The ghosts of Gstaad’s glitzy past still beckon and if you’re looking for some post-pandemic pampering, this is the place
Words Jonathan Whiley
The glitz and glamour of Gstaad is as subtle as a Shirley Bassey feather boa or a drinking session with Richard Burton. The famed resort in the Swiss Alps with its spectacular Toblerone scenery offers deliciously old-school, unashamed luxury.
Besieged by clichés as a ‘playground for the rich and famous’, its ski chic allure has proved catnip for royalty and the international jet-set for decades. It remains a land of plenty; of bubbling pots of truffle and cheese fondue, perfectly-chilled Krug and endless luxury boutiques housed in postcard-worthy chalets to seduce the beautiful people.
Ultima Gstaad, a boutique hotel a short walk (or very short trip by complimentary chauffeur) from the town’s main promenade is a relative newcomer.
It opened in 2016 as the first property in Ultima’s small, but ultra-exclusive collection of hotels across Europe and is likely to have been added to insiders’ little black book with immediate effect. Its den of opulence makes quite the statement; prepare to be greeted by a giant Richard Orlinski bear at the entrance, a Baccarat crystal chandelier in the lobby and a customised glass grand piano by Alec Monopoly (there is only one other in the world and it’s owned by Alicia Keys).
Despite the extravagant Alpine aesthetic, there is a warmth and intimacy with the feel of a private residence that may once have been Jay Gatsby’s winter retreat. There are bells and whistles aplenty; a cinema, ski room, shisha bar and dazzling La Prairie spa with steam room, sauna, indoor pool and an outdoor jacuzzi to soothe any aching limbs or cocktail-induced hangovers.
The service is friendly and relaxed throughout – the concierge was ex-Claridge’s and The Arts Club and it showed – while the hotel is not afraid to shake off its fur coat occasionally, hosting a playful pop-up dining experience with Peruvian restaurant group, COYA, during our stay. While its hedonistic 1960s’ heyday may have passed, the velvet glovedghosts of Gstaad’s glitzy past will continue to seduce. As we emerge from pandemic-hit hibernation, a champagne-fuelled hideaway at ultra-luxe Ultima could prove an irresistible prospect.