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January 7, 2024

Private mountain: the rare gift of Alpine skiing without the crowds

The Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa, a ski resort in southern Switzerland, plays host each year to an exclusive event that opens up the slopes to only a few dozen guests

By Jake Rees-Bidder

The jaw-dropping beauty of a visit to Arosa begins with the train journey: board at Zürich, change at Chur and soak up the natural grandeur as the train climbs 1,000 metres and heralds the first glimpse of snow on the Alps. No moment is perhaps more spectacular than the crossing of the Langwieser Viaduct: look out the window and revel in the power of the Plessur crashing through the gorge below.

[See also: Klosters: why this low-key ski resort is fit for a king]

The jewel in the crown of this twinkling ski resort is the Tschuggen Grand Hotel, part of The Tschuggen Collection. The Prince and Princess of Wales are among its previous guests, but everyone who walks through the doors is made to feel like royalty. 

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Designed by Swiss architect Carlo Rampazzi, the hotel boasts traditional touches mixed with modern luxury. The bedrooms (94 rooms; 34 suites) are spacious and inviting, with ample storage for skiwear as well as evening finery. Downstairs, there are a number of dining options, including the grand formal room with panoramic mountain views.

The extraordinary private ski train for Tschuggen Grand Hotel guests

A meal at the Basement restaurant offers a more relaxed setting, with a New York style bistro menu providing an ideal way to load calories after a rigorous day on the slopes. The restaurant has its own bowling alley. (Strikes were hard to come by, although that might have been down to the wine at dinner). For fine dining there is La Brezza, chef Marco Capanella’s two Michelin-star restaurant with a menu inspired by traditional Swiss and Italian cooking, alongside a selection of plant-based alternatives. The sustainably-minded ‘Moving Mountains’ menu embodies the hotel’s eco-friendly approach. As one employee poignantly explains: ‘The idea behind this menu is that we want to promote sustainability, and we wish to be able to ski on these mountains in 20 years time.’ The message hits home particularly hard given how many resorts struggled for snow last season. 

[See also: Hotel openings 2024: safari hideaways, city suites and country retreats]

Fortunately, there were no such issues when the Tschuggen Grand Hotel hosted its ‘private mountain’ skiing event. Taking place over a weekend in early December, the gathering allows Tschuggen guests exclusive access to the empty slopes around the Arosa Hörnli. Recent seasons have seen the mountains explode into life after the lost years of the Covid-19 pandemic, simultaneously reviving the trials and tribulations of crowded pistes, bustling lifts and crammed lunch spots. Private mountain allows select skiers to enjoy the snow without the crowds.

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A League of Their Own

Guests can travel in style from the hotel to the Hörnli lift on the Tschuggen Express, a private mountain railway which redefines the norm for a ski-in ski-out resort. Awaiting the group was Swiss three-time Winter Olympian Daniel Mahrer, who put our skills to shame with effortless grace.

The ‘sails’ of the Tschuggen Grand Hotel spa create a dramatic shape on the mountainside, particularly when lit up at night

A DJ provided the soundtrack to the day while Leo Maissen, CEO of the Tschuggen Hotel Group, cooked toasties on an open flame. A team from the Carlton Hotel, a sister hotel in St Moritz, set up a wooden horse for those brave enough to try their hand at snow polo. (Hitting the ball was easier said than done. Scoring a goal? Impossible). The highlight came in the form of a ‘spa gondola’: a tranquil retreat in the Urdenbahn Gondola and staffed by the hotel’s spa therapists. 

[See also: The best wealth managers in Switzerland in 2023]

However, even this paled in comparison to the hotel spa. Carved into the mountain and spanning across four floors, this super-spa is the brainchild of the renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta, who used local materials to craft this masterpiece using a stunning combination of alpine granite, handcrafted maplewood and Arosa rock. The pièce de résistance of the design comes in the form of six gigantic sails spanning the mountainside. By night they light up in warm winter colours; by day they allow light to flood into the spa below. Two of the private treatment rooms even have spa pools below the sails, allowing guests to lie back and get lost in the Alpine sky. 

After private mountain, it is difficult to return to an ‘ordinary’ ski season. The luxury to descend as fast (or slow) as you choose is one that doesn’t come often in such sought-after resorts – just ask regulars of Courchevel or Meribel. 

tschuggencollection.ch

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