Whilst we love to ski and generally frolic in the snow, it is difficult to find good luxury hotels in ski resorts at affordable prices. The Grand Hotel Tschuggen is located in the small mountain town of Arosa, Graubünden in the East of Switzerland. It is a region that also includes the world-renowned resorts of Davos and St. Moritz. With that kind of competition, we were keen to find out how this member of Leading Hotels of the World would stack up. So we packed our salopettes and goggles and headed off by train to find out.
The railway system in Switzerland is a dream to use. Everything runs on time and though carriages can be full at peak times they never oversell the train so there is no prospect of standing even in second class. First Class tickets are very reasonably priced if you buy in advance. When heading to the mountain resorts of Graubünden all trains lead to Chur (pronounced Kur) and there were plenty of folks heading for connecting services carrying skis and snowboards. We found our way out into the street for the charming Rättische Bahn train which climbed steadily as it wound back and forth round the contours of the mountains. The views from the Langwieser Viaduct are fantastic and, as you’d expect in Switzerland, the journey was a procession through an endless string of quaint little alpine villages. The station at Arosa was reached an hour after we left Chur and the hotel’s Mercedes S class was waiting for us. This is a courtesy extended to all guests staying at Tschuggen Grand Hotel and it is repeated on departure at no additional cost.
Although externally the hotel main building is a typical example of the clean-lined, modest (or bland depending on your taste) modern Swiss architecture, the Bergoase Spa built into the mountainside is simply stunning, especially at night when the huge sail-shaped windows that adorn the roof are backlit in shades of blue. It is the only hotel-based sports facility ever to receive an architectural award from the International Olympic Committee, being awarded silver in 2009, the year the Bird’s Nest in Beijing took Gold. Inside though is another world. This hotel is a veritable museum of fine finishing and interior design. Every surface has some special finish, there is a lot of Italian leather even covering walls in places and we immediately spotted an exquisite pair of Hermes conversation chairs in the lounge. The standard of fixtures and fittings extends throughout the hotel with each floor having a color theme. Each guest room is unique and even the ceilings are works of fine finishing of the highest quality. At first, we were a little taken aback at having a green ceiling but it grew on us and is certainly more interesting than the usual bland white or magnolia. It is impossible not to be impressed by the level of cleanliness in Switzerland but the Tschuggen Grand Hotel excels even by local standards. The ski locker room and exit to the Tschuggen Express is simply spotless. We found the same throughout the hotel and spa.
Even though the transition to our room was swift, our luggage arrived before we did. This kind of efficiency extends to all the hotel’s operations. We stayed in a deluxe room with a view and what a view. Looking out at Lenzerhorn from our spacious balcony, with the early morning sun greeting the peaks as the first few skiers break in the freshly raked pistes is an exciting and heart-warming sight. The bathroom is generously proportioned and finished in granite which looks new. The shower was fantastic – easily large enough for two, tons of pressure, and capable of being steaming hot.
After unpacking we headed to that extraordinary spa to unwind after a hectic week and a long journey. The main pool is fabulously warm (about 36C) and has indoor and outdoor sections. The outdoor part has lovely views of the alps. Adjacent to the indoor section is a deeper pool suitable for swimming lengths, which is kept somewhat cooler. Then there are two plunge pools in the mirror image of each other. One is toasty, the other icy cold. In between is an experience shower that can simulate thunderstorms complete with sound effects and lighting. Suffice to say we enjoyed ourselves enormously.
We had spotted that the bed was a twin mattress affair as is commonplace in central Europe, so we asked for a mattress topper to be fitted. Without the topper the mattress would be very firm, with it we slept like babies. Next morning, we awoke feeling refreshed and excited by the prospect of some alpine walking but first, we had to sample breakfast. Wow. Just, like wow. Everything you could want is available. This was one of the most extensive buffets we have ever sampled. There were too many types of croissants (gipfeli in Switzerland) to count. Poached eggs were produced perfectly. Local jams and honeys were unbelievably flavorsome. There was an amazing choice of cheeses and cold cuts, as well as dairy produce from cows, sheep, and goats. The fresh fruit was better in Switzerland in December than we have had in the middle east in summer. Coupled with excellent coffee and a good choice of teas and juices, it was impossible not to be satisfied. Service was truly top class.
After a day’s walking, we were hungry and keen to sample the Michelin starred restaurant La Vetta. Once again, service was exemplary, the range on the menu bewildering with strong local accents, the Sommelier’s knowledge of the local produce stunning. We had so many amuses bouche we lost count. My duck breast was the most flavorsome I’ve ever eaten and the beetroot purée served with Mrs d2t’s John Dory was out of this world. It is the mark of a truly great chef to be able to present a dish that defines a flavor. At Cheval Blanc in Basel, Peter Knogl serves “mushroom three ways” as an amuse-bouche. It is a reference for the flavor of mushroom and in the same way, the beetroot served here is a definition of the flavor of this sweet root. I was simply in ecstasy by the time we got to the after-dinner schnapps and the Sommelier produced a 29-year-old Framboise.
When we sat down to complete our checklists and compare our scores at the end of our stay, neither of us could think of anything that had not been done to an acceptable standard. Ok, my poached eggs took a little over 5 minutes on Sunday morning when the restaurant was full but they were still cooked perfectly. La Vetta on Saturday evening was an absolute delight. I will remember the pigeon and the duck breast for a long time but I will remember the warm and friendly staff longer. They come from all over Europe but they all share a passion for service. There are a few hotels you visit where you actually meet the staff, engage in conversation, learn something new, feel as though you’d like to come back and see how people are doing. This is one such and we will be back.
Review by my friend Jenny Price at Driven2Travel.
Disclosure: Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.