Gstaad is one of the world's most famous resorts and the traditional rival to St Moritz, although the two are somewhat different in style. Gstaad is understated whereas St Moritz seems to be somewhat more obvious about its wealth. Gstaad also has the most ambience, with more attractive chalet style buildings and the whole made all the more pleasant by the recent pedestrianisation of the main street. The skiing is different too, somewhat limited locally, but the area pass covers half a dozen areas in the vicinity that together add up to offer 250km (156 miles) of trails. What's unusual is that you can hop on and off the mountain trains to get to the base stations of each of these ski areas with gondolas or cable cars, almost invariably departing a few yards away from the rail station in each case. The only exception is the high altitude Diablerets glacier to which you need to catch the ski bus, also included on the pass. The Saanenland area is a wide valley with gentle, wooded slopes that receives more than average sunshine and less than average fog. Gstaad's international fame is also a little more recent than that of St Moritz. It really got on the map in the 1920s when an exclusive school, 'Le Rosey' opened, catering for the children of royalty, politicians, show business stars and leading figures of business and industry. At the same time the Palace hotel opened to cater for the parents of these illustrious offspring. As the children who had become attached to the resort returned as adults the resort thrived, and between 1945 and 1970 the emphasis was on developing the ski area. During the preceding millennium the Saanenland in which Gstaad stands had a mixed history, located as it is on the border of French and German speaking Switzerland it had seen ownership pass to different immigrants from the east and, increasingly, the west. From the tenth to fifteenth century the land was controlled by the Counts of Gruyère, but there was an early alliance of the inhabitants of the valley, and between 1312 and 1455 the locals gradually bought their freedom. The strong influence of Gruyère, still felt today, means that the population of the Saanenland tend to have a similar 'mentality' to the French Swiss, even though they speak in German. Tourism, of a kind, started to get underway in the eighteenth century, when those who could afford to, visited to enjoy the benefits of the climate. By that time the cheese for which the area is also famous was already well in demand. Mountain tourism really took hold in 1905, with the coming of the Montreux-Oberland (MOB) railway. But the Saanenland still has an active agricultural life and, alongside the fur coats, (well, not quite alongside usually) you will find 7000 cows - one for every local - and 90 cheese farms. However, 90% of the population do now work in the tourism sector.
One of the world's top resorts incorporating an excellent sports centre with free access to lift ticket holders. Gstaad offer a world class selection of on and off slope facilities and accomodation standards that have become living legends. The resort centre was pedestrianised in 1997. Gstaad is the key part of a series of French and German speaking resorts linked by scenic mountain railway all included in the lift pass price.