007 in Obertilliach, the Austrian Tirol
Obertilliach is not a name that trips easily off the tongue, but that is all set to change. Spectre, the latest outing for 007, sees James Bond battling against a seductive Austrian backdrop. The wintry village of Obertilliach in the East Tirol witnessed cinematic high jinx, including spectacular explosions. Mayor Matthias Scherer was delighted to welcome Bond: “It’s not every day that a small community of 687 has a British secret agent coming to visit.” Filming also took place in Sölden, the Tirol’s Ötztal, which boasts one of highest mountain roads in the Alps. Thanks to its ‘on top of the world’ feeling, the Ice Q gourmet restaurant made the cut in the film. It’s a giant ice-cube affair perched above the Gaislachkogl. Lesser mortals praise the snow-sure resort of Sölden for its buzzing apres-ski scene, dazzling glaciers and 140-kilometres of slopes. How to do it: Stay in the brand-new Almfamilyhotel (www.almfamilyhotel.com) in Obertilliach, handy for the family-friendly Golzentipp Obertilliach ski area. From Innsbruck airport, indulge in a three-hour car chase to Bondsville.
The Chedi, Andermatt, the Swiss Alps
As a resort, Andermatt had fallen out of favour since the times of Wagner and Winston Churchill. There was a cameo in 007’s Goldfinger and then little else until the Chedi arrived. The Chedi brand is synonymous with glamour and this Swiss ski outpost does not disappoint. Set at 1,444 metres altitude, the Chedi has revitalised an overlooked resort. The idea of a piece of Asia in the Alps seems incongruous, but Oriental Zen and Swiss tranquillity are not so dissimilar. The Japanese restaurant plays on an East-meets-West theme while the slick spa has a Swiss-Asian feel. The design is as darkly seductive as Swiss chocolate: all burnished leather, dark stone and glowing firelight. The bar is bathed in candlelight, as is the Asian courtyard. Yet seamless sophistication means that you can control your log fire by iPad. Rail enthusiasts can take the famous Glacier Express, which stops in Andermatt on its adventure towards St Moritz. How to do it: The Chedi (www.ghmhotels.com/en/andermatt). The Glacier Express: www.glacierexpress.ch. The Chedi is two and half hours by train from Zurich airport, or 45 minutes from Lucerne.
Rosa Alpina, San Cassiano, Italy’s South Tyrol
San Cassiano is a charming Alta Badia ski resort and celebrity hotspot, thanks to its cosy gastrodomes. St Hubertus, in Hotel Rosa Alpina, draws the odd movie star, including George Clooney. But Alta Badia’s snow-sure resorts are more stylish than snooty, more romantic than ritzy. When not in the kitchen, sporty Norbert Niederkofler, the Michelin-starred chef, is on his beloved slopes. The celebrity skiers keep a low profile, from Prince Albert of Monaco onwards. All guests are drawn back to the Tyrolean cooking, embracing Alpine cheeses, suckling pig in juniper, smoked meats and local berries. The Dolomites are not deep-crust Italy. South Tyrol’s passport is Italian, but its soul is Austrian – and its slightly flabby stomach is in Mitteleuropa. Dumplings and apple strudel aside, this split personality is part of the Tyrol’s appeal. The region could have had Austrian flair and Italian efficiency, but thankfully got the mix right. How to do it: Rosa Alpina (www.rosalpina.it) and flights to Venice, Verona and Treviso airports, with shuttles to the slopes.
Cheval Blanc, Courchevel, French Alps
Courchevel is the place to splash your cash on the ski slopes, especially if you’re a Russian oligarch, rock star or royalty. Courchevel 1850, now known just as Courchevel, is the loftiest and most glamorous French resort. Cheval Blanc competes well with its rival luxury hotels, as it trades on more than a flashy location. Le 1947, the two Michelin-starred restaurant, garners rave reviews for superb food and unsnooty service. In the bedroom department, no two rooms are the same and reflect contemporary luxury, Alpine-style. Guests also rate the friendly staff, the Guerlain spa and even the unexpected gifts, such as perfume, that are given to mere mortals as well as to magnates. Couples come for canoodling, and families appreciate the kids’ club and teenager zone. Only the indiscreet presence of Russian bodyguards proves that Cheval Blanc is still on the money. How to do it: Cheval Blanc (www.courchevel.chevalblanc.com). The resort is two and a half hours from Geneva airport and 25km from Moutiers train station.
Chalet del Sogno, Madonna del Campiglio, Trentino
Madonna di Campiglio is a fashionable Dolomites resort and familiar film set. Mix with the fur coat and Ferrari brigade or choose a family-run boutique hotel for low-key luxury. Chalet del Sogno excels at timeless luxury with a personal touch, offering everything from herb-scented pillows to four-poster beds and organic breakfasts. A gourmet restaurant is complemented by a cosy Alpine stube, the place for apple strudel and Trentino’s celebrated sparkling wines by winemakers such as Ferrari, the first producer to introduce Champagne-style wines to Italy. Set by the Spinale chairlift, this is a ski in, ski out retreat just a few minutes from the resort centre. Join sleek Italians cruising the wide, sunny slopes, smug about living in snow heaven in Unesco-protected peaks. The hotel owner, Alberto Schiavon, a former Olympic champion snowboarder, is happy to advise on winter sports. Do ask him how some Italians can demolish three courses, then still ski downhill in style. It’s not fair. How to do it: Chalet Del Sogno (www.hotelchaletdelsognocampiglio.com) is in Madonna del Campiglio.
The Kulm, St Moritz, Swiss Alps
This is where Alpine tourism was born, just over 150 years ago. St Moritz was purely a summer resort until Victorian times. In 1864 Johannes Badrutt, the owner of the Kulm, challenged his predominantly British clientele to come back in winter. He promised them a free holiday if they weren’t satisfied that winter was as magical as summer. The bold bet paid off and the rest is ski history, from the Cresta Run onwards, which launched downhill skiing. The Kulm boasts the first electric lighting in Switzerland (1878) – and is still burning brightly today. The hotel still makes heads spin. Only cynics say that is due to the altitude of 1,900 metres, which requires the time to acclimatise to the altitude and lack of oxygen. Le Grand Restaurant is a chandelier-hung affair serving conservative but consistent French-inspired cuisine. The spa faces St. Moritz lake – which, in winter, freezes over to form a playing field. The spa offers unfettered views of the surrounding peaks but staying here is more about living history. How to do it: The Kulm (www.kulm.com) and www.stmoriz.ch for activities. From Zurich, allow for four hours by train (three by car), or two hours by car from Geneva.
Alpina Gstaad, Gstaad, Swiss Alps
Gstaad is perfect for the smart winter fondue set. Einstein, perhaps with Gstaad in mind, once said, “simplicity is the absolute sophistication.” Fans of this ritzy Swiss resort would seem to agree, from Roger Moore to Madonna, an eclectic mix. In winter, Gstaad’s low altitude is compensated for by its high life, fine dining and chic shopping. Alpina Gstaad, like the Swiss resort itself, doesn’t rest on its laurels. Traditionalists might consider the hotel an upstart but it has earned its accolades. The Alpina look is cosy chalet meets ultra-modern retreat, from open fireplaces to Oriental cuisine. The perfect setting is confirmed by the mountain approach, complete with waterfalls. After a day out on the slopes, guests are welcomed back by a tempting array of gourmet eateries. Apart from the Michelin-starred Sommet restaurant, there’s a Japanese sushi spot and a traditional mountain inn for Swiss rosti. How to do it: Alpina Gstaad (www.alpinagstaad.com). Bern airport is 80 minutes away by car; Geneva is two hours away and Zurich three hours away.
Grand Hotel Kronenhof, St Moritz, Swiss Alps
St Moritz’ fame as a ski resort overshadows its past as a legendary health and wellbeing destination. The soaring Alpine peaks are part of the appeal of St Moritz. The Kronenhof is set in Pontresina, a peaceful mountain village six miles from the ritzy resort. If you want to dip into the glitz of St Moritz, but prefer the haven of a traditional (and tranquil) mountain retreat, then the Kronenhof is for you. It’s slightly cheaper, too, an added bonus. As befits an establishment owned by the famed Niarchos dynasty, the hotel does not stint on luxury. The style embraces neo-baroque and a spa suitable for the smart set, complete with crackling log fire. This Swiss bolthole also works for families, with a reliable children’s club. Greedy parents can tuck into feasts in any of the five eateries, including ones focusing on Italian and Mediterranean-style cooking. The Kronenhof is an award-winning, perennially popular luxury hotel. How to do it: The Kronenhof (www.kronenhof.com). Many Swiss resorts can be reached on a customised rail tour through Railbookers (www.railbookers.co.uk)