A thousand meters above sea level, fleece-clad guests sit fireside sipping glasses of Burgundy from the chalet owner’s private vineyard. But this isn’t St. Moritz. Down the hall is a stone-and-oak onsen for après-ski muscle soaking. Welcome to the Kimamaya Boutique Hotel on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, an increasingly chic ski destination.
Kimamaya is one example of how the latest ski resorts are trending toward high design and popping up in some unexpected places. Such new resorts in Norway, Japan, and Austria’s Tyrol region have begun to attract an off-the-beaten-trail set. They have enough varied amenities to appeal to all—especially non-skiers who were previously dragged into the cold by their ski-enthusiast friends and family.
“In the last year we’ve added a number of exciting new properties in alpine destinations with designers like Antonio Citterio and Matteo Thun among the ranks,” says Claus Sendlinger, CEO and founder of the Berlin-based Design Hotels group. “The diversity of our portfolio shows that intelligent and holistic design concepts are not limited to urban centers.”
That means travelers can expect mountain retreats with designer furniture, original art on the walls, and top chefs brought in from cities to give the cheese-and-potato ski cuisine a makeover. And, naturally, some ski-specific perks: better ski-in, ski-out access, ultra-groomed and longer trails, and state-of-the-art lifts.
In British Columbia, the upgraded Sutton Place features gas fireplaces, an outdoor, year-round pool and hot tubs, and a fitness studio with yoga sessions. The hotel is part of Revelstoke—now the only resort in the world to offer lift, cat-, heli-, and backcountry skiing from the same village.
It’s enough to make some old stalwarts race to keep up. An hour from Salzburg, the 14th-century family farm estate Wiesergut has been reborn as a contemporary retreat (and the newest Design Hotels member). Old-world touches like handblown-glass chandeliers and homemade marmalades complement hot tubs and floor-to-ceiling windows that face the twin valley towns of Saalbach and Hinterglemm.