In Switzerland, skiing holds a revered spot in the national identity, with a legacy as finely engineered as the inner workings of a Swiss watch. The lore can be traced back to Father Johann Imseng, a Saas-Fee village priest, who in the frigid winter of 1849 undertook a heroic trek through a raging blizzard on makeshift barrel-stave skis to deliver last rites. This fabled journey has since been etched into the collective memory, and its spirit is reinvigorated season after season on the impeccably groomed terrains of Verbier, Zermatt and St. Moritz.
The journey to these alpine heavens is itself a part of the tale. You embark on a train journey from cosmopolitan hubs like Geneva or Zurich, and as the scenery unfurls, each crag and crevice of the mountainous landscape intensifies your anticipation. But herein lies the decision: where exactly to plant your ski poles? Be it the adrenaline-seeking veteran eyeing the black runs or the novice drawn to the gentler blue trails, Switzerland’s alpine terrain offers a curated anthology of options. The iconic Matterhorn stands as a siren of the alps, while the sprawling grandiosity of the Engadin Valley offers an equally compelling call.
Here, the concept of après-ski is a multifaceted affair, a palette of indulgences ranging from the effervescence of champagne to the hushed sanctity of mountain spas. Let’s not sidestep the culinary journey either—from Michelin-starred dining to cozy huts where raclette melts in a cascade over open flames. Read on for an expert guide to navigating six of Switzerland’s most iconic resorts in jet-set style.
If you seek a Swiss idyll that balances Alpine adventure with a heaping scoop of chi-chi, set your sights on Gstaad. Nestled in Switzerland’s Bern canton, Gstaad knocks it out of the park for winter sports lovers with 124 miles of downhill ski runs, 111 miles of cross-country trails and over 118 miles for winter hiking and sledding.
The Gstaad Palace is the quintessential luxury stay. This century-old icon emerges from the forest like an architectural masterpiece, with sumptuous suites and some of Gstaad’s finest dining. Reserve a table at the Michelin-starred Gildo’s for an evening of exquisite Italian cuisine, or experience a Swiss culinary tradition at La Fromagerie, set in a repurposed WWII bunker. Craving international flavors? Opt for Megu inside the Alpina Hotel for world-class sushi or Chubut for Argentinean zest.
Accessibility isn’t compromised for seclusion: The Montreux-Oberland railway gets you into town in vintage style with Belle Époque carriages. Elevate your itinerary with a visit to Glacier 3000, a lofty spectacle with a restaurant by Swiss architect Mario Botta; the Peak Walk by Tissot, the world’s first suspension bridge connecting two summits; and a vantage point to a “who’s who” of summits, from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc.
Come dusk, the town’s social axis rotates around the Gstaad Palace Lobby Bar, offering cocktails framed by the Bernese Alps. For quirk, try Iglu-Dorf, which couples local fondue and spirits in an igloo setting. Early Beck tempts with regional treats like Saane Gibeni and nut cake in its chintzy tearoom. If a night of dancing tempts you, the GreenGo discotheque offers an entry into an elite world, albeit one that can swiftly scale up in cost.
St. Moritz, a glitzy alpine enclave with a population just north of 5,000, balloons each winter as half a million guests flock to its illustrious slopes. It’s where Swiss tradition and jet-set glam coalesce, holding its luster since becoming a luxury winter haven in the ’60s. Beyond its status as a two-time Winter Olympics host, St. Moritz serves a diverse skiing palette—from Corviglia Mountain’s assorted trails to Corvatsch’s nocturnal runs, all the way to the heart-pounding, 85 mph speeds of the Cresta Run ice track. This small yet ambitious town is a microcosm of high adrenaline and high society, remaining quintessentially Swiss while rolling out the red carpet for the global elite.
Accommodation in St. Moritz is as majestic as its backdrop. The venerable Kulm Hotel, recently rejuvenated by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, vies for attention with grand dame Badrutt’s Palace. Above the latter is where you’ll find Chesa Veglia, a reimagined 17th-century farmhouse with a fabulous sun terrace and excellent Swiss cuisine, while the Lord Norman Foster-designed Kulm Country Club remains a destination for dining and live events. For high-altitude revelry, Paradiso Mountain Club offers an après ski that buzzes at 7,000 feet. And if you’re around for the St. Moritz Jazz Festival, don’t miss a rare entry into the Dracula Club, a cryptic venue that swings open its secretive doors but once a year.
Zermatt, just six miles from the Theodul Pass bordering Italy, remains a hub for mountain lovers and skiers drawn to the imposing spectacle of the Matterhorn. With 54 lifts and 148 slopes extending over 200 miles, options range from day passes to accessing the joint ski areas of Zermatt-Matterhorn and Breuil-Cervinia. Lodging is just as grandiose—The Omnia offers cliffside isolation above the town’s core with meticulously crafted rooms and a Michelin-starred dining experience, while the Mont Cervin Palace, established in 1852, offers a “dine-around” program giving guests a culinary tour across multiple restaurants.
The town’s gastronomic offerings parallel its esteemed ski scene. Bahnhofstrasse, the central artery of Zermatt, is an effervescent blend of shops, cafés and eateries, making après-ski an elevated social event. Whether it’s the rustic charm of Blatten for an alpine feast or the high-end allure of 1818 Eat & Drink, there’s something for every palate. For cocktail connoisseurs, start at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof’s Stars Bar before enjoying dinner at the Brasserie Lusi & Terrace.
In Switzerland’s southernmost Alps, Verbier resonates with a distinctly youthful energy while retaining the ultra-luxe prestige perfected by its peers. Commanding vistas over the Grand Combin and Mont Blanc ranges, the town appeals to those with a thirst for adrenaline, offering the Mont Fort glacier for experienced skiers and an assortment of snow parks for freestyle enthusiasts. Daredevils can even go heli-skiing or paragliding, launching from vertiginous summits.
Architecturally, Verbier trades in Zermatt’s historical charm for a contemporary allure, epitomized by the W Verbier hotel, where ski-in, ski-out convenience meets spirited après-ski at the bar, Off Piste. On the culinary front, Verbier serves up refined Swiss gastronomy. On the culinary front, Verbier serves up refined Swiss gastronomy at La Table d’Adrien and rustic elegance at the Sno-Cat accessible La Marmotte. Night owls flock to Farm Club for high-octane after-dark festivities, while those preferring a quieter setting can sip cocktails at Le Rouge, as they watch skiers carve trails in the fading alpenglow.
Davos, a small Swiss town with an outsized international reputation, has transformed from a Victorian-era health retreat to the modern stage for the World Economic Forum. Expect a more intimate alpine experience that contrasts with the showiness of its more crowded counterparts. For lodging, the AlpenGold Hotel is a modernist Fabergé egg with Alpine timber interiors, while Waldhotel Davos serves as a boutique wellness retreat with a storied past. The town’s cultural landmarks like the 14th-century Church of St. Theodul and the Kirchner Museum add an extra layer to your getaway.
Davos delivers food and drink with plenty of flourish. A trip to BierVision Monstein brewery—the highest of its kind in Switzerland and second highest in Europe—is an absolute must. Locals and aficionados affectionately refer to it as “the last beer stop before heaven.” For a Michelin-starred experience, La Riva dazzles both the palate and the eyes, especially if you opt for a grand-window table. At Schneider’s, family-friendly dining ranges from Swiss fondue to casual coffee and cake, catering to all types of culinary adventurers.
Andermatt, an alpine diamond in the rough, is rewriting its modest narrative. Situated in the enigmatic Urseren Valley and just a 90-minute drive from Zurich, this sleepy ski village was primarily known for its monolithic peak, Gemsstock. Today, Andermatt is emerging as more than just a picturesque parking lot for Swiss tourists en route to the calmer ski conditions in Sedrun and Disentis. Despite billions of dollars invested in improvements made in the early aughts, the old mountain railway connecting Andermatt to Disentis remains a standout feature.
Andermatt’s ski domain can be divided up into two distinct parts. There’s Gemsstock, which boasts formidable runs and off-piste challenges, and Nätschen, one of Europe’s finest beginner slopes. Since its opening, Chedi Andermatt has reigned as the singular hotel for a five-star experience and nine dining outlets, from après-ski bars to a Michelin-starred Japanese Restaurant specializing in kaiseki menus. For a laid-back meal, Spycher’s wood-fired pizzas and pastas won’t disappoint.