There are few places in the world that have yet to be sullied by the invasion of tourists. Some, like Gal Oya in Sri Lanka, are simply too far-flung that even Facebook’s grasp can’t reach it. Others, like the Swiss resort town of Gstaad, are protected by an invisibility cloak, channeled by the desire of privacy from the billionaires that reside there.
That’s not to say the doors are perpetually closed to anyone without a private jet. The destination is definitely welcoming to visitors who want a peek into the life of the rich and famous. Just don’t expect this to be one of the high-octane vacations where the party rages on till the sun rises from behind the mountains – you’d go to Saint Moritz for that.
The pace of life in Gstaad is glacially slow, and the people there embody a certain sophistication that is as down-to-earth as a ski resort could be (yes, even with a promenade filled with Moncler and Louis Vuitton boutiques). After all, the town’s slogan is “Come up, slow down”.
If you’re now thinking of checking Gstaad off your list of ski resorts you’ve visited, here’s our handy guide on what to do, where to stay, and where to eat.
What to do
Skiing at Glacier 3000 and the Rinderberg
Unless you’re headed to Gstaad in the summer, you’ll probably have packed your snowshoes and skis. For those that want to ski on a glacier, head to Glacier 3000, the only glacial ski area in the Bernese Oberland with over 10 kilometres. There, you’ll be treated to a picturesque view of the 24 summits of the Bernese Alps (including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn). Pro tip: Make sure to check out the Peak Walk at the top of Glacier 3000.
If you’re more of a night-time skier, then the slopes of Rinderberg might be more up your alley. The Rinderberg Snow Night takes place several times in the winter season, and you’ll be able to ski down the floodlit slopes under the moon.
Experience the culture
Billionaires are also often art collectors, which is what made Gstaad a gathering place for many artists. Many exhibitions happen year-round, like Elevation 1049: Frequencies which is in its third iteration this year. One of the installations part of the exhibition is Mirage Gstaad, an outdoor sculpture by Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken that is essentially a cabin clad in reflective material, designed to mirror the constantly-changing Alpine landscape. The exhibit will remain on view till January 2021, so there is plenty of time to see it.
In the summer, there is the Menuhin Festival that takes place each year. Founded by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, the festival comprises of more than 60 concerts spread out over seven weeks. The program for the 2020 season will be released later this year in December, so keep your eye out on that.
Where to eat
Charly’s Tea Room
Contrary to its name, Charly’s is famed in Gstaad for its coffee. With a motto declaring it “the coffee shop in town,” you can get not only your daily caffeine fix here, but also pastries and confectionaries that are all baked in-house, with ingredients sourced locally too.
It’s not a trip to Gstaad if you didn’t make a stop at Chesery. The one-Michelin-star restaurant helmed by Chef Robert Speth (who is unfortunately leaving after this summer season) calls a cosy traditional wooden chalet home, and the service reflects that warm hospitality you’d expect. Be sure to make a reservation so you can savour true Alpine cuisine without any hassle.
Where to stay
For over a century, the Gstaad Palace hotel has watched over the quaint Swiss village from its hilltop location. The grand dame of the town has played host to the likes of Louis Armstrong and Marlene Dietrich (they’ve held many gala dinners here in the 1960s) and is now a bastion guarding the old-world charm that shrouds Gstaad. Choose from 90 suites and rooms how you would like to live the life of the well-heeled locals.
Multiple restaurants are on site that cater to both the casual diner and fancy party, and after dark, you can take a gander into the legendary GreenGo Nightclub (its dance floor retracts over a swimming pool).
Those seeking a more modern experience can turn to HUUS, a barely three-year-old hotel housed in a traditional wooden chalet. Step inside and you’ll see how the designers have infused the old-world character of Gstaad with contemporary sensibilities. Think chic decor, flat-screen TVs, and wellness area designed by a supervillain’s architect. You’d never want to leave.
Each of the 136 rooms and suites have been designed with the mountain view in mind, and are equipped with mattresses from Hästens (the same brand with a S$200,000 flagship bed). If you’re there in the summer, you can also make use of the provided Mammut backpacks for your hiking adventures, saving you some packing space.