Shred the gnar in the lap of luxury.
Planning a ski vacation can be more stressful than simply choosing the best mountain resort hotel to book—though, that is by no means easy. There are so many factors involved and anything could go wrong. Flying into Aspen on a cloudy day? Expect to be rerouted to Grand Junction and forced to drive two hours in a rented pickup truck. No powder in the Alps this year? Enjoy the black-and-blue bruises up your back from falling all day on icy snow-cannoned slopes. Nothing hurts winter sports enthusiasts more than having plans fall apart.
But whether it’s inclement weather, deadly road conditions, or altitude sickness, if you’re in the right luxury hotels near (or within) the best ski resorts, things will fall into place. “A great ski hotel is all about location,” says Misty Belles, an executive at luxury travel consortium Virtuoso. “Ski-in/ski-out, a dedicated lift for hotel guests, or immediate access to a high-speed chair or gondola is always first prize in my book.” These expectations extend past the well-trodden tony resorts in the United States and Europe to lesser-known ones in Asia and South America. “There is rising interest in destinations like Chile and Japan,” Belles says. “Especially as traditional European favorites see a drop-off in snow like they did last season.”
To choose your hotel wisely, it’s important to understand what makes a great ski resort. The most important thing is snow quality. That’s not to say terrain isn’t important. Even novices who can barely stand up on skis will get bored quickly without some verticality and obstacles. Anytime you can combine good snow and terrain, those places rise to the top of the list. For example, Chamonix, France, has its iconic Vallée Blanche, a 20-kilometer off-piste area replete with deadly hidden crevasses to avoid; Mayrhofen, Austria, has Harakiri, a ludicrously steep piste with a 78 percent gradient, which is aptly named for a ritualistic form of suicide.
Lastly, the ultimate value-add for the best ski resorts is a town. Belles agrees, suggesting that an après scene—think Champagne showers and fire pits—is a must for resorts and hotels. “Warming up next to the fireplace with a cocktail and a fun group is a cherished part of ski culture.”
So without further ado, in no specific order, here are the world’s 14 most luxurious hotels in proximity to enjoy the world’s best ski resorts.
1. ST. MORITZ, SWITZERLAND
There’s nowhere quite like St. Moritz. The picturesque town perched over a frozen lake in the Engadin valley, at both Europe’s unofficial capital of opulence as well as a top destination for serious skiers (the Winter Olympics have taken place there twice). That’s to say that the people-watching during high season is richer than a Caijou tub filled with beurre blanc. The historic Kulm Hotel, one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, is considered the birthplace of winter tourism in the Alps, having hosted its first winter guests in 1864. It also known for its ice rink, which architect Norman Foster restored and expanded to much acclaim in 2018.
2. JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING
In the heart of the Teton mountains, Jackson Hole is a mecca for extreme skiers and thrill-seekers. Few resorts around the world have runs that are name brands on a level with the infamous Corbett’s Couloir, a high-speed run that requires dropping between 10 and 20 feet in a deadly narrow slope. Just watch the Kings & Queens of Corbet’s competition and you’ll be screaming “Don’t do it!” at the screen over and over. The best place to stay in Teton Village is unquestionably the Four Seasons Resort with its ski-in/ski-out access to the famed 10,450-foot Rendezvous mountain, where Corbet’s is located. The vibe is rustic elegance, and the heated outdoor pool is the place to be when the sun sets.
3. NISEKO, JAPAN
Shredding Japan is on the bucket lists of the most zealous jet-setting skiers. Niseko, a region on the northern island of Hokkaido, with its seemingly continuous dumps of fluffy champagne powder is the stuff of legend. Combine that with diverse terrain and its proximity to Mount Yōtei, the “Mount Fuji of Hokkaido,” and you’ve got yourself a gnar seeker’s heaven. Park Hyatt added Niseko Hanazono to its already rich Japanese portfolio (Park Hyatt Tokyo is about as iconic as it gets, thanks to Lost in Translation) in 2020. The sprawling property, whose 23 suites come with private hot springs, is located just 10 minutes from the kinetic scene of the Hirafu district of Kutchan (St. Moritz’s sister city) and exudes omotenashi.
4. ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND
5. PARK CITY, UTAH
The state of Utah has some of the best snow and mountains with the highest peaks and most diverse terrain. The best of the best can be found in and around Deer Valley, just a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport. The Deer Valley resort will keep avid skiers plenty satisfied, but if you decide to rent a car, the legendary Snowbird and Alta resorts are just an hour’s drive. The St. Regis stands out in Park City as one of the most luxurious places to stay with its “ski beach,” where guests can sip cocktails while lounging in hot tubs on the slopes. Also, the lobby is accessed by a funicular, which wins the property an A-plus for imagination.
6. COURCHEVEL, FRANCE
Courchevel is a vibe. One of decadence, excess, and Occidental charm. In addition to being a choice wintering destination for celebs like the Waleses, the Beckhams, and the Clooneys, the skiing here is frequently ranked among the best in the world. The swanky resort in the French Alps is part of Les Trois Vallées, the largest linked ski area in the world comprising 370 miles of runs. Cheval Blanc, which is owned by LVMH, fittingly presents very stylish rooms filled with a whimsical mix of sheep sculptures, cashmere, and citrusy olfactory signatures. If that doesn’t sound exclusive for you, try getting a reservation at the property’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant Le 1947. You’ll need some luck, as it has only five tables.
7. PORTILLO, CHILE
Ever woken up on a humid summer morning wishing for ski season to come already? Well, if you know about Portillo—Chile’s answer to Verbier—and how seasons work below the equator, you’re aware that the gnar shreddage can occur all year around. The Hotel Portillo, high in the Chilean Andes and sitting on the Inca Lagoon, is famous for its iconic yellow exterior, creating a striking contrast against the imposing white peaks.
8. ASPEN, COLORADO
The name says it all: Aspen. Without having been there, those two syllables conjure images of powdery peaks, posh hotels and boutiques, and an electric nightlife. Added to that, there are the world-class cultural institutions like the Aspen Art Museum in the town center (designed by Shigeru Ban) and the legendary Anderson Ranch Arts Center in nearby Snowmass. Hotel Jerome is a historic gem, dating back to 1889, with an ambience that balances Old West rusticity and modern luxury. After a day of Champagne showers at Cloud Nine and dropping into double-black glades at Aspen Highlands, make yourself at home at J-Bar, where legend has it Hunter S. Thompson wrote part of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
9. CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, ITALY
“We’re planning to go to Cortina at Christmas,” Dickie Greenleaf says in The Talented Mr. Ripley. “Excellent skiing. Excellent.” Dickie is brutally murdered in the movie with a rowing oar, ruining all winter plans, but Dickie knew of which he spoke. The skiing is excellent there. Cortina has been the crown jewel of the Dolomites for generations with mythic pistes like Forcella Rossa (Black #51), an extremely steep and winding 1.3-mile slope with jaw-dropping views of otherworldly rock formations that make you question whether you’ve died and gone to paradiso. The place to stay during a visit is Hotel de Len, an elegant property with a classic chalet-style design (a nod to Tyrolean architecture), lively scene, and views for days. It would no doubt be on the top of Dickie’s list.
10. BIG SKY, MONTANA
The sky might be big in southwestern Montana, but so are the mountains. Big Sky Resort, 45 miles from Bozeman, has 5,850 skiable acres with a summit of 11,166 feet and caters to all levels of skiing ability. (Kids and families will thrive here.) You’ve heard of single and double black diamond runs? This place has triples, the most infamous of which is the Big Couloir (the name definitely on theme), a 40- to 50-degree pitch sustained for over 1,000 feet. Those attempting should have their affairs in order and will be required to book a sign-out time, bring a buddy, and carry avalanche gear. Montage Big Sky, which opened in late 2021, is the warmest, most luxurious, and Zen-like environment for unwinding after a day in the Madison mountains. Highly recommended is a stop at the subterranean bowling alley after scarfing down s’mores under the vast starlit night sky.
11. GSTAAD, SWITZERLAND
This Swiss town of Gstaad is the most exclusive town in the world with a name no one can agree on how to pronounce. The Alpina Gstaad, situated in the snowy landscape that has attracted everyone from Roger Moore to Kofi Annan, is home to one of the area’s most glamorous après-ski scenes, so add it to your list if you like your skiing with a side of people-watching.
12. WHISTLER BLACKCOMB, CANADA
O, Canada! You always have just what we need in winter. For skiing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a country with tastier peaks to ski than the Canadian Rockies. The feeling of adventure and excitement is indefatigable, and there’s a tie for the most immersive and luxurious hotels in Whistler. One option is the Four Seasons Resort, a place to possibly bump into celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris and to have an exfoliating maple syrup–and–brown sugar scrub at the spa. Then there’s the Fairmont Chateau, a palatial 519-room property that has been a magnet for celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Justin Timberlake.
13. CHAMONIX, FRANCE
Its name means “the sweet madness,” so you know this place is going to be lit AF. So after a long day of some serious skiing in the Vallée Blanche, carving lines while avoiding a sudden fall into the abyss, take your guide for an apéro at the hotel, which is known for its après-ski parties. We’re talking music, dancing, and cabaret performances, which puts into question whether a full night’s sleep is required before a full day on the slopes. Comme vous voulez!
14. PALISADES TAHOE, CALIFORNIA
California, here we come! The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe is the ultimate luxury escape in the Sierra Nevada. The Truckee area has some of the best resorts in the country with Palisades Tahoe a world-class standout that’s only 30 minutes away by car. Whether you’re hitting the slopes or indulging in spa treatments, you’ll be convinced that this hotel and the ski mountains around it are some of the best in the country.
Elle Decor by Charles Curkin November 13, 2023