Former British Vogue editor ALEXANDRA SHULMAN on the joys of a no-ski break in the Swiss Alps
I love snow. Very little makes me more excited than waking to see a fresh white blanket on the rooftops and hear that particular hush of the city after snowfall.
Skiing? Not so much. My only experience of the sport was aged 13. One journey on a T-bar lift and I walked down the piste, vowing never again.
This time I was heading to Arosa in Switzerland for a no-ski break. I chose to travel by rail – a 13-hour journey from London, via Paris and Zurich, with the last leg in a little local train climbing up into the hills.
It was only on this final part of the journey that snow finally emerged.
Like many of the European ski resorts this winter, Arosa has suffered from patchy snowfall, but as I arrived at Tschuggen Grand Hotel, the flakes were building up.
Alexandra Shulman headed to the ski resort of Arosa (pictured) in Switzerland for a no-ski break
Uplifting: Alexandra checked in to Arosa’s Tschuggen Grand Hotel. The hotel’s funicular takes guests up into the mountains for some spectacular views
The Grand is an institution in the area.
It may be an uninspiringly bland building, but once inside you arrive in what a friend of mine describes as ‘deep litter’ – in other words, great comfort. Beautiful Hermes upholstery, painted leather walls, Murano glass lighting.
Though most guests visit for the slopes, the hotel offers a host of activities and adventures as part of its Moving Mountains wellness agenda.
It was still snowing when I woke on the first morning, so was the perfect opportunity to visit the spa built into the hillside.
Daylight streams through vast sail-shaped windows, which illuminate at night like Chagall stained glass on a chapel. How glorious it was to indulge in a massage and then swim in the open-air pool, kept blissfully warm so you can paddle while gazing up at the falling snow.
The hotel features ‘beautiful Hermes upholstery, painted leather walls, [and] Murano glass lighting’
Describing the Tschuggen spa (pictured), Alexandra says: ‘Daylight streams through vast sail-shaped windows, which illuminate at night like Chagall stained glass on a chapel’
Alexandra says it was ‘glorious’ to indulge in a massage at the spa (above)
On my second day, I awoke to a Swiss chocolate-box scene. The sun was dappling the mountains as I visited the small town of Arosa, before hopping on the Tschuggen Express, the hotel’s own funicular which carries guests up the mountain to a traditional cafe with fabulous views.
My own exercise took the form of a snow-shoe hike. As a beginner, it took me time to master the walk – a stomp in a slightly bandy-legged manner.
It’s a popular activity in the area, with tours that take you right up along the crests or through the forests. With only one tumble, I thought I did pretty well – well enough to feel justified that night in indulging in the five-course tasting menu in the hotel’s two-Michelin-star restaurant, La Brezza.
One of the hotel’s guest rooms. Though most guests visit for the slopes, the hotel offers a host of activities and adventures as part of its Moving Mountains wellness agenda
Alexandra tried the five-course tasting menu in the hotel’s two-Michelin-star restaurant, La Brezza (above)
While having dinner in the main dining room (above), Alexandra found that the staff were nothing but friendly and warm
Alexandra (pictured) says she enjoyed an ‘excellent reset’ in Arosa
Eating alone can be daunting, but whether I was indulging in the dazzling array of options at the breakfast buffet, having dinner in the large dining room or enjoying an after-dinner drink in the cigar room, the staff were nothing but friendly and warm.
If you visit a ski resort and don’t ski, you have ample time to explore other activities, such as ice bathing.
And so it was I found myself at 8am being driven by the hotel’s general manager – equipped with towels and dressing gowns – to the Untersee, a tiny lake at the foot of the town. After he cracked open the ice, we undressed to our swimming costumes and he held my hand to guide me in, warning me not to panic. It was freezing, but not entirely unpleasant, to be submerged to the waist in water of -11C.
I lasted about 90 seconds (which I believe isn’t bad for a newbie) before rushing for my dressing gown.
Did I feel renewed by this cold plunge? Probably not. Did I feel I had achieved something? Definitely.
And would I go for a no-ski snow holiday again? Absolutely. The mountain air and incredible scenery gave me a great sense of wellbeing and, in only three days, an excellent reset.
B&B at Tschuggen Grand Hotel from 650 Swiss francs (£580) a night based on two sharing. Includes access to Bergoase Spa and use of Tschuggen Express (tschuggen.ch).
For more information on Switzerland, visit MySwitzerland.com.
Swiss Travel System provides a range of travel passes and tickets for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on consecutive days across the STS rail, bus and boat network, and also covers scenic routes, local trams/buses and free entry to around 500 museums across Switzerland. Prices start from £186 for a three-day 2nd class ticket. For more information, visit mystsnet.com.