Splurging a million dollars on a ski trip may seem implausible, but it can be done with ease – if you’ve got the travel cash to splash of course.
Because while the Alps and extravagance have always gone hand in hand, a batch of chalets and restaurants catering to the billionaire set have taken previously understated Alpine decadence to a whole new level of bling.
Where there were once wooden fondue rooms and raucous nightclubs, there are now crystal-encrusted showers, Krug and truffle picnics in the snow, burnished gold swimming pools and multi-Michelin star meals – next to which the actual skiing often pales by comparison.
So if you want to winter vacation oligarch-style, here’s where to go and what to do.
The chalet: Chalet N, Oberlech, Austria
At Chalet N, one man is seemingly employed with the sole responsibility of grating thick slices of truffle onto every passing plate at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Extravagant, yes. But we wouldn’t expect anything less from the world’s most expensive chalet.
Set on the slopes of Oberlech, the 10-bedroom lodge costs up to $700,000 a week to rent, which means guests expect stratospheric levels of luxury.
And the result is Bond villain’s lair meets the Ritz.
There is a vast subterranean pool lit by crystal chandeliers and flanked by 1970s-style vibrating water beds. Next door is a Swarovski-encrusted spa, where therapists are on hand to massage away any aches and pains.
In touching distance of the slopes, there are two outdoor hot tubs surrounded by candles and iced champagne from dusk until dawn.
Martinis are drunk in the mirrored 1920s bar or on the outdoor balcony under the dead weight of multiple fur rugs, while chefs will prepare whatever tidbits take your fancy 24-hours a day.
And as for the skiing, well there’s a lift that whips you straight from the plush boot room and onto the slopes.
Chalet N, Oberlech 50, 6764 Lech, Austria; +43 5583 37900
The hotel: Cheval Blanc, Courchevel
Placing your foot in a damp, chilled ski boot is enough to put you off snow for life. So thankfully there’s someone to warm your shoes, and tie your laces at Cheval Blanc, which is run by French luxury goods company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
With 34 rooms and a staff to guest ratio of nearly four to one, it aims to offer almost maternal levels of service – serving tea exactly how you like it, running your bath while you’re still skiing and leaving your favorite flowers by the bed. Although this is a high fashion French version of motherly love.
Karl Lagerfeld commissioned the photographs on the walls and downstairs there is a Louis Vuitton boutique and a Givenchy Snow Spa.
And she likes to feed you: think bouillon of gold flakes, and bread made with truffles at Yannick Alléno’s three-star Michelin restaurant Le 1947.
Cheval Blanc Courchevel, Le Jardin Alpin, 73120 Courchevel 1850, France: +33 4 79 00 50 50
The swimming pool: Chalet Marco Polo, Val d’Isere
Staying at Chalet Marco Polo is like being thrust onto a film set with an unusually high budget and nowhere is that more apparent than its gold leaf swimming pool.
Sitting under an open skylight, it glimmers in the Alpine sun like Midas’ lair brought to life.
Designed by Christian Lacroix, this shimmering pool has more to offer than just its looks – it also boasts powerful swimming jets and a cinema screen that appears at the end of the pool with the touch of a button.
Elsewhere in this six-bedroom chalet is a marble-tiled hammam, a vast wine cellar, a cheese room, and even an adult-sized Scalextric that takes up to eight players.
And this winter, Chalet Marco Polo has landed its very own tèlècabine, what Helen Orford, digital marketing manager, calls an “über cool ski boot room.”
Chalet Marco Polo, Impasse des Gentianes, 73150 Val-d’Isère, France; +44 20 3393 0833
The wellness center: Alpina Gstaad, Gstaad, Switzerland
You’ll hear people boasting that they’re an 80, or looking embarrassed that they’re a 50 at this sumptuous hotel. It may sound like a secret Swiss skiing code, but it’s all linked to the wellness program.
After analyzing metabolism, heart function, digestion, cell health and stress, guests are given tailored advice on nutrition and fitness.
Many cures are delightful – laps in the heated outdoor pool ringed by snowy mountains, a wallow in the Turkish baths, saunas and hot and cold wet rooms. Others are more painful – a colonic irrigation or two, for example.
The most memorable is being in the Himalayan salt grotto, a relatively dark, dry and humid place, which staff recommend guests stay in for up to 15 minutes.
What’s more: During Tibetan week, there’s a Tibetan monk on hand to teach you the ancient art of ignoring your work emails.
Alpina Gstaad, Alpinastrasse 23, 3780 Gstaad, Switzerland; +41 33 888 98 88
The lunch spot: Les Airelles, Courchevel, France
This swanky Courchevel institution sits serenely on a tree-lined slope at 1850 meters – a potentially similar-looking number to your check at the end of lunch for two.
One of only 24 hotels in France given the coveted “Palace” classification by the French tourism board, this astonishingly lavish establishment has three restaurants open for lunch in the main building and two more on the slopes.
The recently renovated La Table des Airelles offers indoor and outdoor seating and a sumptuous buffet. Sit outside and take in the pristine mountains, or select a table inside and be soothed by generous green velvet chairs and softly-glowing candles amid the ornate decor.
Determined to get a lunchtime tan?
Opt for Chalet de Pierres out in the mountains, where Mouton Rothschild and Moet is on tap and beautiful waitresses in scarlet berets serve truffle pizza, rich fondue and lobster ravioli to the dulcet tones of the in-house saxophone player.
And for those too merry on champagne to ski home, simply demand the 18th century horse-drawn carriage with leather by Hermès or a Narnia-like husky sled to whisk you back.
Les Airelles, Le Jardin Alpin 73120 Courchevel 1850; +33(0)4 79 00 38 38
The spa: Ultima Gstaad, Gstaad, Switzerland
For your next health drive, swap the carrot juice and dawn yoga for a three-day $15,000 detox program in the Ultima Gstaad’s palatial La Prairie spa — room and board not included.
Although if the aim is to make guests half as beautiful as the opulent spa itself, then it’s worth every cent.
Made from Saharan black marble, it boasts dramatic bronze wall features, orchids on every surface and gently running streams of emerald and navy blue colored water.
The intense detox program includes blood tests and vitamin and antioxidant treatments, although there are also massages and facials galore, scrubs and saunas, as well as laser therapy and even Botox, should you discover the hot baths aren’t having a dramatic enough effect.
Although “retox” temptation lurks in every corner in this sumptuous hotel, from the gourmet Italian restaurant, to the 1920s-style gilt bar.
Ultima Gstaad, Gsteigstrasse 70, 3780 Gstaad, Switzerland, 3780 Gstaad, Switzerland; +41 33 748 05 50
The picnic spot: Le Grand Bellevue, Gstaad, Switzerland
At Le Grand Bellevue, luxury clearly means doing away with the dining room table, because all of the glitziest eating and drinking options are al fresco.
You can stop off at one of the quaintly lit gluwein stations on your way back from the slopes and warm up with a goblet of hot, spicy wine.
For dinner, why not take a horse-drawn carriage ride through silent snowfields, champagne glass in one hand and caviar toast in the other, en route to Le Petit Chalet, a secluded farmhouse, for a private dinner of truffled fondue?
Or you could have your picnic in the traditional four-seater wooden Champagne cellar, where you’ll be offered unlimited Krug, fondue, and (somewhat unexpectedly) an array of sushi, made by your very own Japanese chef.
Le Grand Bellevue, Untergstaadstrasse 17, 3780 Gstaad, Switzerland; +41 33 748 00 00