The tiny and isolated rustic-chalet village of Vals in the Swiss Alps is about to be rocketed into the 21st Century.
A local hotel is planning the highest building in all of Europe. a sleek mirror-clad tower that would dominate this vertiginous valley.
The owners of the ‘Therme’ – Vals’ renowned spa – plan to turn it into an extraordinarily high end luxury retreat. The want to build an imposing 1,250ft ‘shard’ at the entrance to one of Switzerland’s most remote vistas.
Unsurprisingly this is not to everyone’s taste. And it has yet to be approved by village elders.
What currently passes for apres ski in Vals shakes down largely at the Therme, which already boasts two gourmet restaurants, a noted hotel where each bedroom is carefully spec’d with design classics, and a cocktail bar.
But the main draw is the spa itself – a minimalist meditation in rock and water, where a full day’s skiing or hiking and biking is massaged away by silent contemplation.
Earlier, I’d bootpacked to the highest point in Vals, the Dachberg. A short but exhausting hike from the 3000m top station, it overlooks empty slopes – as there’s virtually nobody here. Bliss on the mountain is matched by a zen of a different kind down below.
My days exertions are massaged away by silent contemplation at the Therme, as I gaze out across the valley through triple height glass. Then float outdoors in body-temperature local Valser water.
But Vals’ bucolic charm is on the brink of change.
As I luxuriate in the spa I lie and wonder if the proposed reflective skyscraper will make it through Vals’ planning approval. How exactly will it impact the Therme? The valley? The community?
Into the evening under softly falling rain there is a mellifluous calm. Across the valley of swirling alpine colours, cool grey mists sweep down from the hills. Pierced just here and there by taupe and violet heathers. And a fleeting emerald green of early spring meadow.