If there were a Winter Olympic equivalent to Oberlech’s Chalet N, it would be the mixed ice dancing, where glitz and glamour meet great performance. This Austrian hideaway (if you can call a palatial five-storey, nine-suite set-up a hideaway) is full of extravagant touches.
The rugs glisten; that’s the Swarovski crystals, naturally. There’s also a pillow menu, and bedding can even be embroidered with guest’s initials. A staff of 35 is on hand to cater for your every whim, and a private lift takes you from heated boot room to the slopes, adding a whole new meaning to ski in, ski out. This is, however, not just sparkle for sparkle’s sake (even if it does all feel a little James Bond); every details of Chalet N has been created to make guests feel utterly pampered (or, if desired, like a secret agent).
Sleeping up to 22 in 10 suites (each with a living room, dressing room, and private balcony) the retreat is made out of reclaimed local oak. Moreover, interior designer Sebastian Zenker has balanced opulence with comfort, so although Chalet N is undoubtedly grand (six stars of grandness, in fact) it’s also homely.
Oberlech, at 1,660m in the Arlberg Massif just above Lech, is a two-and-a-half hour transfer from Zurich (and just 90 minutes from Innsbruck). With 85 lifts and 260 km of pistes, the Arlberg is a vast ski area. But, if the allure of first tracks and powder carving doesn’t appeal, there’s plenty in the chalet to occupy you.
Spanning an entire floor, the spa – complete with adjacent Miha Bodytech gym – includes a pool with underwater speakers, a sauna and a salt-cave steam bath. Then there’s arguably the most Instagrammable luxury: two Jacuzzis on the outside deck with vistas of the valley. This being Austria, there’s a sharp focus on après ski; the sommelier hosts tastings in the wine cellar, and culinary cravings are sated by former Nobu chef Christoph Stiglitz, adding a touch of the experimental to local produce – cauliflower with dark chocolate anyone? Then there’s the option of reclining in the home cinema.
When Niseko residents complain about a lack of snow, what they actually mean is that none fell last night. During peak season, snowfalls of between 10 and 20cm of light, dry Siberian powder are the daily norm. Japan’s most cosmopolitan ski resort – on the northern island of Hokkaido – has become world famous for its deep and reliable snow, and duly attracts those who have long since ticked off Verbier, Jackson Hole and Whistler.
All the action centres on Mount Niseko Annupuri, a volcanic peak with a cluster of resorts at its base. The main four – Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri and Hanazono – are connected by gondolas and chairlifts linking snow parks, mogul fields, ungroomed slopes and deserted night-skiing pistes. Marked trails cover a modest 55 km, but the off-piste potential is vast – a short hike to the 1,308m peak opens up a huge expand of virgin snow.
Panorama comes as standard as Seshu, a high-spec designer chalet in Hirafu. Not far from a raft of lifts, it sleeps 10 in five large en-suite rooms and has a media room, underfloor heating, Jacuzzi and floor to ceiling windows. Also on hand are a driver and private chefs. Managed by Niseko Boutiques, Seshu offers a personalised service and privacy not easily matched by local hotels. Throughout the resort, from hotels to ski schools, staff speak English.
A top-notch ski area since 1946, Aspen is an oldie but a goodie. In fact, with its extensive trails, culture, shopping, fine dining and 300-plus days of sunshine each year, this historic silver-mining town in the heart of the Rockies, just west of the Continental Divide, is considered North America’s best ski resort.
Despite its sunny nature, Aspen has an exceptional snow record, and its altitude (the town is at 2,400m) means an abundance of dry, fluffy powder. With four distinctive areas offering wide, beautifully groomed runs cut between firs and silvery aspen trees, there’s plenty for skiers of all levels. In all the resort has 513 km of uncrowded pistes, with 42 lifts – it is rare when there is a queue.
The Little Nell is the only five-star accommodation with ski-in, ski-out access to Alpen Mountain. Set at the mountain’s foot, the ski lodge has 78 guest rooms and 14 suites, many with mountainside views.
Perfectly located for the slopes, it offers an extensive programme for skiing guests, including exclusive access to Aspen Mountain before the gondola opens, a ski concierge service and complimentary transfers to the other ski areas. It also features an outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, fitness centre and spa, as well as four bars and two restaurants: Element 47 delivers seasonally inspired organic fare, while the Ajax Tavern, near the gondola, is a sure bet for lunch (the truffle fries are sensational).
Dining is another thing that sets Aspen apart; highlights include the wholefood-focused Pyramid Bistro; Meat & Cheese, serving locally sourced “world farmhouse” cuisine and authentic Korean dishes; and renowned Nobu restaurant Matsuhisa.
The vibe throughout Aspen is relaxed; its inhabitants might be glamourous, but they are friendly, down-to-earth and – like the town – pretty much picture perfect.
Skiing is about pushing boundaries. On and off the slopes. And no-one is raising the bar further or faster than Scott Dunn, whose alpine portfolio gets better every year.
Last season, the curtain came up on its latest Val d’Isère flagship property, Chalet Husky, perfect for powder hounds to share tales of derring-do or novices to relive their inaugural exploits. The second you spy the in-chalet massage room and fully equipped gym, you know you’re in for something special, and from the freshly baked patisserie to your personal boot-fitting, the attention to detail and standard of service are exemplary.
A signature Scott Dunn timber design, Husky sleeps up to 14 in seven en-suite bedrooms spread across two lavish floors designed with quirky, contemporary interiors.
A glass walkway spans an indoor atrium – complete with illuminated multicoloured floor. Vintage lampshades add an asymmetric charm, and a sofa made entirely out of vintage-denim cushions hits the spot perfectly for end-of-day lounging.
On the ground floor, the pristine pool has a waterfall and swim jets. Less traditional off-piste entertainment comes in the shape of indoor archery and laser rifle shooting, while anyone looking for a more physical challenge can have a crack at rock-climbing.
Of course with these extracurricular activities it could be almost possible to overlook the 300km of beautifully groomed runs (and limitless off-piste) that make the Espace Killy one of the world’s great ski destinations.