World’s prettiest ski resort – John Hill reports from Zermatt, jewel in the crown of the Swiss Alps.
At last a survey which agrees with Good Ski Guide’s reader ratings. And this time it is TV giant CNN who has been choosing the prettiest resorts in the Alps. And as I gaze up at the mighty Matterhorn on a brilliantly sunny morning I cannot help think that Zermatt is indeed the world’s most beautiful ski resort. Who would argue?
Visitors have it all here – fabulous village streets lined with boutique shops, fine dining houses and lots of jewelry and expensive cosmetics stores. And the skiing is equally good, with runs for all, especially good skiers who can benefit from Zermatt’s 390plus km of slopes.
Best run is arguably the trek to the summit of the Kleine Matterhorn and then blitz down to the linked Italian resort of Cervinia, where good-lifers once went in search of really good mountain food. Nowadays Zermatt has some of the world’s best mountain eateries so you do Cervinia for the sunny side of the Alps and great long, easy cruises.
I am staying in one of the world’s finest ski hotels, the famous Zermatterhof, which has had a refurb and is now a gem of a ski retreat – and am I saving he best for last – the hotel also owns the Kulm atop the Gornergrat, where the amazing Swiss observatory atop the peak allows guests to visit at night and dine with the stars. Eat first in the Kulm’s fine restaurant and then feast on the world’s finest sights – the galaxy in all its might and awe – and get a commentary from a guide to the planets. Well worth the 100 Swiss Franc fee.
And the resort is ultra busy at this time because the world-famous Davos economic Forum keeps the keenest skiers and crowd-shunners away from the Switzerland’s biggest ski town, which is seething with bankers and all sorts of hangers-on. By road Davos is a long drive, but the good and great all have private transport.
• Grand Hotel Zermatterhof is a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts LVX Collection.
Back to the CNN poll – Grimentz and Saas Fee are also in the Prettiest list and Good Ski Guide’s long-time favourite Alpbach in the Tirol among the chart-toppers, now that it is one of the country’s largest ski areas, having linked up with its over-the-mountain neighbouring resorts of the Wildschonau and is now called the Ski Jewel region. Our Euro Editor Christian Berger – based nearby, reports: ”Mein Gott, we just had a 3-day downfall and the whole region is a veritable winter wonderland. I am sharpening my skis as I file this report.” He adds: “CNN forgot to mention that of all the resorts in its list Alpbach is by far the best-value, with prices half those in Zermatt.”
Another GSG and CNN favourite is the Kitzbuhel Alps resorts of Kirchberg, Brixen and Westendorf, also linked to the Skiwelt area, although the TV channel highlights the main town of Kitzbuhel as the star resort.
Another Austrian favourite of GSG is Lech, high in the mountains above St Anton, and one of Austria’s cruising capitals.
But whilst the CNN report is very good we feel they have omitted one of Austria’s really great snowsure resorts – Obertauern in Salzburg region, which is always the first Austrian resort to open every year – because it is so high – with skiing from 1,630 to 2,313 metres. This gives wonderful cruising conditions, often with fresh snow daily, from November till early May.
Despite being purpose-built the village is pretty as the clever locals have kept all buildings chocolate-box pretty with plenty of typical Austrian chalet architecture and the only high-rise is the state-of-the art lift system, which allows skiers and riders to make circular tours of the peaks in both directions. Apres ski is lively too as the Beatles found 50 years ago when they chose Obertauern to film their movie classic, A Hard Day’s Night.
CNN also agrees with GSG that Italy’s prettiest is Cortina, which has some the most sensational scenery in the ski world – and anyone thinking of visiting to ski the stunning Dolomites should stay at the fabulous Hotel Cristallo, famous for its starring in a host of major films including the Bond 007 blockbusters. We have recently visited the Cristallo so look out soon for our report.
Finally France gets just one mention in the Prettiest 10 – and no surprises for CNN choosing Megeve – a real peach of a ski village with a host of easy skiing – and the resort that was once the snootiest and most sedate, is waking up and has a wild Le Folie Douce disco bar up in the hills above Mont Jolly.
For the full CNN report