-figure sum” for the privilege.
Skiing may have become a secondary activity for the super-rich, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to compromise on their ski gear, whether they use it or not. The hottest clothing story on the runways this winter comes from a new collaboration between Fusalp and Swiss luxury watchmaker Zenith.
The French sportswear brand has designed a capsule Zenith wardrobe with ‘storm cuff’ sleeves in ski jackets (from £1,570) – a zippered opening, the wearer’s limited edition Swiss Defy Classic Skeleton Fusalp watch (CHF 9,900).
The A-list also tops the list with helmets and skis from the new Bomber x Bentley Ice Edition. Handcrafted in Italy, limited-edition skis ($2,750) and carbon helmet ($995) are embellished with Winged B badges for a little home touch on the Slopes and a three-dimensional diamond pattern that echoes Bentley’s tessellation of leather upholstery.