Four of the most exclusive winter retreats in the world, where privacy is paramount and exceptional spa treatments revive guests after icy adventures, by Jo Foley
It all began in St Moritz 150 years ago, when the proprietor of the Kulm Hotel, a certain Johannes Badrutt, promised his departing summer guests that a winter holiday would be just as enjoyable.
Foolishly, he promised them a free stay if they decided to put it to the test — and his guests, all Brits, took him at his word, returned that December and a whole new love affair with the Alps (and its wintertime sports) was born.
Originally they skated, curled, took sleigh rides and snow-walked, but this eventually grew into sledding — especially on the frozen Lake Moritz (the birth of the Cresta Run) — and sliding down the slopes with planks of wood attached to the feet. Fresh air and healthy outdoor pursuits were the order of the day then, but now the Kulm Spa has all that a sybarite as well as a serious skier needs, including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, the latter one of the best ways to enjoy the invigorating air. There are steam baths, a Finnish sauna, hydro jet baths and an infrared cabin, all providing therapeutic relief for tired or strained bodies, a full menu of massage and body treatments and a Kneipp foot bath to revive boot-strapped feet.
Each day there is also a choice of fitness classes, or guests can book time with a personal trainer should extra be needed to cope with the 350 kilometres of slopes in the Engadin. If you're feeling brave, try the bobsleigh run and book a special three-day course, which includes training and full use of the spa for the ensuing relaxation. For those not feeling so brave, take a ride with your own driver down the course from St Moritz to Celeron. (Around ’1,350 and ’700 respectively.)
Otherwise, the commemorative 150 years of winter tourism offer includes gentler horse-drawn sleigh rides along with champagne andspa treats, before retiring to Herr Badrutt's quarters, jazzed up for the 21st century. Three nights from approximately ’950 kulm.com
Spa comforts in Aspen are best enjoyed in the elegant, traditional style of the Hotel Jerome, a mini-slalom from the centre of town, where even the standard rooms have cashmere curtains. Its Auberge Spa has a menu of body and beauty treatments which use some of the traditional healing elements of local minerals and ingredients, adapted over centuries in the environs of Roaring Fork Valley, and incorporating the latest technology.
The signature Sanctuary of the Mountains body treatment includes a clay exfoliation followed by a healing balm of arnica, white willow and calendula and helps to relax and calm tense joints and muscles. Its High Altitude Recovery Mountain massage is a firm-pressure offering, which helps improve mobility (great for stiffness) and relieves muscle fatigue after a long day on the slopes. Guests at the hotel have special access to the world-renowned Aspen Club and Spa, with its Sports Medicine Institute and acclaimed team of fitness and rehabilitation experts. From around ’600 per suite per night
The new Chalet Sirocco in Verbier is totally private and comes complete with its own spa, with three hours of treatments included in each day's costs. An entire floor is dedicated to the spa and houses an indoor pool, hamam, steam room, sauna and hot tub.
Extra treatments are available from ’100 an hour, including a deep tissue and an Indian head massage.
Yoga, personal training and boxercise classes can also be organised, or guests can head to the nearby Wholeycow training centre for a range of classes and private lessons from spinning to Zumba. The chalet is on four floors, with the ground floor dedicated to the spa and an entertainment zone with cinema, and each of the four vast bedrooms has its own balcony.
’4,100 per person per week (includes full board, daily massage and two days' ski instruction)
When privacy is what is required, head for Courchevel and the penthouse apartment on the top two floors of the H’tel de Charme Les Airelles. The private spa on the top floor has an indoor waterfall at its entrance, a Jacuzzi on the 1600 sq m terrace with magnificent views over the mountains, a sauna with large bay window so guests can still enjoy the view, a sensory shower (herbal, rainforest, eucalyptus and more) and an ice fountain.
Each of the four suites has its own steam shower. At the spa, meanwhile, a full range of body treatments, aromatherapy and massages (Swedish, sports, back, head and foot) are available, as are facials for sun-dried skin. From ’16,000 per night