Justine Tyerman from New Zealand delights in the five-star pampering at a Swiss alpine resort in Villars-sur-Ollon.
I had to put handcuffs on my husband when we arrived at the magnificent Chalet RoyAlp Hôtel & Spa high in the Swiss Vaud Alps village of Villars-sur-Ollon.
As a Kiwi bloke – (i.e. a male New Zealander) – he is accustomed to carrying his own suitcases, parking his own vehicle, organising his own ski gear . . . and turning down his own bed.
However, at the sumptuous five-star Chalet RoyAlp, guests are treated like royalty as the name suggests and the staff ensure that they are on holiday in every sense of the word. The only ‘duties’ guests need to perform are to relax and make good use of the superb facilities at their disposal.
From the welcoming receptionists at the front desk to the friendly waiters and van drivers who scurry around making your stay effortless and trouble-free, the service is seamless.
A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, the RoyAlp opened in 2008 and comprises four interconnected traditional Swiss chalets with 63 rooms and suites overlooking the breathtaking Dents du Midi, a mountain range with peaks reaching a height of 3257 metres.
The alpine panorama from the sun-drenched balcony of our spacious double room was so mesmerising, it was difficult to drag ourselves away, but skiing was top of the agenda.
Short on time and wanting to maximise the opportunities on a sunny day with good snow, our lift passes were conveniently waiting for us at the reception desk. Jessy, the extremely obliging and personable RoyAlp courtesy van driver took us straight to Sports House ski shop where handsome Hadrien kitted us out in 15 minutes with the latest Dynastar Active skis which suited the conditions very well.
Jessy then dropped us at the foot of the high-speed 6-seater Villars-Roc d’Orsay télécabine and told us to call him as soon as we had finished skiing for the day whereupon he would collect us. Never has skiing been so easy and stress-free.
No queuing for lift tickets, no searching for a car park, no walking long distances in ski boots carrying skis and poles. My husband began to warm to the concept.
The Villars-Gryon-Diablerets-Glacier 3000 domain at an altitude of 1300 to 3000m boasts 125km of pistes and 45 lifts. If that doesn’t offer enough scope, Villars belongs to the wider Alpes Vaudoises ski and snowboard area, a staggeringly-vast domain which includes 630km of pistes and 188 lifts.
We skied early in the season on a gloriously sunny, blue sky day with just enough snow to ski right to the foot of the mountain at the end of the day . . . and the promise of fresh snow on the horizon.
Thrill seekers can venture across the new 107m Peak Walk from the Glacier 3000 View Point Peak to Scex Rouge, the world’s first and only suspension bridge to connect two mountain peaks, opened in October 2014. (Check out Walter’s excellent account of his experiences.)
And at the end of a fabulous day on the slopes, there was our courtesy coach waiting to deliver us to the front door of our luxurious establishment. Absolute bliss.
I headed straight to the Jacuzzi in Le Spa by RoyAlp complex. It’s a delicious treat to extricate your feet from the vice grip of ski-boots, peel off all the thermal layers and submerge yourself in hot bubbles, watching a flurry of snowflakes drift silently down outside. I was momentarily tempted to roll in the snow, Scandinavian-style . . . but I waited until the urge had passed and had another glass of bubbly instead!
A day’s skiing was not quite energetic enough for my husband who proceeded to do a work-out on every piece of equipment in the state-of-the-art fitness centre, steam himself in one of the saunas and do several laps of the huge indoor heated pool with its own roaring open fireplace before joining me in the Jacuzzi. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite have time for a session in the marble hammam.
Guests can leave their ski gear in the heated locker area, collect it in the morning and walk just 30 metres to the train station which takes them directly up to the Bretaye Plateau in the heart of Villars ski field. Next day, there was a serious blizzard which delivered much-needed snow to the slopes and enabled guests to ski right to the hotel door.
After a comprehensive tour of Chalet RoyAlp Hôtel & Spa conducted by sales representative Jérémy Derhille, it is easy to see why the facilities have won the World Luxury Spa award and Best Luxury Destination Spa in Europe for 2013-14. The 1200sqm complex with six treatment rooms and a private spa with its own Jacuzzi, sauna, mini-bar and fireplace are a haven of relaxation and tranquillity.
Massage and beauty treatments of every description are available including the exclusive CellCosmet (for women) and Cellmen (for men) anti-ageing, healing and revitalisation skincare range, unique to Royalp. There are over 50 different treatments – body scrubs, wraps, manicures, pedicures, eyelashes, brows and waxing – to pamper every part of the body. Le Spa by RoyAlp manager Estelle Gomes will design a treatment just for you.
But for those who want to take health and beauty enhancement to the highest level, behind a discrete door in Le Spa is Laclinic, the famous Montreux-based beauty and appearance medicine practice whose specialists hold regular consultations with patients at RoyAlp.
Established in 2002 by renowned cosmetic surgeon Dr Pfulg, Laclinic entered a collaboration with Chalet RoyAlp in October 2014 to offer Séjour, complete personalised programmes combining dietary and medical consultation, health treatments, fitness, revitalisation and relaxation.
Designed for weight loss, the dietary programme (seven days or more) involves blood tests, ultrasound cellulite treatments, cardiovascular risk assessments, personal fitness training, culinary workshops, massages, detox and slimming Cellcosmet treatments.
Those on the revitalisation programme (two days or more) also undergo blood-tests and a detailed biological analysis and receive daily injections of custom cells preparations and oxygenotherapy among many other aesthetic therapies.
There could be no better place for such a clinic, within the spectacular uplifting alpine environment where even the air tastes pure and sweet after the grey gloom of winter in the city. For months of the winter season, the weather is sunny, bright and clear, a healing balm for the soul and spirit, as well as the body.
There is something so energising and invigorating about the alps. The environment would put even the most stressed and dispirited person in a positive, refreshed frame of mind.
Jérémy says the hotel regularly hosts famous actors, musicians, sports stars, royalty and other celebrities. Their anonymity is fiercely guarded but I was given a tour of several of the 23 salubrious apartments they call home.
These are palatial multi-level abodes up to 270sqm which would more accurately be described as substantial privately-owned homes within the hotel. The Royal, a four-bedroom, four-bathroom apartment, opulent beyond belief with magnificent artworks and statues, belonged to a member of the Spanish royal family. The Edelweiss is on three levels and is favoured by the owner because there is ample room for the nanny and driver to stay.
We were deliriously happy with our spacious beautifully-appointed standard double room, at least twice the size of a normal hotel room with a grand entrance way, walk-in wardrobe, huge corner bath, Italian tiled shower with dual rain head and wall-mounted faucets, Hermes toiletries, a large sunny balcony with gorgeous mountain panoramas and twin king-sized beds made up with the smoothest of sheets, feather-light individual down duvets and pillows as soft as clouds. Heavy woollen curtains and central heating kept the room cosy and warm while a blizzard raged outside.
I loved the RoyAlp’s individually and creatively-decorated small intimate lounges, many with genuine open log fires, for guests to relax, socialise, read and daydream. All tastes and ages are catered for with a crèche and kids’ club for little ones supervised by trained nannies, a games room with a big screen for teens, an outside children’s playground, a billiard room, library-reading lounge, cinema and even cigar and smoking rooms.
The Christmas decorations all around the hotel were gorgeous, especially the giant Christmas tree and curtain of lights at the main entrance. I was also intrigued with the fascinating wildlife sculptures and artwork throughout the RoyAlp.
A boutique sells locally-made products and “lots of fur fashions for our Russian guests” who make up an important part of the clientele from January 1 until January 10, Russian Christmas and New Year, says Jérémy.
The hotel has a number of excellent restaurants – The Grizzly, hence the bear statuary, is a typical woody Swiss restaurant with stone floors, woollen curtains and an open fire, devoted to traditional cheese delicacies like raclette and fondue; the Roche Grise is a brasserie serving delicious Mediterranean entrees, fish, meat, pasta, vegetarian, pizza and burger dishes; the BeAR’s Bar serves a wide range of tapas and snacks all day with a DJ playing music in the background. But the pièce de résistance is La Table d’Hôtes, the Host’s Table, a cosy three-sided dining alcove set up in the very heart of the kitchen, where guests can enjoy dinner while observing the culinary art of the master chef. A novel and highly-popular experience.
Downstairs is a wine cellier where guests can sample the world’s best at degustations conducted by the expert winekeeper.
The RoyAlp also has superb event and conference facilities for up to 250 delegates and hosts five to eight weddings a year. With access to outside terraces and gardens, conference organisers would need to keep the curtains closed or fit delegates with blinkers to avoid the distraction of the breathtaking views.
It was still snowing on the morning of our departure so we could not ski and had time to indulge in a leisurely breakfast. Such an experience cannot be rushed at the RoyAlp as it takes some time just to explore the options available. I overindulged on the mini sausages, bacon, cooked tomatoes, roesti and fabulous bread, and then decided to balance my excesses with fruit, cereals and Swiss yoghurts. What a treat to enjoy such an array of fresh summer fruit while watching snowflakes fall from the heavens.
The perfect mix of friendly and warm yet refined and professional; elegant and sophisticated yet personal and attentive; tranquil, restful and soothing but with a myriad of resources and facilities for activities, we found it difficult to move on from Villars and the Chalet RoyAlp Hôtel & Spa, especially with the promise of sunshine on a blanket of fresh snow. In no time at all, my husband had became quite accustomed to five-star lifestyle and decided that finding a car park and walking to the lifts at our next stop was all a bit of a chore . . . not to mention turning down his own bed cover at night.
Justine Tyerman was a guest of Chalet RoyAlp Hôtel & Spa. She skied courtesy of Tele-Villars-Gryon, Villars-Gryon Tourism Office and Sports House and travelled in Switzerland on the Swiss Travel Pass. Justine Tyerman flew Cathay Pacific from Auckland, New Zealand to Paris, France via Hong Kong, then travelled by train to Geneva and rental car to Villars-sur-Ollon.
- To stay at the Chalet RoyAlp Hôtel & Spa: www.RoyAlp.ch
- To learn more about Villars-Gryon: www.villars.ch
- To rent or buy ski equipment: www.sportshouse.ch
- To learn more about Switzerland: www.myswitzerland.com
- To book the Swiss Travel Pass: www.myswitzerland.com/rail
* For ease of travel in Switzerland, buy a Swiss Travel Pass which allows you to travel on all public transport in Switzerland – trains, boats and buses including the public transport networks of 75 towns and cities across the entire country. The Swiss Travel Pass (from three to 15 days) also allows free entry to more than 480 museums and gives holders 50 percent off most of the magnificent mountain railways. There are many options including the Swiss Travel Pass for Youth which gives travellers under 26 years a 15 percent discount and, best of all, the Swiss Family Card which entitles children under 16 accompanied by a parent with a Swiss Travel Pass, to travel for free.
* Cathay Pacific was voted the World’s Best Airline for the fourth time in the 2014 Skytrax Awards. Cathay Pacific offers daily connections to Paris via Hong Kong and will commence flying between Hong Kong and Zurich from 29 March 2015. Visit www.cathaypacific.com for the latest airfares to Paris or Zurich and airfare/train combinations to Basel or Geneva.