Chances are most of us have caught glimpses of millionaires on the mountain – adorned in fur coats, flashing a pair of diamond goggles or stepping into a limo – but do any of us really know how the other half (1 percent) live on the slopes? Or maybe you don’t want to know. If so look away now.
So, what do we mean by “posh?” The simple dictionary answer is “sumptuously furnished or appointed. Perhaps you could just add “world-class ski resorts.” Sure, you can ski or ride in the area for a bit less, but the fun is in the spending.
Here’s a run-down of the top 10 most exclusive ski resorts in the world. in no particular order. Hey, if you can afford skiing or riding at any of these, go for it. Send us a postcard.
1. Yellow Stone Club, Montana, USA
Forget about it. But, it’s there and very private and expensive. Very expensive. At least it was until its bankruptcy was splashed all over the front pages in 2009. Until then this resort was so exclusive that even if you knew its members names (that’s members of a private club that owns a mountain) you wouldn’t know who they are. Bill Gates was a notable exception. Same for Warren Miller. But for the most part, members were the bankers who owned the studios who employed the ‘stars’ who stayed in those other non-private resorts. It’s back on its feet now and no less expensive or exclusive.
The world’s most famous members-only ski resort is located 20 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. Arguably, the most exclusive ski resort in the world, offering something you can get anywhere else. You can be super-rich and super-safe all at the same time. It’s the only place in the world where you can ski without bodyguards, said one of its members.
That’s not to say there aren’t any there; resort security is handled by former US Secret Service Agents, the guys who protect the president. While most resorts have ‘mountain huts’ Yellowstone has ‘Sugar Shacks’, where you can tuck into homemade sweet treats and gourmet coffee.
Who to see: Barry Sternlicht, the hotelier, and Peter Chernin, CEO Chernin Group (current developer).
Apres-ski: Take a private snowcat dinner excursion to Timberline Lodge or combine dinner with a spot of night skiing at Rainbow Lodge.
Where to stay: Custom Residences boast stupendous views of nearby mountain peaks, others enjoy convenient ski access to YC’s exclusive Private Powder – a phrase they’ve actually trademarked.
2. Klosters, Switzerland
Pronounced clawsters, this is where it all started, at least in public. William and Kate’s first pucker-up for the paps was on the piste at Klosters, no doubt securing the resort’s social standing for another century. A Rothschild has a home here. And, George I-can-feel-your-pain Osborne likes the odd £11,000-a-time visit.
Who to see: Leonardo Dicaprio has been seen here while Nick Clegg skis in next-door Davos.
Apres-ski: The Casa Antica nightclub is famous for its discretion when it comes to royal custom – Princess Diana was a fan. They’ll keep a personal bottle of vodka behind the bar especially for you till it’s finished. The Chesa Bar in the Chesa Grischuna hotel is another favourite hangout of the Royal family.
Where to stay: Reserve a suite at the Walserhof hotel, which is where Prince Charles stays.
3. Deer Valley, Utah
Deer Valley is so civilised, you’re even offered a tissue while you wait to board the lifts. Utah’s most exclusive ski resort offers perfectly manicured runs, free ski valets, heated sidewalks, fine dining and boutique shopping. Skiers in Deer Valley are shielded from even a hint of the overcrowding and inconvenience of so many less expensive resorts, by limiting the number of tickets sold per day. Bad news for snowboarders: you’re not welcome. Each December, this super exclusive ski resort opens in style with the Celebrity SkiFest then in January the Sundance Film Festival (Robert Redford is the founder) comes to Park City, which always draws the stars.
Who to see: Gwen Stefani, Bruce Springsteen, Jane Fonda, John Travolta.
Apres-ski: Settle in by the fire with cognac at the Troll Hatten Lounge at the Stein Ericksen Lodge. The property’s namesake, the 80-something Norwegian Olympic medalist Stein Eriksen, can be spotted here most days.
Where to stay: Located mid-mountain in Deer Valley, is the five-star Stein Eriksen Lodge. Book a luxury suite with a gourmet kitchen, elegant living room, stone fireplace, master bedroom, and oversized jetted tubs.
4. Courchevel 1850, France
That’s 1850! Not 1650. Not 1550. Certainly not 1350. If the wearing of mink pelts wasn’t universally condemned, Courchevel would look like a trappers convention. Courchevel isn’t posh in the you’re-not-meant-to-be-here way that many on the list are. Mixed in with the mink (fake) is an easy mix of seasonnaires (servants), ski bums and holidaymakers. Prices are as steep as the runs but bargains can be had further down the hill at, h-hmm, 1350.
Who to see: Roman Ambramovich. Will and Kate bring the kids here as do Posh and Becks.
Apres-ski: Take a long luncheon at the two-Michelin-star Airelles restaurant decorated with jewel-toned silk curtains, Hermès tableware, and Saint Louis chandeliers. After your day’s skiing, head to Le Piggy’s – the oh-so-chic wine and piano bar – in the centre of town where a pint will set you back €14. Then it’s on to the Les Caves nightclub for a Jeroboam (3ltr) of Dom Perignon or if you are really thirsty a Nebuchadnezzar (15ltr) of Moët.
Where to stay: So long as it’s 1850, who cares? You’ll find nine five-star hotels here. One of which is Le K2 Palace where an individual chalet comes with a private butler who will warm your ski boots for you overnight.
5. St. Anton, Austria
This resort is a cradle of skiing with a history as long as some of its slopes. It’s where Hannes Schneider pioneered the downhill skiing method known as the Arlberg Technique. Many of his fellow ski teachers emigrated to the United States and did wonders for popularizing the sport in that country.
Apres-ski: There is a multitude of bars and plentiful nightlife. Visit the Griabli Bar for live music. The Kandahar bar remains open until 6 a.m. (Take a nap before skiing). If you go for costumed events hit the Kanguruh.
Who to see: King Carl Gustav of Sweden.
6. Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley was America’s first luxury, purpose-built winter resort. It is a seasonal home to the rich and famous who flock to the luxury lodges at the foot of the slopes. Along the walls of the Sun Valley Lodge you’ll find photos of Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, Ernest Hemingway and a smattering of Kennedys. Until recently, Bruce Willis owned a mountain here – Soldier Mountain ski area just west of Hailey.
Who to see: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis
Apres-ski: Sun Valley has a rowdy apres scene, but for a more sophisticated evening you take a horse-drawn sleigh ride from Sun Valley Inn to the romantic Trail Creek Cabin for dinner.
Where to stay: In the Sun Valley Resort’s Dollar Cottage – a sprawling six-bed, six-bath home with a wood-burning fireplace, a marble kitchen and hot tub on the deck overlooking the lake.
7. St. Moritz, Switzerland
Without doubt the poshest sounding of them all. St Moritzzzzz! Sounds so majestic and minty. It even boasts a “champagne climate” (dry air and sunshine to the rest of us). If you’re rich, St. Moritz is the place to flaunt your thick furs and expensive cars. You’ll also find plenty of high-end boutiques in which to buy yet more stuff. Rub shoulders with the creme de la creme at the Cartier Polo Tournament. This exclusive ski resort is a favourite of Russian billionaires who fly their jets from Moscow to Samedan, then hop in a limo for the short drive (5km) to St. Moritz.
Who to see: George Clooney
Apres-ski: Take an after-dinner drink at the Altitude Bar in the Kulm Hotel with live piano music (gentlemen must wear jackets and ties) then double your millions at the Casino St. Moritz in the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains.
Where to stay: In a suite at the five-star Kulm Hotel on the lake.
8. Gstaad, Switzerland
Actor Richard Burton has described Gstaad as “the most beautiful place in the world.” Paris Hilton chimed in, adding “Gstaad is a place of calm.” Gstaad is an upscale resort town in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps. The mountains are like magnets and royalty and celebrities have made it a favorite holiday locale for many years. Cable cars connect surrounding ski areas and that means you can choose from myriad “posh pistes.”
Cable cars connect surrounding ski areas such as Wispile and Rinderberg, with hundreds of Glacier 3000 makes Gstadd available most of the year.
Apres Ski: Probably not the high point in Gstaad, but it’s nothing to sneer at either. The center of the social scene is at the Lobby Bar of the Gstaad Palace where the views of the Bernese Alps are magnificent. Give Cappuccino a try. It’s set in a historic chalet near those high-fashion, high-dollar fashion boutiques.
Where to stay: The Grand Hotel Park, the aforementioned Gstaad Palace and Alpina Gstaad are all good choices to deplete your credit card, but make your holiday memorable. They are in the center of it all. Strolling the fairy-tale center of the village is a pastime where you can see and be seen.
9. Zürs, Austria
Austria’s most exclusive ski resort, where the runs are never crowded as the wealthy clientele are all too busy knocking back the Bolly. Small, but perfectly formed, Zürs is really a collection of extremely expensive hotels. It is a favourite of royalty and movie stars, but doesn’t have the ostentatious attitude of say St. Moritz or Courchevel. The neighbouring village of Lech was a favourite of Princess Diana and also featured in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
Who to see: Princess Caroline of Monaco and Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands.
Apres-ski: The nightlife here is pretty low-key. Everyone is staying in a lavish hotel so they don’t feel the need to venture out much. Enjoy evening drinks in Hotel Montana‘s piano bar and dine on roast sucking pig or veal at Hotel Zürserhof (jackets mandatory).
Where to stay: Five-star Hotel Zürserhof is up there with the world’s most luxurious mountain refuges. The best room(s) in the house is the Royal Suite (two-bed, two-bath) with an open fireplace, sauna/steam cabin and your own personal butler (€3,200 p/n).
10. Zermatt, Switzerland
Madonna, Nicole Kidman and Robbie Williams have all skied here, but the truth is you’re more likely to find yourself sharing a ski lift with Phil Collins or Mike Hucknall. That said, fans of fine dining are spoilt for choice: Zermatt has the highest density of gourmet restaurants in the world. You can even hire a guide to take you on a gourmet ski tour of the mountains. Sample sweetbreads with morel cream sauce at Zum See and risotto with white truffle shavings at Chez Vrony. Arrange a private helicopter or limousine pick-up from Geneva, Zurich or Milan airports.
Who to see: Nicole Kidman has been seen here and before the ‘big split’ Brad and Ange used to be big fans. And ‘the dark-haired one from ABBA’ lives there apparently.
Apres-ski: Dine at the stylish Cervo Restaurant – typical dishes include succulent venison, home-made ravioli with ricotta, and côte de boeuf. The coolest place to hang-out is The Vernissage – a cinema, bar, restaurant and gallery all rolled into one. Start the evening with here with cocktails; music goes on until 4 a.m.
Where to stay: The Chalet Zermatt Peak is a private catered residence costing more than CHF 200,000 for two weeks in high season, and is the most expensive in the Zermatt high-price segment. Highlights include a walk-in wine cellar, three HD cinema areas and a wellness centre. French footballer Thierry Henry wrote in their guest book: “The best chalet I have ever stayed in and I cannot wait to come back.” Alternatively, the stylish boutique Hotel Cervo is also top notch.