24-hour Room Service: Nira Alpina, Silvaplana, Switzerland
The sleek new face of old-world glamour
Few places have become as synonymous with affluence as a resort where even the dogs are sometimes seen in fur coats. St Moritz emerged as a sparkling winter playground for rich Brits 150 years ago and still wears its exclusivity on its mink-cuffed sleeve. At many of the resort's five-star palaces, there are as many butlers as guests.
However, a few miles out of town, the newly opened four-star Nira Alpina blasts fresh air through old-money opulence, blowing away the dress code (jackets and ties encouraged, red trousers optional) in the process. That isn't to say the hotel has brought St Moritz within reach of the recessionary skier, but the missing fifth star is evident in its brass-and-starch-free approach.
An unprepossessing concrete block that crawls up the hillside, the Nira Alpina includes a covered footbridge that links it to the Corvatsch cable car station, offering direct passage from pillow to peak.
The top station, at 3,303m, gives access to the Corvatsch glacier while, back in St Moritz, a funicular takes you to the Corviglia area. There's plenty for skiers of all standards (you'll hope for better conditions than I enjoyed in December) although experts may wish to steer clear.
Regardless, skiing has never been the biggest draw here. Other activities include polo, cross-country skiing and the notorious Cresta bobsleigh run.
The Nira comes into its own after a day on the piste, when you can ski direct to the door. I started with a hot chocolate and brownie at the in-house bakery. Next stop: the vast spa, with its sauna, plunge pool and massage rooms. I went for the Alpine Journey, a pleasant affair that involved hot stones, Tibetan chimes and a rolling pin.
Later, I sampled the rooftop bar, where floor-to-ceiling glass revealed moonlit mountains. A glass-sided fire was surrounded by leather sofas and chairs draped with cow hides. A DJ set the tone as the barman bought me a prosecco.
The Nira has two restaurants – the traditional alpine Stalla Veglia (the gnocchi with chestnuts and mushrooms was delicious if impossibly filling) and Stars, next to the bar. Here I ate a succession of small plates of confused origin but impeccable quality, prepared by a team of chefs trained at top restaurants including London's Nobu. Highlights included succulent cubes of pork belly and quail tempura.
By morning, Stars is transformed by the sunshine for which St Moritz is famed (it claims 322 clear days a year). The sun illuminates the incongruous lifestyle photos of semi-naked models that hang throughout the building. I counted six nipples while eating my porridge. It's one thing to abolish a dress code, but quite another to offer breasts with breakfast.
The Nira claims to be St Moritz's first boutique offering. The décor, away from those poster girls, is sleek and modern – think furs and nude timber mixed with glass and steel. Comfort is the priority but never at the expense of style. You'll want to wear a shirt to dinner, but you won't bother tucking it in.
Nipples notwithstanding, the Nira has the St Moritz establishment shifting in its fur-lined boots. Don't expect to be treated like a minor royal, but do expect to relax and to ski (or, in the tradition of the place, just be seen).
The hotel sits above Lake Silvaplana next to the Corvatsch cable car, about 10 minutes' drive from St Moritz. For breathtaking views, take the train from Zurich via Chur. Returns start at £95 through the Switzerland Travel Centre (020-7420 4900; swisstravelsystem.co.uk). You can also drive from Milan or Zurich.
All rooms include balconies, beds to get lost in, and baths to swim in, as well as flat screen TVs, an iPod dock and a minibar. The larger junior suites on the top floor add more elevated views as well as a separate waterfall shower and dressing room. The décor is the same as the rest of the Nira, which includes a pouting model in each room. I'd rather have a dodgy watercolour of some mountains.
Nira Alpina, Surlej, Silvaplana, Switzerland (00 41 81 838 6969; niraalpina.com)
Double rooms start at Sfr475 (£325), including breakfast.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Madonna claims jokes about her age tantamount to racism: 'No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being black'
The 50 Best spas
Map identifies the best and worst places for emergency healthcare in the world
The Atlas of Beauty: Photographer travels around the world to capture cultural diversity through stunning portraits of women
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
Chief executive of Malaysia Airlines: The toughest job in travel?
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
£12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...
£23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...
£26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...
£18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...