From the Swiss Alps to the increasingly popular French Alps and the Italian Dolomites, here are some winter holiday insights
With travelling from the UAE to Switzerland currently possible without having to quarantine in Switzerland (barring some nationalities and residents), the Alpine country is easing back on the travel map for the winter holidays.
Wide-open wonderlands, snow-covered villages, fantastic ski areas, and spectacular descents are complemented by crackling log fires and rustic mountain huts made for sociable fondue dinners.
Get away from the well-trodden slopes on a ski touring trip into the untouched snowy landscapes of Crans-Montana. Discover unexpected places at your own pace, and admire Crans-Montana’s superb 180 degree panorama on a chain of 18 peaks above 4,000m, including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. On your own or with a guide from the ski school, uncover the pleasure of ski touring in the Swiss Alps.
Moritz–Celerina is the only natural ice bobsleigh run and the oldest operational bobsleigh track in the world. As well as the professional annual national and international bobsleigh race, there are also exciting and challenging skeleton and luge competitions. Another seasonal highlight is the guest bobsleigh programme, where you can race down the bobsleigh track at an incredible speed of up to 130 km per hour, guided safely by a knowledgeable pilot. It’s an adrenalin-fuelled experience you’ll never forget.
At around 2,000m above sea level, the romantic snow huts of the Igloo Village in Gstaad at the Saanerslochgrat mountain station beckon travellers with winter-proof expedition sleeping bags and warm lambskins. Each snow hut is individual - perfect for special occasions. There are different categories to choose from in all sizes, suitable for couples, families, and groups of up to six people. A whirlpool jacuzzi is all part of the experience at the Igloo Village. Guides will ensure your well-being and pamper you with homemade tea and a traditional cheese fondue. As if that weren't enough, the view of the surrounding valleys and mountains is absolutely stunning.
Matthias Albrecht, Director GCC, Switzerland Tourism, says: "Switzerland has always been a popular winter playground thanks to its stunning natural beauty and a wide variety of activities. And now, travellers are more eager than ever to try things they’ve never done before. Conscious travel is emerging as a key trend; people expect to travel less frequently, so they want to maximise each trip with more once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Swiss winter (from December to March) has something uniquely memorable for everyone, whether you’re a rookie or a veteran."
Referring to the steadily growing traffic of travellers from the UAE to the Maldives, he says, "You have tried the white sands of Maldives, now it’s time to head for the white snow of Switzerland."
The UAE currently offers several connections per day to Switzerland, with SWISS International Airlines, Emirates, and Etihad all operating between Dubai/Abu Dhabi and Zurich/Geneva.
To strengthen guests’ confidence in Switzerland as a safe and clean travel destination, tourism industry associations have created a "Clean & Safe" label. This campaign was initiated by Switzerland Tourism (ST) as part of its recovery plan for Swiss tourism. When visiting tourism establishments/infrastructures, the label shows guests that the latter have made a conscious commitment to comply with protection plans.
Meanwhile, leaders in high-end chalet and apartment rentals Cimalpes have reported an increase in demand from Middle Eastern travellers in the French Alps (Three Valleys) with rentals on the rise. In 2019, Qatar recorded a significantly high percentage increase in overnight stays in Courchevel at 122 per cent. In comparison, USA was just 16.8 per cent, China at 47 per cent and South Africa at 114.4 per cent.
Cimalpes states that Courchevel is already on the holiday circuit for people from the Middle East. However, historically, their records reveal that the Middle Eastern client demand for Megève is higher. This could be attributed to the fact that the skiing is easier, it’s only an hour away from Geneva’s airport and it serves as an excellent European base.
Only in Megève can guests slide down 100 kilometres of pistes and discover quiet runs where pine trees bend under the weight of freshly fallen snow and enjoy spectacular views of Mont Blanc. But it's not just the ski-in ski-out aspect that sets Four Seasons Megève Collection apart from the rest of the pack. This winter Four Seasons Hotel Megève has unveiled the Mont Blanc Suite, the property’s most prestigious signature suite occupying the hotel’s entire fifth floor and offering panoramic views of the Aravis mountain range. The new suite connects three bedrooms and two smaller suites. Created with families in mind, the suite features a spacious open-plan living and dining area offering a contemporary residential feel, complete privacy and the ideal setting for relaxing.
Meanwhile, across the Italian border, renowned hotel brand Aman has signed a partnership agreement with Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa in San Cassiano in Italy’s monumental Unesco listed Dolomiti mountains.
Rosa Alpina’s 52 rooms and suites afford visitors 1,200 kilometres of ski slopes within the Dolomiti Superski region. While adventure is at the heart of the matter, the on-site 3* Michelin restaurant, St. Hubertus is an indulgent foray into Italian cuisine, where the hotel’s Executive Chef, Norbert Niederkofler is set to continue his journey with Aman, having served as a consultant at Aman Venice since 2019. The garden-level spa, indoor pool, gym and hammam provide a place of peace, synonymous with that of an Aman.
By Rashi Sen
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