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.
Gstaad sits between four valleys, each lined with ski centres. In one direction there is a gondola from the outskirts of the village accessing the ski area above Saanen. That skiing continues over the German/French language barrier and on above neighbouring Rougemont. Two more separate ski centres are located above famous Chateau d'Oex, a former home of David Niven and the starting point of the successful circumnavigation of the globe in 1999 by the Breitling Orbiter balloon. All three of these ski areas are on the Ski Gstaad pass. Another valley takes in Schönried, Saanenmoser and Zweissimen, also all on the Pass and recently lift-linked to one another to form the largest single lift-linked sector on the pass. The third valley runs over in to bordering ski pass territory; that of the Alpes Vaudoises resorts of Gryon, Les Diablerets, Les Mosses, Leysin and Villars. A Gstaad area pass valid for four days or more is useable on those lifts as well as at Adelboden and Lenk. However, the first ski area you come to, the high altitude Diablerets glacier, which had its access cable cars replaced in 1999 (separate to the Les Diablerets resort ski area) is included in the Gstaad Pass from day one. Finally, Gstaad has its own 'local' slopes on the Wispile and in a second area up a short valley a bus ride from the centre at Lauenen. The Wispile has some village level nursery slopes, and an easy run at the top of the mountain accessed by a two stage gondola. There's a long intermediate and a long black run from the top station back to the valley. Most of the rest of the terrain at all the other ski areas is graded either easy (60%) or intermediate (30%) and most of it takes place on wide open trails cut through thin woodland on north facing slopes and meadows on the lower slopes. The advanced ski runs are dotted around the area with most of the individual areas having at least one good long black to try. From the Diablerets glacier there's a wonderfully long easy run of 14km (9 miles), with one unavoidable steep black mogul section which eventually takes you back to the ski bus stop at Reusch on the road to Gstaad. You will ski a 1650m (5414feet) vertical on this one descent. Château d'Oex has several black-graded descents including a rather long one down from Monts Chevreuils to Les Moulins, above the village, and heli-skiing is another option.
Gstaad has some of the most generous prices in the world for children on the ski slopes. Children aged nibne or younger ski free. Facilities for children aged three and older are especially good in Gstaad, prior to that facilities are limited with no day care and just the option of rather expensive baby sitters provided through your hotel or the tourist office. On the other hand, children aged nine and younger can use the ski lifts with an accompanying paying adult, free of charge. A ski kindergarten for children aged three or more has its own on-snow Disney-themed area at Saanenmöser. Ski school classes for children from age three are also available at Schönried, Saanen, Lauenen and Gstaad's own ski area with lunch cover available on request. The full package includes children's ski races and may include a spaghetti party with subsequent torchlit descent on skis, and activities such as animal footprint recognition and making snow sculptures. Off the slopes Gstaad is a good family choice because of its pedestrianised centre, relaxed atmosphere and superb facilities. These extend to a nice play park (free!) near the village centre, which may be clear of snow for much of the winter. Remember too the fact that children love moving about on trains, buses and gondolas! It is difficult, but just about possible, to find a place both to stay and eat economically if you are financially challenged.
There are several dozen restaurants in Gstaad including, not surprisingly, some superb gourmet establishments (La Chesery, La Bagatelle at Le Grand Chalet). The hotel Olden's restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine and the recently renovated Sport-Hotel Rütti and the Sporthotel Victoria both have pizzerias as well as conventional restaurants. The Alpenrose also has a bistro-pizzeria as well as a gourmet restaurant. For a bit of variety, the Blun-Chi at the Bernerhof is a Chinese. The Gstaaderhof serves fondue and raclette specialities in its Saagi-Stübli near the sports centre. Up in Lauenen the Hotel Alpenland is the place for rösti; it runs its own production factory! The local products you must try are Hobelkäse - wafer thin slices of the mouth watering alpine cheese and the local Saanen mustard. Restaurant Alti Poschi at Posthotel Rössli has local specialities.
Gstaad is able to cater for all types of après ski, but of course the top night spots don't come cheap. The top venue in town is the Greengo nightclub at the five star Palace hotel. However, the resort is usually lively as soon as the lifts close and, with a lot of non-skiing tourists, even earlier. Roaster bar at the Gstaaderhof, Rialto Bar as well as Sammys, the Dorfli Piano Bar in the Ermitage Golf Hotel, Apli Bar and Richi's Pub or Pubbles are normally all popular. Apart from the wide ranging sports facilities you can take an evening toboggan run, sleigh ride or try bowling. Visits to the cinema or the Chesery Casino, which also has dancing, are other options. There are live bands daily at the Grand Hotel Park and the Hotel Ermitage, and discotheques at the Alpin Nova (Grotte) as well as Chlosterli in Grund. The Kristall Night Club has dancing as well as cabaret acts.
Snowboarders basing themselves in Gstaad have a big range of options to explore daily. At the local area of Eggli, most of which is floodlit, there's a snowpark with quarter pipe and two additional runs with jumps and a boardercross, plus music. There are two other terrain parks at Saanenmoser and Glacier 3000. In the Schönried - Zweisimmen sector there's more special terrain including a special slope for 'boarders above Schönbried, free-riding at Chaltebrunne and cliff-jumping at Hühnerspeil. There are permanent racing runs at Lätzgüetli. At Zweisimmen there's a halfpipe on Rinderberg as well as a boardercross. Over in the French speaking sector there's yet another snowboard park at La Braye above Château d'Oex. Finally, the Diablerets glacier is a popular destination for summer 'boarders who tend to greatly out number skiers. Although there are a large number of T bars to contend with in the area, 17 of the lifts are gondolas or cable cars (trams) accessing the highest points, and it's all downhill from there. Not surprisingly, the Gstaad area has been voted one of the best 'boarding zones in Switzerland.