The Most Exclusive Ski Resort In Europe

4th March 2024

Tags: Italy Switzerland France Austria St Moritz Courchevel Lech Cortina

The Most Exclusive Ski Resort In Europe

What defines the exclusivity of a ski resort? If the answer to this question was easy, then surely more mountain destinations would be positioning themselves in order to strive for the right to call themselves ‘exclusive’.

Ski resorts, nestled in majestic snow-capped mountains and surrounded by stunning scenery already offer similar memorable experiences. So, how do they make themselves stand out from the crowd?

Here we take a look at some resorts that have something unique about them or whose distinctive qualities have helped elevate their reputation, earning them the right to join a list of those competing for the title of ‘The most exclusive ski resort in Europe’.


St Moritz, Switzerland

Several Swiss resorts claim to be ‘exclusive’ but St. Moritz, located in the Engadin Valley is probably one of the better-known destinations. The village is steeped in tradition and claims to be the birthplace of winter sports following a bet between local hotelier Johannes Badrutt and some British guests in the summer of 1864.

His wager was the guests should come back in the winter to stay at his Hotel Kulm and if they did not enjoy their visit during the colder months he would reimburse them. They did enjoy their stay, and with others, began participating in various winter sports activities. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Kulm Hotel grew to become one of several impressive 5-star hotels to establish themselves in St Moritz. Johannes Badrutt also went on to found Badrutt’s Palace Hotel. These hotels compete to provide a highly personalised service and luxurious amenities, including wellness and spa, in opulent surroundings. This level of service has helped make the resort a magnet for European aristocracy and the elite.

The quality of service extends to the mountains where visitors will find approximately 350kms of skiing and snowboarding. Heliskiing is also available.

In the resort the streets are lined with upmarket stores full of luxury brands and designer boutiques, plus fine dining restaurants, some with Michelin stars. There is an annual St. Moritz Gourmet Festival that attracts chefs from around the world to showcase their skills in St. Moritz’s top restaurants.

The resort, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948, is also home to a world-championship bobsled run, the historic and famous Cresta run, plus the Olympic ice-skating rink and elegant buildings which hosted the ice hockey, speed skating and figure skating events, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies at both games.

The beautiful Lake St Moritz provides the venue for more exclusive winter entertainment when it freezes during the winter. There is the unusual site of watching horses run on the ice at the White Turf races in February and in various polo events including the Snow Polo World Cup and Hublot Polo Gold Cup. Cricket matches have also been played on the ice.

These sporting attractions and other annual events such as the St. Moritz Art Masters, Engadin Ski Marathon and St. Moritz Music Festival combine to create a glamorous and sophisticated atmosphere which in turn attracts celebrities, royalty, and well-known names from around the world.

Many will make use of the exclusive clubs which cater to discerning clientele but those who want their private life to stay private could head for the infamous Dracula’s Ghost Riders Club, founded in 1970. Access to the nightclub is only available to Life Members and their guests.

The exclusivity is reinforced by a list of strict club rules and to ensure what goes on in the Dracula Club stays in the Dracula Club is the instruction: ‘No photos or filming. Phone cameras need to be covered with a sticker provided in the club.’

Another rule insists: ‘We expect our guests to dress elegantly – this implies formal footwear, shirt and jacket for gentlemen.’

All this extravagance could lead you to believe you need access to a certain level of income to afford St Moritz, but Ski Line has a selection of more affordable 4-star accommodations such as Hotel Monopol and the Hotel Schweizerhof.

Or an even safer way of keeping your budget under control is by staying at Club Med’s all-inclusive Saint-Moritz Roi Soleil which is within walking distance to the slopes. The all-in-one rate includes free alcoholic drinks, a ski pass, all meals, a hotel night club, childcare from four months old, mini and junior clubs, free ski lessons for adults and children from age four, free transport to slopes, and evening entertainment.


Courchevel, France

Courchevel 1850 has its own altiport which contributes to its claim of being one of the most exclusive European ski destinations as the high-altitude airport enables the rich and famous to travel directly to and from the resort.

It is one of four satellite villages that make up the Courchevel area, the others being Courchevel Le Praz, Courchevel 1550, and Courchevel 1650. They in turn are part of the extensive Les Trois Vallées ski area, a vast and varied network of slopes and modern lifts which cater to skiers of all levels.

Courchevel 1850 has built up a reputation for exclusivity through its collection of 5-star hotels and luxury chalets and apartments.

The village is home to high-end boutiques and designer shops, offering luxury brands and designer goods. There are several Michelin-starred restaurants which participate in various culinary events during the season.

Courchevel 1950 also hosts various exclusive events and festivals such as the Winter Polo Cup, Le Bal de Neige (The Snow Ball) a charity gala with a winter wonderland theme which attracts stars of stage and screen, and the rich and famous, and the World Stars Ski Event when celebrities compete and socialise on and off the slopes.


Lech, Austria

Lech-Zürs, located in the Arlberg region, has become a preferred ski and snowboard destination for European royalty, celebrities, and the affluent. It has one of the most exclusive chalets in the world – but more of that later.

The two adjacent villages of Lech and Zürs are both picturesque and charming with traditional Alpine architecture. They give access to a massive interconnected ski area and the region offers heliskiing opportunities for those seeking a more adventurous experience.

Lech-Zürs hosts various exclusive events and festivals, attracting an elite crowd and adding to the resort’s allure. These include the White Ring, one of the most famous ski races in the Alps, and the White Thrill one of the world’s longest downhill races, starting from the top of the Valluga mountain.

Off the slopes, there is plenty of culture on offer through the annual Lech Classic Festival and the Lech Music Festival. Between them, they showcase a diverse range of musical genres and feature performances by world-class musicians at various locations.

There is a selection of high-end hotels, luxury chalets and lodges. Most will have their own highly professional chefs, but guests can have nights out at a choice of award-winning gourmet restaurants or one of the exclusive private clubs and bars that promise a more intimate and private après-ski experience.

Ski Line has a choice of 5-star hotels, chalets and self-catering apartments, including Chalet N which must rank among the very best for exclusivity.

The chalet has a maximum occupancy of up to 22 (18 adults and four children). It offers every comfort you could want during your holiday. Guests have their own personal butler, an award-winning chef, a chauffeur service, and the use of a fully equipped office.

There is an impressive home cinema with access to classics and the latest releases, and the chalet’s own heated and well-equipped ski room ensures you get the best start to your days on the slopes.


Cortina, Italy

The opportunity to sample a taste of La Dolce Vita (the good life) has attracted celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn and Frank Sinatra to Cortina d’Ampezzo in the past.

The historic town and its Olympic venues such as the ice rink, ski jump and bobsleigh run, also feature in the 1981 James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only with Roger Moore as 007.

During his stay in Cortina, James Bond stays at the 5-star Miramonti Majestic Grand Hotel, the same location used in the 1963 Pink Panther film starring Peter Sellers and David Niven.

With so many well-known names visiting Cortina, you wouldn’t think it needs much help in claiming an exclusive ‘tag’, but it is the resort’s association with the Winter Olympics which has really helped put the location on the map.

It was originally named to host the Winter Games in 1944 but these were cancelled because of the second world war. Cortina was eventually the venue for the Olympics in 1956. These were the first Winter Games ever to be televised and ensured Cortina became known to a worldwide audience as a winter sports destination. The resort will be in the public eye again in 2026 when it co-hosts the Winter Olympics with Milan.

However, there are several other factors which contribute to Cortina d’Ampezzo being able to claim that it is one of Italy’s most exclusive ski resorts.

Firstly, the town and ski slopes, part of the vast Dolomiti Superski area, are surrounded by the scenic and stunning beauty of the Dolomites which have made the region a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Visitors have a choice of accommodation including 5-star hotels and elegant chalets offering luxurious amenities and personalised services together with wellness and spa facilities. And this high level of service is also found in the gourmet dining restaurants where you will find traditional Italian and international cuisine on the menus.

If you want some retail therapy stroll around the town’s exclusive boutiques and stores, where you can choose from a selection of luxury brands and designer goods.

The rich and famous attend various exclusive and stylish events during the ski season such as the annual fashion weekend, a film festival, various polo events, an art exhibition, and a music festival.

There is also the Cristallo Ultimate Ski Challenge, an exclusive skiing event that sees top skiers and celebrities compete against each other, and the Women’s Alpine Skiing World Cup races. These events attract an international crowd and contribute to the resort’s prestige.

The town offers visitors a choice of exclusive clubs and bars in which to relax and socialise.

The combination of these factors creates an ambience of luxury, cultural richness, and exclusivity, making Cortina d’Ampezzo a sought-after destination for those looking for a high-end Alpine experience in Italy.

Skiers and snowboarders booking to stay in Cortina through Ski Line can opt for 5-star luxury at The Grand Hotel Miramonti Majestic and the Hotel Parc Victoria.

The Grand Hotel is on the outskirts of town and there is a free shuttle to transport guests to and from the Faloria lift or Cortina’s high street.

The Hotel Parc Victoria has become one of the most iconic hotels in Cortina since the original ‘Villa Vittoria’ was transformed into one of the resort’s first hotels. This elegant property is located in the centre of Cortina and the nearest lifts are just 600m away.

More details about all these resorts and the accommodations available can be found on the Ski Line website here.

The Most Exclusive Ski Resort In Europe: A Summary

The exclusivity of a ski resort goes beyond its stunning scenery and memorable experiences, encompassing unique qualities that elevate its reputation. In Europe, select destinations vie for the title of the most exclusive, each offering distinct allure. St. Moritz in Switzerland, with its rich tradition of winter sports and luxurious amenities, attracts European aristocracy and elite visitors to its opulent 5-star hotels and upscale boutiques. Meanwhile, Courchevel 1850 in France boasts an altiport, catering to the affluent’s direct access to the resort, and hosts exclusive events such as the Winter Polo Cup and Le Bal de Neige. Lech-Zürs in Austria, nestled in the picturesque Arlberg region, offers a blend of Alpine charm and world-class skiing, complemented by cultural festivals and high-end accommodations like Chalet N. In Italy, Cortina d’Ampezzo, steeped in history and surrounded by the majestic Dolomites, offers a taste of La Dolce Vita with its luxurious hotels, gourmet dining, and exclusive events like the Cristallo Ultimate Ski Challenge. These resorts, each with its own unique charm and exclusivity, cater to discerning travellers seeking the ultimate Alpine experience.

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