Ski season is finally back. After not just one but two disappointing winters in the Alps due to Covid-19—ski resorts were forced to close in 2020 and impose restrictions in 2021—luxury hotels are rolling out the red carpet for guests’ long-awaited return. “There’s a real sense of excitement to get back to normal, post-pandemic,” says Damien Bastiat, managing director of Almae Collection, who has also noticed a shift in client demands as a result of Covid-19. “Larger groups and multigenerational families are looking to travel together again; some guests are looking for truly unique experiences and adventures, while others are seeking out alternative ski resorts to feel like they have discovered somewhere different,” he adds. Almae’s first property, Armancette, offers exactly that: Set in a former bakery in the quaint French town of Saint-Nicolas-de-Veroce, the hotel’s appeal lies in its peaceful and distinctly unglitzy location—although guests can enjoy plenty of action, with Megève just a 25-minute ski ride away.
Across the Italian border, Hotel de Len in Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of a new wave of hip boltholes popping up across the Alps. (Parkhotel Mondschein in Bolzano, Italy, and the Cōmodo in Bad Gastein, Austria, are other notable newcomers.) In addition to seasoned skiers, it’s hoping to entice design fans. The property also has the town’s only rooftop spa, an ultra-contemporary space dressed in pine (purported to improve sleep) and fir (believed to enhance body and mind balance); both were chosen for their wellness properties as much as the aesthetic.
As travelers look for ways to ease pandemic-induced tension, hotels are also dialing up their focus on health and relaxation. “Guests are on a quest for wellbeing,” says Stéphane Gras, general manager of Four Seasons Megève, which has added meditation and yoga classes to its wellness program in response. And when Six Senses Crans-Montana debuts in February, it will bring the brand’s signature spa offering to the Swiss resort. “We’ve observed a change in our clients’ travel priorities, and so we’ve emphasized our sustainability and wellbeing pillars to create an experience that they will remember for a lifetime,” says Cristiano Morelli, the new retreat’s director of sales and marketing. For Six Senses, this means leading the way with state-of-the-art fitness equipment, biohacking treatments and an Alchemy Bar where you can craft your own beauty products. With the additional opening of Lefay Crans-Montana in the area, where an award-winning spa will be complemented by nutritious menus centered around organic and locally sourced produce, the region looks poised to become a hot spot for winter wellness.
But perhaps the biggest desire of all is privacy, and hotels are pulling out all the stops this season to offer clients a space of their own. Airelles Courchevel has spent its downtime planning the launch of two new private chalets—a first for the lodging—which are discreetly connected to the main building via secret underground tunnels. Once inside, guests can enjoy private facilities such as an indoor pool and fully kitted out ski room and be attended to by a personal ski valet, private chef and sommelier while still enjoying access to all of Airelles’s facilities. For those who aren’t looking to spring for the nearly $150,000 a night price tag, the four-bedroom Penthouse Apartment has also been given a new look and comes with extras such as a private butler, a Rolls-Royce Cullinan and driver plus helicopter airport transfers. In addition to upping its wellness game, Four Seasons Megève has launched the Suite Idéal, perched at the dizzying altitude of 6,000 feet and accessible only by ski lift or snowcat for ultimate privacy. “It’s the perfect place to recharge your batteries in front of a breathtaking panorama,” says Gras.
As part of Mandarin Oriental’s new Exclusive Homes portfolio, the group’s first Alpine property, Mandarin Oriental Chalet überHaus, is a ski-in and ski-out chalet that has its own cinema, billiards room and glass-bottomed hot tub for post-ski soaks. Guests can also tap into the full Mandarin Oriental hotel service, from concierge to private chefs to spa therapists. Similarly, Zannier Hotels has opened up Le Chalet as part of its Zannier Private Estates collection. The picture-perfect Alpine retreat, previously used only by the Zannier family, comes with roaring open-fires, a spa, a cinema room and a wine cellar, plus a full concierge service for when, and if, you feel like venturing outdoors.
And after being unable to meet clients’ accommodation needs during the pandemic, luxury rental group A.M.A. Selections is now making a strong entrance into the French Alps with numerous openings across Courchevel, Megève, Val d’Isère and Méribel. Checking in not only offers the privacy that guests are now craving, but also the exclusivity of experiences such as helicopter jumps led by a triple-world-record-winning parachuter and panoramic helicopter rides followed by a fondue lunch in the Mont Blanc massif—all the makings of a ski season to remember.