Review: The Alpina Gstaad
‘Am I the luckiest girl alive,?’ I wrote in my journal on Day 1 of a brief but beautiful stay at The Alpina in Gstaad. Although completely stuffed up with throbbing sinuses and a pounding headache, I couldn’t have been in a cosier, more nurturing environment. The snow arrived the day before me (early January) and apparently it was T-shirt weather until then. With the BBQ covered over, life at The Alpina moved indoors.
My first thought on arriving at this grande hilltop retreat, just 10-minutes walk from what is undoubtedly the prettiest village in the Swiss Alps, was that it might be a little pretentious and stuffy for me. Not so, as I quickly relaxed into the warm fires, cosy throws on the oversized leather sofas and rich natural materials peppered throughout.
The Alpina has a deep sense of heritage, authentically presented in the stone and timber cuts by Swiss craftsmen and the local accessories (think cow bells and hand painted local cabinets) decorating each of the 56 contemporary chalet-style suites, each with their own balcony and fireplace. Upper-level rooms enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and local hamlets, the source of much of the food served up in the restaurants.
The Alpina is understandably proud of its two Michelin-starred restaurants (Sommet and the contemporary Japanese MEGU) and Martin Göschel, Alpina’s Executive chef, takes his food very seriously. With the majority of foods sourced from local farms, including the renowned Bernese Oberland cheese (from cows that spend half the year munching on alpine herbs!) to the local honey and vegetarian menus - fresh, local and delicious are order of the day…..everyday.
Stakes are set high here and I was not disappointed. My dinner at Megu was undoubtedly the best Japanese food I have eaten, outside of Japan, and with 2,000 plus wines hidden in the unobtrusive wine cellar, even the most discerning connoisseur will be satisfied. The breakfast buffet was well beyond expectations with a rainbow of nuts, seeds and quinoa options, variants of bircher muesli, homemade breads, cheeses, jams, local honey and fresh vegetable juices - that’s in addition to a menu of cooked options.
Six Senses Spa
The large outdoor pool is the resort’s focal point during the summer, but as the snow falls life retreats to the vast Six Senses spa with its instagram-worthy pool and thermal facilities.
With a dedicated salt room (halotherapy is thought to help relieve respiratory issues amongst other illnesses), daily yoga and a fully inclusive menu of face and body treatments, it’s the summer and winter wellness packages that continue to bring guests back. The 4-night Tibetan Healing Retreat for example, comprises a time-tested blend of Tibetan yogic techniques, pulse readings, Ku Nye massage and Tibetan singing bowl meditations, to rebalance and rejuvenate wayward energy levels.
Universal White Time Healing
My treat was the transformative Light and Sound Healing Programme with the truly gifted Antonis Sorris. A practitioner of Universal White Time Healing which I am told uses light as frequency and as a healing energy force. “Working with White Time we open up to new knowledge and awaken ancient memories within us to heal misunderstanding and rebalance the body’s misaligned energy,” Antonis explains. A combination of yogic breathing exercises, an Ila Kundalini back treatment (to balance the nervous system), a signature amethyst crystal wrap, Tibetan singing bowls and chakra-rebalancing therapy in the spa’s specially designed colour room… ”When we open ourselves up to something, the teachers present themselves” he tells me - and my teacher was there by my side.
For those wanting to breathe in the freshest mountain air some of the best alpine hikes are on just outside the door as are morning sun salutations when the weather is a little warmer.
Art at The Alpina
The Alpina hosts its own permanent art collection featuring exceptional works by leading artists of the twenty - first century, exploring the interplay between technology and the natural world. The emotionally charged Rhino (pictured) by Roy Nachum is amongst my favourites, with Braille poetry sculpted onto the canvas, creating art that can be experienced by the blind. With a new forward-thinking Tim Weiland at the helm (ex Aman and Banyan tree) sustainability has come centre stage here with numerous environmental and social initiatives underway, destined to set this hilltop hotel well ahead of the rest.
Factor in time to simply enjoy the hotel’s enveloping warmth, in your cosy bedroom or people-watching from the large leather fireside sofas in the lounge area.
Prebook a treatment with Antonis Sarris - your body and mind will thank you.
Don’t miss breakfast - the coffee is on par with the hotel and the breakfast choices are amongst the best I have seen, all enjoyed while soaking up those views - inclusive in your stay!
Room for Improvement: Areas of the spa were very neglected and tired. I am hopeful that this will soon be rectified.
Will I return: Visit off-season or avail of the wellness packages.
Getting there: Gstaad is about 2 hours drive from Geneva airport with regular train service from airport.
Cost: Wellness packages start at CHF 3,345/ €2,970 per person for 3-night retreat in a Deluxe Room fully inclusive of classes and treatments. Summer packages will be available soon.