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Gstaad: Skiing, Winter Sports, and Gourmet Eats

GstaadGstaad – come up, slow down. The moment we set foot in this charming Swiss village that Julie Andrews has called “the last paradise in a crazy world,” the meaning of Gstaad’s slogan was immediately clear. Pine chalets topped with snow like icing on a cake, spectacular alpine views, and nary a sound but soft strands of classical music floating through the air and the occasional cow bell jangling in the distance. It’s so spectacular, Gstaad makes even the most active on-the-go adventurers like us slow down and take it all in.

The village oozes glitz and glamor and has long been a favorite amongst celebrities and royals. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once owned a chalet here and the towering castle, which is the over-a-century-old Gstaad Palace Hotel, has discreetly played host to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Princess Diana attended finishing school nearby and Princess Grace of Monaco spent holidays at her family chalet. But you don’t have to be part of the international jet set to holiday in Gstaad; there’s plenty to do without breaking the bank.

Gstaad Skiing

Skiing with incredible views from Eggli

Winter SportsSkiing

Gstaad Mountain Rides features over 220 kilometers of downhill ski runs. With 53 ski lifts you will never been stuck waiting in line for a lift; I certainly wasn’t even on a Saturday with perfect ski weather! The Eggli cable car holds the honor of being the first cable car in Switzerland in 1954 and it swept us up to 1557 meters in a matter of minutes. Tim’s favorite run was the 10 kilometer run from the La Videmanette station at 2,152 meters to Rougemont at 992 meters. The views from the top of La Vidermanette were amazing.

Check out this short video of Tim’s day skiing Gstaad’s local mountain, Eggli:

Gstaad has some 220 kilometers of pistes which are open from the end of October through the beginning of May. Lifts are open from 9am – 4:30pm and there is some night skiing available. Ski passes are 62 CHF per adult and 31 CHF per child.
Tobogganing at 55 Eggli

Picking a strategy so I don’t launch myself into a snow bank!

Winter SportsTobogganing

The pistes aren’t just for skiers. Gstaad has seven different toboggan runs with varying levels of difficulty and when I was done pretending to be a glamorous ski bunny sipping on après-ski glasses of Swiss wine, I hit the toboggan run. 55 Eggli begins just behind the Eggli Mountain Restaurant and descends over an adrenaline-pumping five kilometers to the village of Grund. Suddenly I was a ski bunny turned giggling child as my toboggan sped down the hill.

Toboggans are available for rent for 10 CHF for the day from the Eggli station or Z-Sport just before reaching Eggli-Gstaad station. It takes about 1 hour to descend 55 Eggli and walk back to the Eggli-Gstaad station.
Gstaad

Scenes from winter hiking in Gstaad

Winter SportsWinter Hiking

Gstaad has over 30 winter hiking routes and while Tim was swooshing down the mountain, I decided to check out a morning hike. With the sun now peeking over the mountains, the trees glistened with the tiniest of icicles and pines were blanketed in snow. What a gorgeous way to start the day and breathe in the fresh alpine air.

There are a number of trails, including themed trails to see chalets or castles. Download a winter hiking map and check route conditions online.
Gstaad

A sleigh ride through Gstaad

Winter SportsSleigh Rides

I can think of few things more romantic than dashing over the snow in a two horse sleigh, snuggling all the way! The small family run Kutscherei Reichenbach offers several sleigh ride routes from around Gstaad with a stop for mulled wine to a moonlit sleigh ride through the Lauenenseerundfahrt nature reserve.

Sleigh rides can be reserved with Kutscherei Reichenbach online. Rides range from 30 minutes up to 2 hours depending on the route selected.

Winter SportsBallooning

Each winter Château-d’Oex, about a 20 minute drive from Gstaad, is hot to an international hot air balloon festival. A number of events take place during the festival, including a special shapes rodeo and passenger flights.

For now we’ll still have to imagine how gorgeous the views are while ballooning over the Swiss Alps. Our long, unlucky history with hot air balloons is apparently still hanging over our heads, even after finally having a balloon flight in Myanmar, because the weather just didn’t cooperate on the day we planned to attend the festival.

Even if you can make it for the week-long festival held the last week of January, hot air ballooning is available year round with Balloon Château-d’Oex for 390 CHF per person.
Gstaad Promenade

Gstaad Promenade

SeePromenade

Be sure to save some time to wander Gstaad’s car-free Promenade. Not only will you find fashion’s biggest labels like Louis Vuitton and Prada, but also interesting art. And if you’re in to more edible souvenirs, pop into one of the many shops selling Swiss chocolates, local cheese, and Swiss wine to bring home. We highly recommend a visit to Early Beck for their pastries and chocolate truffles. Also try the Hornberger Mutschli, a tasty though slightly stinky cheese from the region.

EatGstaad’s Gastronomy

Foodies have come to the right place! Gstaad boasts unrivaled culinary delights with its more than 100 restaurants constantly earning the highest number of points by the renowned Gault Millau than any other Swiss region. Though I could have eaten fondue morning, noon, and night, we sampled a variety of Gstaad’s exquisite fare.

Hotel Spitzhorn

Spitzhorny cocktail (left), Toblerone mousse and creme brulee with ice cream (center), white wine soup, lamb chops, and filet (right) at Hotel Spitzhorn

The best meal we had on our Gstaad holiday was without a doubt at the recently opened Hotel Spitzhorn (opened December 2013). We were met with a roaring fire, friendly staff, and an offer of the daily cocktail dubbed The Spitzhorny. Though the menu is only available in French and German, the staff were more than helpful in helping us choose. Try the Saanenländer Weisswein-Suppe unter der Blätterteighaube mit Rohschinkenstreifen, which is a really long German name for the most delectable white wine soup with ham and cream served with a baked puff pastry over the top. The filet and lamb chops didn’t disappoint and though stuffed, we knew dessert would no doubt be amazing. It was.

Hotel Solsana

Rösti at Hotel Solsana

We also tried the half board option at Hotel Solsana and shared a fondue and rösti, a Swiss dish mainly made with potatoes (think hashbrowns), with farmer sausages and onion rémoulade. Both were delicious and we were glad not to have to head back out for dinner after an exhausting day of winter sports.

Eggli Mountain Restaurnat

Fish and chips with a view at Eggli Mountain Restaurnat

There’s no need to head back down the mountain in search of lunch. Chic Eggli Mountain Restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor sun terrace dining with a gourmet menu. Fish and chips and a Wagyu beef burger hit the spot after a morning of winter hiking and carving up the pistes, though fondue and Swiss specialties are also on the menu.

The menu at Au Montagnard in the center of Château-d’Oex is simple, yet delicious. Choose from the selections of  fondue or rösti. We each had a salad and shared the chef’s fondue of the day. It was the perfect lunch portion in a charming atmosphere.

Hotel Solsana

Simple, yet chic design at Hotel Solsana

StayWhere to Stay

Hotel Solsana is situated at 1150 meters in the village of Saanen, just minutes from Gstaad. On its perch over the valley, we had stunning views of Gstaad and the Swiss Alps. Throwing open the curtains in the morning, we were met with scenes awash in shades of blue as the sun pushed above the snow-covered peaks.

Though I wasn’t a fan of the bathroom design, the spacious room and balcony with incredible views more than made up for the bathroom flaws.The hotel also has a fitness center and spa with saunas to soothe those aching bones after a day of skiing and tobogganing.

Double room with balcony and breakfast buffet included is 180 CHF per night in high season. Half-board options, where a 4-course dinner is also included, are available for 35 CHF per person per night. Hotel Solsana is also pet friendly and the pet fee is 10 CHF per night. Free parking is available or underground parking garage is available for 10 CHF per night. Wifi is free.

Disclosure: Our trip to Gstaad was hosted by Gstaad Saanenland Tourismus in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter who is based in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and communications strategist and is an award-winning travel writer. She is also a travel correspondent on Traveling on the American Forces Radio Network. Jdomb's Travels was named one of the top travel blogs to watch by the Huffington Post and has been featured by top publications such as CNN, Buzzfeed , and The Telegraph. Her iPhoneograpy has also been featured on publications such as USA Today and Travel + Leisure. Google+

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14 comments

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  1. Devlin

    I’ve never had it before but that Rosti looks insanely delicious! Seems just heavy enough to satiate that post-ski hunger.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Rosti is perfect to fill up a hungry skiier or hiker! It love how much variety there is too. It’s a good thing I don’t live in Switzerland because I’d eat rosti and fondue ALL the time.

    [Reply]

  2. Val

    Sleigh rides, hot air ballooning, and amazing food? Looks like my kind of place!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Even though Gstaad isn’t a tropical destination, I think you’d love it Val! It’s a very laid back, relaxed atmosphere.

    [Reply]

  3. Larry D.

    Love the video! Just like being there. I’m going to watch it again outside where it is currently 18 degree F so it will even feel more realistic. Now if I could only find some of that rosti….

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Rosti would be perfect in temperatures that cold!

    [Reply]

  4. Derek

    You can have the snow and cold weather just leave me with the food ;)

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    It really looks colder than it was. We were both pretty warm with that sun out and doing active stuff like hiking and skiing!

    [Reply]

  5. Heather

    This place sounds perfect for a winter weekend getaway! I’ll be adding it to the list :-)

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Gstaad was gorgeous. You’ll love it Heather!

    [Reply]

  6. Christy

    I have not been to the snow in three years, but I would absolutely love to visit Switzerland in the winter. Just as long as I have a warm room and hot tub to come home to. :)

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I’m from Pennsylvania and Tim’s from Chicago, so we both grew up with snowy, cold weather. Then we both lived in the desert (Las Vegas and Phoenix) for 12 years and didn’t see snow but maybe once or twice a year when Flagstaff would get enough to go play in. It doesn’t snow where we live in Italy either, so I guess we just gravitate toward snow and winter sports! The hot tub definitely easing the chill!

    [Reply]

  7. Jeff

    Have never been in Gstaad. The thing that will make me go there its their food. They seems so delicious

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I wish I could try all those Gault Millau restaurants Gstaad boasts in their canton!

    [Reply]

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