Gstaad, Switzerland, located in the southwestern lobe of this multi-lingual country, is famous across Europe and around the globe for its skiing. A German-speaking cluster of 10 villages, the collective known as Gstaad is surrounded with a crown of quintessential Swiss Alps. Yet, despite its craggy environs, the valley itself has a welcoming elevation–roughly 1100 meters (3600 feet) above sea level.
Gstaad Mountain Rides, the local resort, is Bernese Oberland’s only glacier resort, offering skiers and snowboarders a staggering 250 km2 of pistes (slopes). But what does that really mean? Well, Utah’s world-famous Snowbird Resort has 2500 acres of skiable terrain–which converts to just 10 km2–literally 1/25th that of Gstaad Mountain Rides. Mammoth Mountain, California, with 3500 acres, has just 14 km2. All skiing at Gstaad falls within a user-friendly altitude range of 1000-3000m (3300-9800’). 58% of the runs are rated blue, 28% red and 15% black. If you’re an expert skier, don’t worry; that “mere 15%” of black terrain amounts to 37.5 km2 of ultra-challenging runs. The resort typically maintains winter operations mid-October through early May.
To and fro: Gstaad can be reached by a spider web of Alpine roadways and rail lines. Lausanne is the nearest major city, about 80 minutes west by car; Geneva is just 40 minutes farther afield in the same direction.
Sleeping: Gstaad has too many hotels, chalets and specialty lodging options to list. Bottom line is that, if you’re coming to Gstaad, you won’t have a problem locking in on ideal accommodations. Check out the village websites central accommodations page at www.gstaad.ch.
Eating: In Gstaad, you’re on the vacation turf of Switzerland’s watchmaker and bankers. Expect fine dining around every corner, as well as excellent bakeries and artisan food sellers.
Shopping a’plenty: A central promenade features designer labels such as Chopard, Prada, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Oscar de la Renta.