Cheaper flights and new routes are just two reasons the ski season’s becoming a permanent fixture on the family holiday calendar. Fiona Klonarides spotlights five of the world’s top places to stay and ski – including The Four Seasons Vail and The Sebastian which both open this month – where snow, spas and chic chalets are all part of the seasonal ownership lifestyle.
In 2001 a 5,000-year old rock drawing depicting a man on skis holding a stick was discovered at Steinjkjer in Norway; in 1924, the oldest ski found to date was unearthed in a mire near Kalvträsk in Sweden. Far from being any old plank, experts carbon dated it back to 3200 BC. It seems as if we’ve been skiing, in some form or another, “since snow began.” It’s hard to prove exactly who the father of skiing as we know it really was, but modern day legend points to Scandinavia again – this time to a man called Sondre Norheim from the Norwegian farmlands of Telemark. Norheim supposedly invented the first bindings made of birch so that skiers could go further, faster, without worrying about their skis coming off. In 1870, Sondre Norheim took things a big step further by designing a short, curved, flexible ski made for easy turning in soft snow. In fact he was quite the skier himself, winning the first Norwegian national skiing competition aged forty-three in Christiania, now Oslo and there’s even a book about him on Amazon.com.
The St. Moritz story
The story of the ski resort, on the other hand, begins in Switzerland. In September 1864, St. Moritz hotel owner Johannes Badrutt made a bet with four of his British summer guests at the end of the summer. He invited them to return for the winter, assuring them that if they didn’t enjoy their snow-bound visit he’d cover the cost of their journey from London to St. Moritz and back. However if they liked the place in winter they could stay as long as they wished, as his guests. The deal was sealed and the guests returned, delighted with the generous terms of the wager. They came for Christmas and didn’t leave until Easter. [member]
Soon St. Moritz became the diamonds-and-ice playground of the fortunate, famous and rich, a stylish sun trap where the sun shines around 322 days a year (on a par with Andalucia). The legends who visited are as legendary as the place itself. Alfred Hitchcock, Brigitte Bardot, Charlie Chaplin, Henry Ford, Greta Garbo and the Kennedy family were all drawn to the Swiss resort and these days George Clooney, Hugh Grant, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Elizabeth Hurley are some of the faces spotted around town.
You don’t have to fork out on five star St. Moritz hotels, though, to indulge in the champagne-and-ski lifestyle. Two brand new deluxe resorts open in Vail, Colorado before the end of the year. Timbers Resorts’ newest property, The Sebastian, a boutique hotel and residences, opens in December, as does the Four Seasons Resort & Residences Vail, the latest addition to the hotelier’s global portfolio. In Europe, The Hideaways Club has two highly desirable ski chalets as part of its hand-picked destination property portfolio. Members can stay at a Grand Designs-style chalet in Haute-Nendaz in Switzerland or kick back in an equally breathtaking property in Chamonix, France.
Five private residence ski resorts where luxury starts with a capital “L”
The Sebastian – A Timbers Resorts Hotel and Residence Club – Vail, Colorado
Why go? Opening just in time for Christmas, this 100-room boutique hotel with 38 private residence units is the latest newcomer to the Timbers Resorts portfolio. Timbers have a reputation for exclusivity and exquisite scenery so it’s no surprise that their portfolio resembles a Hollywood wish list.
Locations: Snowmass and Steamboat Springs in Colorado; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Scottsdale, Arizona; the Napa Valley and San Diego, California; Tuscany, Italy and Doonberg, Co. Clare, Ireland. Private residence club owners can use the boutique hotel facilities and concierge service which include the Bloom spa, Frost Bar, The Library, Market (an artisan deli) and Block 16 for farm-to-table cuisine).
Membership: Four-week membership starts at $310,000; Founder’s Club, eight-weeks from $580,000. Both include membership in the Timbers Collection, plus various perks and privileges from travel partners to reciprocity among the resorts in the Timbers Portfolio. So you can trade a week for a week in Tuscany’s wine country or go golfing in Ireland.
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail – Vail, Colorado
Why go? On December 11, the doors will open at one of the most anticipated resorts in Vail Valley. Nestled at the base of one of North America’s most fashionable ski resorts, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail boasts a 121-room resort as well as Four Season Private Residences Vail (16 whole-ownership homes) and Four Seasons Residence Club Vail (19 fractional-ownership residences). Skiers will love the dedicated Ski Concierge service at the base of the Vista Bahn lift with private lockers, a cosy lounge and top class ski and snowboard equipment. There’s a full service, 11,000 sq. ft. spa, hair and nail salon, relaxation lounge, a lovely courtyard with 75- foot all-season outdoor pool, whirlpools and fireplace, plus fitness centre.
Flame Restaurant offers fine dining and 24- hour room service, while the après-ski scene takes place at the Fireside Bar & Lounge. Four Seasons Vail hasn’t forgotten the little ones – its Kids for All Seasons programme is one of various child-centric activities. The resort is well placed for instant access all the boutiques, restaurants and outdoor activities Vail offers.
Membership: The 19 fractional residences at Four Seasons Residence Club Vail are sold in 1/12 deeded interests with annual usage throughout all seasons. Homeowners can choose from one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom condominiums that span 1,835 to 3,500 sq. ft. Prices range from $299,900- $528,900 for residences within a private wing of the resort.
The Hideaways Club – Chalet Lune, Four Valleys – Haute Nendaz, Switzerland
Why go? Cradling a cognac by the fire after a fabulous day’s skiing, staying at Chalet Lune really is like owning your own Grand Designs mountain chalet. And if it’s exclusivity you’re after, Hideaways’ ratio of six members to each property is among the lowest around.
Wake up to a blue sky and hot croissants for breakfast, pad around on the underfloor heating, then ski in and ski out of your own front door before a glamorous dip in your first floor balcony hot tub. With picture postcard views and direct access to the slopes, this totally private hideaway is just two kilometres from Nendaz village (20 mins from Sion Airport and 105 mins from Geneva). It’s set in one of the sunniest, prettiest spots in Switzerland’s second largest ski valley so you can virtually bank on excellent snow from December to April. Five bedrooms that sleep ten, all en-suites.
Membership: Known for its superior concierge service, The Hideaways Club owns twenty-seven properties (rising to forty-seven through its alliances with Equity Estates and Banyan Tree Private Collection). Minimum investment is £127,500 with an annual contribution of £7,000.
Locations: Switzerland, France, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, South Africa, Mauritius, Croatia, Italy, Thailand, Bali, Japan and Turkey. Its high end properties have an average value of €1.75 million.
The Little Nell Hotel & Residences – Aspen, Colorado
Why go? As luxurious as it is legendary, The Little Nell is only one of two ski-in, ski-out resorts in the swish snow haven of Aspen. Complete with its own rooftop pool surrounded by pine trees and mountain peaks, the multiple award-winning resort has scooped the Forbes Five-Star Hotel Award fourteen years running and is a member of the prestigious worldwide hotel collection Relais and Chateaux. One owner testimonial describes it as: “On a scale of one to ten, The Residences at The Little Nell are a twenty,” which just about sums it up. The resort stands out for many reasons, not least its fabulous five star service and mountain-inspired interior design. Warm, woody and seriously chic, the huge guest rooms have rustic touches like “barn” doors and soothing chocolate and cream colour schemes.
The Little Nell’s wine cellar consistently wins the Wine Spectator Grand Award and food takes centre stage here, too. Montagna Restaurant specialises in Italian-inspired farm-fresh cuisine while the relaxed yet glamorous Ajax Tavern (“Ajax” is the locals’ nickname for Aspen Mountain) scores high with its French-American bistro fare. Twenty-six homes nestled on the edge of Aspen Mountain adjacent to the Silver Queen Gondola make up The Residences and owners benefit from all the five star services at the Hotel. This Aspen retreat is hard to beat: it offers a perfectly balanced mix of privacy and facilities in a glittering Christmas card setting.
Membership: A cool $1.3 million for a one-eighth share of a three-bedroom residence (four bedroom homes are available too). Annual assessments come to approx. $30,000 and cover utilities, maintenance, liability insurance, property taxes, capital reserve fund, snow removal and ondemand airport transportation. Lucky resident pooches are pampered with cosy dog beds, grooming and gourmet biscuits all part of the impeccable service. There’s even a Puppy Jet Lag Kit “in case the altitude isn’t suiting your Airdales”.
Mountain Spirit Resort & Spa, Kimberly, British Columbia, Canada
Why go? “Phenomenally luxurious considering the price”, as one guest put it, a quarter share fractional at one of BC’s newest shared ownership ski resorts starts at just $86,000. Stylishly-furnished studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, underground parking, a year-round outdoor pool, 6,000 sq ft spa area and slopeside ski lockers are all part of the tempting offer at this resort a few minutes’ drive from one of Canada’s most popular ski centres.
Ski-in, ski-out, Mountain Spirit is fully managed with a well-structured optional rental pool to boost owners’ income. The resort is only five minutes from downtown Kimberley (known as the Bavarian City of the Rockies) and fifteen from the Canadian Rockies International Airport.
Membership: Quarter share owners who buy in to the resort for $86,000 receive a deeded title to their shares and have access every fourth week throughout the year. The resort gives owners the choice to opt in to the profit-sharing rental pool programme which is well managed by Bellstar Hotels and Resorts. There’s also a concierge service, while whole ownership, for those who want more of the Mountain Spirit experience, starts at $298,900.