The Ultimate Ski Retreats for the 2014-15 Season


LEAPrus 3912, Mount Elbrus, Russia
Close to the Georgian border, in a remote part of southern Russia, runs the formidable span of the Caucasus Mountains. In the centre of the range, topping nearly 6,000m is Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak. The fifth member of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains in each of the continents), it is notorious for its extreme climatic conditions. Yet, perched atop the southern side of this peak, is a new eco-hotel. Determined on minimal environmental impact, the North Caucasus Mountain Club (NCMC) enlisted Italian architects LEAPfactory, who specialise in high-altitude design solutions, for this project. The result includes a purification system that uses melted snow to supply the bathroom areas with water. Fashioned from resin and fibreglass, the three cylinder-shaped units house communal bedrooms, a restaurant, lounge areas, a reception point and staff accommodation, while the remaining building houses the toilets, showers and biological depurifiers.

Ice Q, Solden, Austria
It took a Tyrolean architect – Johann Obermoser – to go against local tradition and give après skiers a view you don’t get with a wooden chalet. Ice Q, his ethereal glass and steel design 3,048m up Gaislachkogl mountain, is the highest restaurant in the Otztal Alps, connected to the Gaislachkoglbahn lift by an equally delicate suspension bridge. The roof terrace seats 34 and the 94-seat dining room is furnished with local larch timber and dozens of Tom Dixon ‘Void’ copper pendant lights. A signature wine, ‘Pino3000′ – a collaboration between pinot growers from Austria, Germany and the South Tyrol – is matured in a wine cellar on the mountain.

The Chedi, Andermatt, Switzerland
Andermatt, once a sleepy army town in the Swiss Alps, is being transformed into a luxury year-round resort destination under the guidance of Egyptian-born billionaire Samih Sawiris. The jewel in the project’s crown – and the first European launch for Singapore-based GHM Hotels – the Chedi Andermatt fuses chalet-chic and Asian cool. Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, head of Kuala Lumpur architecture firm Denniston, the resort mixes traditional chalet vernacular with Gathy’s modern symmetrical ethos, using plenty of wood and stone. Tokyo-based design firm Spin Studio brings its upscale Asian style to the hotel’s fine dining and tempura-and-sushi restaurants. But the biggest indulgence is the 2,400 sq m spa, with its 35-metre pool and no fewer than eight fireplaces to warm guests after a day on the slopes. Winter sport enthusiasts get their own ‘ski butlers’ in stand-by, and next summer a golf course will meander through the meadow.

Hotel Mont-Blanc, Chamonix, France
Europe’s highest mountain, Mont-Blanc, has secured Chamonix’s status as one of the world’s most fabled ski resorts. Inspired by the immense peak, design doyenne Sybille de Margerie has created a calming interior of wispy whites and noble materials across the generous proportions of the Hotel Mont-Blanc. The Belle Époque building – acquired in 2010 and recently reopened by the Taittinger champagne family – features ornate stucco mouldings, marble fireplaces and elegant iron balustrades, which have been thoughtfully counterpoised by contemporary furnishings upholstered in warming tones of ochre and crimson and a chain-mail lamp by designer Christian Lava for Terzani. The two-year renovation has netted 40 rooms, including two suites, along with a spa that offers Tibetan-inspired treatments. The restaurant and bar, helmed by chef Guy Martin of the Grand Véfour in Paris, offers a menu of specialities from Martin’s hometown of Savoie. Gazing up at Mont-Blanc from the outdoor jacuzzi with a glass of Taittinger to hand is an unashamed luxury.

Whistler Residence, British Columbia, Canada
David Battersby and Heather Howat of Vancouver-based firm Battersby Howat combine a holistic approach to architecture with specialities in landscape and interior design. The winning formula is evident in this spectacular family home in a growing neighbourhood above the resort community of Whistler. The house’s monster size is belied by the surrounding bedrock, which was strategically blasted to envelop the home – making it seem as if a substantial portion is below grade. As a result, the lower level contains a labyrinth of private and communal spaces, while the upper levels are blessed with panoramic views to the forest and mountains and multiple sources of natural light, all without compromising privacy. The finished product achieves the ski-lodge archetype without appearing derivative or constrained. The property is privately owned but available for hire.

L’Apogee, Courchevel, France
Overlooking the Courchevel valley, L’Apogée is the newest addition to German hotel group Oetker Collection. The interior design of this new ski-in ski-out hotel sees the unlikely marriage of India Mahdavi – doyenne of colour, texture and patterning – and monochrome master Joseph Dirand. Housed within a chalet-shaped volume that uses plenty of wood panelling, Mahdavi’s guest accommodation achieves a sense of homeliness with bespoke furnishings upholstered in deep greens and reds. In his public spaces, Dirand has allowed a modicum of colour, greys and beiges merging with burnished brass and variegated marble. A restaurant with striking mountain views is overseen by two-Michelin-starred chef Yannick Franques. And the spa, which follows Dirand’s usual black and white palette, has six treatment rooms, a salt cave and a steam room.

QT Falls Creek, Australia
The Great Dividing Range spans a massive 3,500km, from Northeastern Queensland through the spine of the vast Australian landmass, before fading into the Grampians in Western Victoria. The allure of the lucrative Victorian market – the state is home to the densest concentration of ski resorts in the country – has not escaped the attention of the QT Hotel group, which opened the re-badged QT Falls Creek this past June. While the exterior remains as striking as ever, the interiors have been updated by Sydney-based Nic Graham (W Hong Kong, QT Sydney), who revitalised the 63 apartments with light, contemporary furnishings, open-plan layouts and private terraces with hot tubs and sweeping views of the Kiewa Valley. The hotel’s in-house spa features five treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room and indoor plunge pool, plus an outdoor spa. A 1950s-inspired cocktail lounge and casual dining room round out the property’s relaxed, youthful appeal.

W Verbier, Switzerland
In Verbier, off-piste skiing is de rigueur. Suitably, the new W Verbier – the first ski resort from the 44-strong stable of W Hotels – presents an off-the-beaten-track hospitality experience. Transforming the urban legend into a rustic alpine retreat, Amsterdam-based Concrete Architectural Associates designed four wood-clad chalet-style buildings containing 123 smart guest rooms, each with its own fireplace and a palette of cosy wood and red tinted glass. W-goers will recognise the characteristic urbane style in the black leather Carve bar, with its saucy mirrored ceiling. And they’ll appreciate the spa, the largest in Verbier, with an indoor-outdoor pool. Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola headlines the Restaurant Arola, which offers his famous ‘pica pica’ sharing plates with a Swiss slant at a long tapas bar. Ski-in ski-out access leads directly to the Medran lift

Aiguille Grive Chalets Hotel, Bourg-Saint-Maurice, France
Paris-based architects Atelier Cos have used a mixture of wood and glass for the latest chalet to open its doors in the Alpine resort of Les Arcs. Blending in perfectly with the surrounding scenery – and casting the spotlight on the sensational Mont Blanc views – Aiguille Grive was inspired by the avant-garde style of Charlotte Perriand, one of the founding architects of the area. Inside, interior designer Pierre-Marie Couturier has created a cosy mix of alpine and Scandinavian chic, with deep sofas, fireplaces and convivial dining tables. The seven eco-friendly cabins are independent residences that house between 4-6 double rooms each, with a sitting area, dining space and a fully equipped kitchen.

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