Italy Finally Embraces Luxury Ski Chalets

Ski Lift
Photo by Abejo

by Gabriella Le Breton, The Daily Telegraph, December 17, 2015

Gloriously upmarket private chalets with everything from spas to cinemas have been on the rise in the Alps – except in Italy. But a new era has begun, with five fabulous trend-setters.

The chalet holiday is the long-time favourite of British skiers and snowboarders – for good reason. Having your own private plush pad, with staff to cook and clean for you, is the ultimate indulgence. And, for the past decade, chalet owners and operators in France, Switzerland and Austria have been locked in a battle to outdo each other with all-singing, all-dancing properties. Pools, spas, cinemas and professional chefs have become the norm in the upmarket chalet world.

However, one Alpine country has been noticeably absent from the rise of the ultra-chalet. Despite their love of la dolce vita, Italians have been surprisingly slow to appreciate the benefits of plush chalets. Until recently, that is. Three years ago, two senior figures from the Escada clothing label, Stefano and Giorgia Barbini, said goodbye to the fashion world and opened San Lorenzo Mountain Lodge, a sensitively renovated 16th-century hunting retreat. In doing so, they ushered in a new era of luxury Italian Alpine accommodation. Happily for skiing Italophiles, the rest of the country is now following suit, in that inimitably stylish Italian way.

Baita 1697, Sestriere

Interior designer Lucie McCullough and her husband spent three years searching for their dream winter home in Italy’s Piedmont region, settling on a derelict 17th-century farmstead in Pattemouche, a medieval hamlet linked by cable car to Sestriere.

It took a further two years to transform the baita (Italian for “old stone farmhouse”) into a luxury bolthole. Vaulted stables hewn from exposed stone now house a cosy open-plan living/dining area and kitchen, while the hay loft has become a rustic-chic living area with sweeping mountain views, a woodburner and a timber hot tub on the adjoining roof terrace. The five stylish en-suite double rooms and a children’s dorm room, sleeping six, feature reclaimed local timber, stone, a copper bathtub, Mongolian rugs, French antiques, Burmese bronze bowls and other exotic treasures bagged during the couple’s extensive travels. Jamie Oliver-trained chefs complete the experience, serving a global menu ranging from Piedmontese pasta to Burmese beef curry.

A cable car located three minutes’ walk from the property whisks guests up to Sestriere, giving access to the 400km Via Lattea (Milky Way) ski area, which also includes the resorts of Sauze d’Oulx, Sansicario, Cesana and Claviere in Italy and Montgenèvre in France. It is ideal for families and intermediates – an extensive network of blue and red pistes means you can cruise well-groomed, usually uncrowded and often sunny pistes.

Need to know

Summers & Winters (07917 660440; ) offers Baita 1697 from €16,600 based on 10 sharing, including breakfast, afternoon tea or canapés, four-course dinners, select wines and beers. The property is also available on a self-catering basis from €9,800, including a case of wine, welcome dinner and hamper.

Châlet Zeno, San Cassiano

Although technically an apartment, the new three-suite Châlet Zeno boasts all the privacy and amenities of a chalet and (unusually for a chalet) a private lift to access the accommodation.

Part of the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa, one of the South Tirol’s very best properties (and a favourite of Hollywood star George Clooney’s), the contemporary chalet is all about pale-wood panelling and rich-cream and slate-grey furnishings, warmed by tweed walls and glass-encased fires.

The large living and dining area is set beneath a dramatic pitched roof of locally sourced larch beams and there’s a terrace with an outdoor hot tub from where to contemplate the views of the Dolomites. Chalet guests enjoy their breakfast and afternoon tea in the chalet and can then choose one of Rosa Alpina’s restaurants for lunch and dinner, including the two Michelin-starred St Hubertus. Alternatively you can self-cater or eat out in the village. Guests also have access to the award-winning spa.

When you’re not luxuriating in your penthouse, 130km of confidence-boosting slopes await you in the local Alta Badia ski area. This is linked to further pistes on the Sella Ronda circuit, a circular network around the Sella massif. Lifts are located a five-minute shuttle drive from the hotel and the scenic slopes are peppered with superb mountain restaurants – several of them serving dishes created by international and local Michelin-starred chefs.

Need to know

Powder Byrne (020 8246 5300; ) offers b&b plus afternoon tea at Châlet Zeno from £37,985 based on six sharing, including return flights and transfers from Venice and use of the Powder Byrne concierge service.

San Lorenzo Mountain Lodge, near Kronplatz

For heritage and understated style, San Lorenzo Mountain Lodge is hard to beat. As is the jaw-dropping beauty of its setting: a glade in a dense forest above the Puster Valley, with uninterrupted Dolomite views.

Pass through the vaulted hallway to soak up those views from the fire-lit library and wood-panelled dining room, heated by an old ceramic stove. Back in the hall, the downstairs loo is housed in a tiny alcove, where the lodge’s original owner, the Bishop of Brixen, is said to have prayed when the snow was too thick to make it to church.

Upstairs are just three charming double bedrooms and a four-child bunk room, plus a smart wellness area. Outside there is a heated pool and a helipad.

The Barbinis are natural hosts: Giorgia rustles up elegant yet authentic home-cooked cuisine, while Stefano shares his enthusiasm for all things local, hosting tastings in his wine cellar (which contains the world’s largest private collection of South Tirolean wines) and escorting guests around the Kronplatz ski area. Located a 20-minute drive from the Lodge, Kronplatz (aka Plan de Corones) boasts 116km of pistes, including five black runs and a special Kids’ Safety Park, all serviced by Italy’s most modern lift network. This was Italy’s first luxury chalet of note – it may have been a while coming, but it was well worth the wait.

Need to know

Oxford Ski (01993 899420; oxford ) offers San Lorenzo Mountain Lodge from €21,000 based on six sharing half board with afternoon tea. Dinner on six nights.

Chalet Fogajard, Madonna di Campiglio

Little did young lovers Amelia and Renzo know in the Fifties, when they convinced a farmer to sell them some land in the woods above Madonna di Campiglio, that their daughter Paola would be running a stylish agritourism chalet there 60 years later.

Paola and her husband Edoardo constructed a new eco-building in 2010 on the site of her parents’ original baita, using the timber from that farmhouse and installing a biomass boiler, solar panels and other environmental measures. They also kept the name, Fogajard – which means “hardy beech tree” in the local Ladin dialect – as the chalet is tucked in dense forest, accessible only by 4x4 in winter.

There are six classic Alpine bedrooms, clad in fragrant pine, which can be booked individually, and a small spa area. Paola serves wholesome yet refined cuisine in the candlelit restaurant, using produce from the family and other local farms, and sells homemade honey and liqueurs as well as shawls made using cashmere from Edoardo’s goats.

Just 10 minutes’ drive from Fogajard are the 150km of pistes that make up the Madonna di Campiglio ski area. The chalet provides a shuttle service to Madonna in winter. Radiating out either side of a long, deep valley, the area’s slopes are spread across several distinct sectors, offering diverse terrain: tree-lined red runs, blues high above the tree line and short, sharp and sweet blacks.

Need to know

Chalet Fogajard (0039 465 442619; ) is available from €18,000 half board, based on 12 sharing. It’s also possible to book rooms in the chalet on a non-exclusive basis, price on request.

Pine Lodge, Selva di Val Gardena

Pine Lodge is a custom-built, top-spec chalet in the resort of Selva di Val Gardena.

Just as this chic northern Italian border region of South Tirol blends the best of la dolce vita and Austrian efficiency, so its Val Gardena ski area blends stupendous scenery and restaurants with 500km of pistes serviced by a slick lift system. The lifts, and a cluster of nursery slopes, are located three minutes’ walk from Pine Lodge, a particular bonus if you’ve spent the day on the scenic 26km Sella Ronda circuit, a route of lifts and runs circumnavigating the Sella massif.

The floor-to-ceiling windows in Pine Lodge’s living room offer uninterrupted views of the Dolomite range. As you enjoy sundowners by the open fire, you can watch the sunset daub pink over the dramatic limestone spires that encircle the town of Selva. More eye-popping views are enjoyed from the lodge’s four sleek en-suite double rooms, south-facing terrace and outdoor hot tub. Other treats include a spa, fitness room and home cinema. Some of the world’s best mountain restaurants are on the doorstep, so guests can feast at lunch as well as enjoying Pine Lodge’s four-course menus for dinner.

Need to know

Carrier (0161 820 9843; ) offers seven nights from £11,535 based on eight sharing, including buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, four-course dinner (on six nights) and return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck.


This article was written by Gabriella Le Breton from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.