Kulm Hotel, St. Moritz, Switzerland
Earning first place on this list, the Kulm forged its place in skiing history when it sparked the start of winter tourism back in the 19th century. After the summer of 1864, the owner Johannes Badrutt encouraged his English guests to return in December. He said winter in St. Moritz was ‘paradise on earth’ and promised to reimburse them if they didn’t agree... Needless to say, they loved it and soon spread the word.
Never failing to wow his guests, Badrutt installed Switzerland’s first electric lightbulb in 1878 and extended the hotel offerings to include the Kulm Park, with curling lanes and a skeleton run to allow guests to try their hand at winter sports. Regular competitions began and the opening ceremonies (and certain events) of the 1928 and 1948 Olympics took place here.
Though ownership has changed, the hotel’s held tight to its position at the leading edge of winter travel and repeatedly wins the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice award.
Grand Hotel Zell am See, Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria
Reaching out into the vast Lake Zell with the mountains of Salzburgerland all around it, this hotel’s location alone exudes greatness. The building began its life as the Hotel Krone when it was opened by Josef Schaiger in 1876, but Carl and Therese Böhm took over a decade or so later and were behind the name and iconic imperial façade we know today.
Over the years, the elegant property grew in size and popularity, attracting the likes of royals and political figures. It’s endured the World Wars, floods, fires, different ownerships and even a brief break from hospitality as an American university.
The Grand Hotel Zell am See has been under the wing of the Holleis family since 1995, who also look after the nearby Hotel Salzburgerhof. They’ve preserved its grandeur terrifically with elegant design and Belle-Époque features offering guests ‘a journey through time’.
Monte Rosa, Zermatt, Switzerland
The Seiler’s are the founding fathers of Zermatt’s hotel scene and Monte Rosa has been in their family for five generations. Brothers Joseph and Alexander Seiler began the legacy 165 years ago in 1853, when they bought the village’s only inn and named it Monte Rosa.
The property secured its place in mountaineering history when its returning guest Edward Whymper famously undertook the first climb of the Matterhorn in 1865.Having grown from a 6-room chalet to a grand Belle-époque hotel sleeping 42, it has an ever-loyal following – some families have been coming for 3 generations.
Monte Rosa’s sister hotel, the Mont Cervin Palace (another Seiler masterpiece, a short walk down the road) has a Michelin-starred restaurant and 1,700 square metre spa.
ADLER Dolomiti, Val Gardena, Italy
In 1810, Josef Sanoner won the highest bid for Ortisei’s humble Daverda Inn at an auction and renamed it ‘Adler’, meaning ‘Eagle’. Seven generations of Sanoners and over two hundred years of hospitality later, the humble guesthouse has become the glamorous 5* ADLER Dolomiti resort.
Brothers Andreas and Klaus Sanoner are currently in command after their parents stepped down in the eighties - having installed of the first indoor hotel pool and spa in the Dolomites. The brothers have kept the Adler at the forefront of the wellness world (it now has one of the biggest health spas in the Alps, and there’s even a new ADLER spa resort in Tuscany) but have managed to hold onto historic features like the grand wooden staircase, which dates back to 1927.
Gstaad Palace, Gstaad, Switzerland
Gstaad Palace is solely responsible for transforming a humble farming village into one of the most luxurious resorts in the Alps. It all began in the December of 1905, when a local teacher named Robert Steffen saw the need for a hotel, bought a plot of land, secured investors and enlisted top architects to realise his vision. The hotel’s first winter season was in 1913 and the rest is history.
The Scherz family have owned and managed the Palace for three generations since 1947, investing millions of Francs and offering the height of luxury hospitality. Covering 30,000 square metres with 95 rooms/suites, 5 restaurants, a spa and a nightclub, the Palace is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. Anyone who’s anyone has been here – international royals, presidents, Hollywood greats and big-time musicians (apparently Michael Jackson once offered to buy it!).
Miramonti Majestic, Cortina, Italy
At the turn of the 20th-century, Romeo and Filomena Manaigo visited the Dolomites with the intent of building a hotel. They selected the most scenic spot they could find and chose the name Miramonti.
When the castle-like building opened in 1902, it was the biggest, poshest hotel in Cortina and has expanded over the years to hold onto its claim. Kings and emperors from all over the world have stayed here, as well as Hollywood names like Clark Gable, Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren. It famously starred as James Bond’s hotel in For Your Eyes Only (he peers out of the balcony of room 108).
Mod cons like Wi-Fi and aircon can be found nowadays, but the Miramonti Majestic retains its old-fashioned glamour. Up in the hills a couple of kilometres out of Cortina, the setting is as spectacular as ever.
BOOK IT: If you want to experience these historic hostelries for yourself, this piece was inspired by SNO’s page on grand luxury ski hotels where they have packages with flights included too.