What's the attraction?
The ski season is in full swing and snow conditions are promising. As Easter falls in March, there is also the chance for snow hounds to spend it on the slopes, and sleep in style. The design-conscious can stay at an ever-increasing number of stylish hotels and chalets in the Alps and beyond. High-profile architects and brands are also making their mark on the mountains: Zaha Hadid has designed a ski jump in Bergisel and four stations on the Nordpark Cable Railway in the Austrian Tyrol (bergisel.info), while Porsche has just opened a ski lift in Laax, Switzerland (laax.com), and BMW had designed a gondola for Hochzillertal in Austria (vipgondel.at).
In the heart of the Trois Vallées, the Chamois Lodge (00 33 7 78 84 57 10; thealpineclub.co.uk) opened in December in St Martin de Belleville. Rooms can be rented or the entire chalet can be taken with a chef and use of a chauffeur. Seven nights' rental costs from £7,470 for up to nine guests, full-board.
The Italian Dolomites provide a spectacular backdrop for a skiing holiday. So too does the newly opened Chalet Villa Iergl (00 39 0471 849 500; iergl.it), a sensitively restored 19th-century farmhouse set in the picturesque village of San Cassiano. It costs €4,000 per week B&B and sleeps eight.
Chalets sleeping two are scarce. The Chalet Petit Marmotte (01242 547 700; akvillas.com) is a converted haystore outside Courchevel 1650. It costs £1,666 per week, all-inclusive.
Design aficionados will love a stay at Austrian architect Heinz Julen's spectacular loft in Zermatt.It sleeps up to six people and costs £2,150 per person for seven nights' full board through Summit Retreats (020 8870 3339; summitretreats.com).
Spain's Sierra Nevada is home to Europe's most southerly ski resort. Its latest must-stay is the El Lodge (00 34 958 480 600; ellodge.com), which has just reopened following an extensive makeover by interior-design firm Andrew Martin and has a distinctly Nordic flavour and luxurious faux-fur bedspreads. It's within easy reach of Granada, so even an après-ski visit to the Unesco World Heritage-listed Alhambra is a possibility. Close to the El Parador chairlift, the ski-in/ski-out property has just 20 rooms, a spa, heated outdoor pool and deck with fabulous views. Doubles start at €300, including breakfast.
Who said that?
"I don't like bungee jumping, but I do like skiing" – Roger Moore
"The sport of skiing consists of wearing three thousand dollars' worth of clothes and equipment and driving two hundred miles in the snow in order to stand around at a bar and get drunk" – P.J. O'Rourke
"Snow endures but for a season, and joy comes with the morning" – Marcus Aurelius
Après ski in style
Verbier's snow-sure slopes and vast terrain are two of its biggest draws, but it also offers some of the best après-ski in the Alps. The Farm bar and club within the minimalist Nevaï Hotel (00 41 27 775 4000; hotelnevai.com) is a good late-night option. In December, The Nevaï's owner, ex-pro skier Marcus Bratter, also unveiled the new 34-room Cordée des Alpes hotel (00 33 41 277 754 545; hotelcordee.com). Taking its cue from the Alpine adventurers of yesteryear, the interior is old-meets-new with antique mountaineering gear dotting its walls and reclaimed wooden floors. There is a 15 metre indoor pool, a gym and a spa. Doubles from Sfr370 (£249), room only.
There are panoramic views of Mont Blanc from the Hotel L'Aiguille Grive (00 33 6 278 631 56; hotelaiguillegrive.com), which opened last month in the French resort of Les Arcs 1800. Its wood and glass design was conceived by Parisian design firm COS, which is overseeing the restoration of the Hotel Ritz in the French capital. The interior has a contemporary yet cosy look done by Pierre Marie Couturier, who also decorated the Hotel Cheval Blanc in Courchevel. The main chalet houses a reception, the bar and restaurant, while six smaller chalets linked to it contain the 24 rooms and six suites – each chalet can also be rented for larger groups. Doubles start at €160, half board.
One of Austria's most stylish snow retreats, the Jagdgut Wachtelhof (00 43 65 842 3888; hotelwachtelhof.com) is set in the lesser-known Maria Alm, a serene hamlet overlooking the scenic Steinernes Meer. This historic ski-in/ski-out former hunting lodge was given a modish makeover by husband-and-wife team, Michele and Christine Bönan. The pair already has an impressive portfolio including the JK Place hotels in Florence and Capri. The Jagdgut Wachtelhof's interior is a harmonious blend of high style with an Austrian twist – think cashmere blankets, hunting trophies, sisal rugs and 17th-century antiques. Doubles start at €350, half board.
What the French resort Megève might lack in altitude, it makes up for in style. It became fashionable in the early 20th century as a French rival to St Moritz, thanks to Baroness Noémie de Rothschild, who developed it. Its gastronomic scene runs the gamut from mountain auberges (Auberge de la Cotte 2000: 00 33 450 21 31 84) to Michelin-starred restaurants (Flocons de Sel, floconsdesel.com). Two recently opened hotels are the intimate Le Chalet Zannier (00 33 450 21 01 01; lechaletzannier.com), with a dozen bedrooms, from €450. Alpaga (00 33 450 91 48 70; alpaga.com) is a huddle of Alpine houses on the edge of town offering rooms, apartments and chalets. Doubles from €320.
"If you are looking to ski in style at a great price, try Madonna di Campiglio in Italy. This super-chic resort is a better-value option than better-known Cortina, yet is an admirable alternative for those looking for a little luxury for less." Craig Burton, managing director, Ski Solutions (0207-471 7700; skisolutions.com).
The high life
The Swiss resort of Gstaad is beloved of the jet set – its car-free village is a mini Bond Street, lined with luxury boutiques. On 2 December its first purpose-built hotel in 100 years opened in the shape of The Alpina (00 41 338 889 888; thealpinagstaad.ch). An ultra-luxurious take on Alpine living, it occupies a lofty spot in Oberbort, with 56 rooms and a Six Senses spa. Doubles start at Sfr850 (£573), including breakfast.
A more affordable new option is the newly opened Hamilton Lodge (00 41 332 227 474; hamiltonlodge.ch) reached by cable car from the hamlet of Zweisimmen near Gstaad. Set in the 1,450m Rinderberg area, it has reimagined Heidi chic for a contemporary crowd. Doubles start at Sfr190 (£128).Reuse content