Cigar Aficionado

The Alpina Gstaad, Switzerland

Long popular with European aristocrats and other international royalty, Gstaad, with its four mountains is arguably the world’s most exclusive—and traditional—ski town. Meticulously quaint and intentionally undeveloped, it is bent on preserving its rustic alpine character, even while streets are lined with some of the world’s most expensive homes—priced into nine figures. By law, each chalet must feature traditional Swiss mountain architecture, so most luxuries are hidden underground, sometimes five or six floors deep.

This is also the case with the new Alpina Gstaad, whose buried treasures include a world-class spa, stellar aquatic facilities and a state-of-the-art private cinema for up to 25. Opened in December by Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Alpina is the first five-star hotel built here in over a century. The new luxury property gives visitors without a chalet-owning friend a fitting place to stay. Costing nearly $340 million, with incredible attention to detail, it instantly joins the top tier of mountain town resorts.

Mating local architecture with the imposing look of a European grand hotel, the resort includes a branch of Asia’s Six Senses Spa and Manhattan’s Megu Japanese restaurant. There is a traditional Swiss eatery for fondue and raclette, a fine dining Continental restaurant and a bar lounge and restaurant. Staffers researched in Cuba to build the cigar lounge, with its soft leather furniture and a walk-in humidor. Located underground is a Roman grotto, with hot tubs, cold plunge, a zero-entry, Olympic-sized pool flanked by towering columns, and waterfall massage stations, all naturally illuminated by an oculus in the high domed ceiling. Men’s and women’s spa wings each boast steam, sauna, chromatherapy, ice showers, plunge pools and a salt inhalation room.

But the building itself is the real stunner, built by teams of artisans almost entirely of local stone, wood, rich leather and wrought iron. About 17,000 square feet of limestone was quarried in Switzerland, and 130,000 square feet of vintage wood was reclaimed from old Swiss farmhouses and barns. In the 56 lavish guest rooms (which start at $950 except during peak season), ancient stone, seasoned wood and one-of-a-kind Swiss antiques are joined by Bang & Olufsen flatscreen television monitors, Nespresso coffee makers, radiant heated floors, gas fireplaces, balconies and walk-in rain showers. The three bedroom, two-story Panorama Suite has a full spa with treatment room, sauna, steam room, gym and outdoor hot tub.

The result is a wonderful boutique hotel with world-class spa, four great restaurants, extensive fitness and entertainment facilities, chauffeured Range Rovers as house cars and a well-equipped ski shop cum valet, all run with Swiss efficiency and the kind of impeccable white-glove service found only at the world’s best hotels. With The Alpina, Gstaad is a ski town that also looks like a pretty perfect place to visit in the summertime.