Driving up and away from the central ski village of Gstaad, guests of the Alpina hotel will first encounter not its parking lot, nor its welcoming front door, but instead a striking tunnel that has been carved underground. The creation was masterminded by HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates, the London-based design firm responsible for the Alpina which itself sits embedded in the Bernese Oberland region, surrounded by the Swiss Alps.
Not only does the noise-absorbing tunnel block the din of traffic from guests’ ears within, but its subterranean placement allowed for 20,000 square metres of Jean Mus-designed gardens to be built atop. Suffice it to say, the Alpina Gstaad understands that first impressions count. Step inside into the lobby and the refined impressions continue with the warmth of reclaimed Swiss farmhouse wood and hanging lights, a grand staircase, and high ceilings.
It has taken over a century for an all-new, chalet-style hotel in Gstaad to garner a five-star ranking and the Alpina has done just that since opening in December of last year. Twelve years’ worth of planning and construction take shape in its modern chalet décor, which makes use of materials and craftsmanship typical to the region. The 56 rooms and suites hint at rustic luxe, with hewn stone, leather, and centuries-old fir, and are offset by cosy nods to Swiss heritage, like cashmere blankets emblazoned with traditional scherenschnitte (scissor cut) prints. The most impressive booking is the multilevel Panorama Suite—a veritable chalet within a chalet—which is outfitted with three bedrooms, a kitchen, massage facilities, sauna, and private spa, and can cost up to $21,000 per night to stay during high season.
The hotel’s Six Senses Spa is the only one in the country, and in the cold weather it heats up with a passive therapy approach in the Himalayan rock salt room, an Eastern heat with Hammam offerings, and Jacuzzi and steam rooms as well. That warmth prevails in the culinary realm with three separate restaurants, including the Swiss Stübli which turns out hearty fondues and raclettes, and there is a Cuban cigar room which provides yet another après-ski locale.
“The Alpina is something completely different—not just for Gstaad, but for the whole Alpine region,” says Stefan Schär, director of marketing and sales. The hotel is already a vacation destination for celebrities and Madonna was one of the first to be spotted staying there—and probably the last. “Let’s just put it this way,” says Schär discreetly. “The ski instructor who said that Madonna stayed here is no longer a ski instructor anymore.”