Just for the weekend: Discover a true winter wonderland

If you need a proper escape from the everyday, Swiss ski resort Gstaad takes fairytale to a whole new level, writes Laura Doherty


Just for the weekend: Discover a true winter wonderland

Every now and then we need to take time to relax and reflect on where we are going. So where better to show time who’s boss, than the magical Swiss resort of Gstaad, where the local motto is ‘come up, slow down’.

This was a trip filled with magic and wonder, from the moment we made our ascent from Geneva in a vintage ‘Belle Epoque’ carriage, winding through postcard-perfect mountain ranges to the doorstep of the Gstaad Palace Hotel. There, it was as though time really had stood still.

In from the chilly air, we were given a warm welcome at the inimitable Gstaad Palace, a luxurious 100-year-old hotel and a longtime favourite of the rich and famous. 

Acclimatising to my palatial surrounds, I headed to the spa and vast hammam, where I swam outside to the bubbling jacuzzi. There, I lay gazing through the steam at the snowcapped backdrop and starry sky before taking a rest by a roaring indoor fire.

It was an early rise for a day of skiing in the Alps. Blue skies met with perfectly preened, long wide slopes and glorious alpine vistas. An instructor helped hone my rusty technique with some tips and tricks. After a hearty lunch of burgers at the uber cool Saanwald Lodge, the bravehearted amongst us headed to the snow park to try their luck at ‘slope style’ while I meandered the pistes.

Après ski took on a whole new meaning as a butler greeted us with a platter of Swiss meats, local cheese, warm punch, cookies and treats. Back at the Palace, tired but invigorated, it was time to experience the spa’s delights with a massage using divine oils by Jardin des Monts, sourced from the foothills of the mountains outside. Not a single muscle ached the next day.

Just when I thought such a breathtaking day couldn’t get any better, we were tucked under blankets on board a horse-drawn sleigh and carried through starlit forests to cosy chalet and popular fondue haven, Mattestübli. We sat in the chalet owner’s living room as she served us plates of dried meats with pickles, and oozy cheese fondue with a jug of fennel and lemon tea to help digest all that cheese, rounded off by a rich flourless chocolate torte and caramel made from the milk of the cows next door.

For a short while, lost in the timeless world of Gstaad’s snowy palace, minutes, hours and days had no place. But, like all good fairytales, it had to come to an end. The crisp alpine air and brief brush with a bon viveur lifestyle left me ready for my slow descent back down to earth, feeling reinvigorated and reset for the year ahead.

Rates at the Gstaad Palace start from CHF490 (approx £330) per night half-board. To book, see palace.ch

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