In French, it's "Staad"; in German, it's "Gstaad," but that "g" is more a glottal stop than a "g" sound. You can take your pick. Just don't say "Guh-staad" or they'll know you don't belong, and feeling like you belong in Gstaad is lovely, like eating corned-beef hash on a private jet, or staying in and watching rom-coms with the dowager duchess of Devonshire. It's comfy, but there's a certain tone, a sense of being where it's at – and in that respect, the new Alpina Hotel, the first major hotel to be built in this renowed ski town of 3,000 in a century, fits right in.
Ninety minutes from Geneva and farther from everything else, you don't just stumble on Gstaad. You can drive (if you must) or fly in to the private airstrip, but I'd recommend the ridiculously scenic train ride from Montreux. The chalets that make up the tiny centre of Gstaad tend to be centuries old and perfectly maintained, and the foothills of the Alps that converge in this little topographical dip are dotted with gorgeous residential versions, some belonging to farmers, others to billionaires. There are no chain hotels here, because there's no need: Gstaad is the brand, you don't need another.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
This hotel doesn't have a bad side. South-facing rooms look toward the village and dramatic Alp scenery (when it's clear, you can even see the Diablerets glacier). But the north also faces Alps, and a neighbourhood of eight-figure chalets of the too-rich-to-be-famous. Room 501, the Panorama Suite, has the best views, right in the middle of the Gstaad-facing side, but it's $22,200 a night. Cheaper suites with killer views can also be had in rooms 201, 301 or 401, for about $1,430 a night.
There are plenty of amenities here (spa, cinema, cigar lounge, heated outdoor pool), but nothing beat sipping morning coffee, delivered to the balcony, while looking out at over the scattered alpine chalets and the snow that falls heavy on every chalet ledge and tree branch, covering them in a thick fluffiness you only usually see in stop-motion Christmas specials.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Rooms start around $725, which determines one aspect of the demographic. I was told that two "excellencies" were in residence while I was there, with a family of Mexican telecom billionaires arriving in a few days with seven kids and seven nannies.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
I stayed two weeks after opening, and though everyone was friendly and multilingual, orders were regularly mixed up by both room service and the restaurants, and the concierge told me he'd made a reservation at an airport hotel in Geneva but didn't (something I found out in Geneva). The head bartender is also seriously green, and the $40-a-cup coffee beans are unforgivably run through an espresso machine. Time may improve things.
DINE IN OR EAT OUT?
There's a Megu (high-end Japanese cuisine), and a fine-dining restaurant called Sommet, which is lovely (the turbot and scallop with fregola sarda – a larger-than-Israeli couscous – was especially good) but the real treat is Stubli, the Swiss restaurant given a modern twist by in-house chef Marcus Lindner, who earned two Michelin stars while at Mesa in Zurich. The fondue, raclette and rosti are the best versions I've had of these Swiss staples. And the variations on veal and sausage are models of moderation, evidence of a chef confident enough to disappear behind his work.
The Alpina Gstaad, Alpinastrasse 23, Gstaad, Switzerland; 41-33-888-9888, thealpinagstaad.ch. Open December to March and June to September. 56 rooms from $725.
The writer stayed as a guest of the hotel.