When you reportedly spend over $150 million for just 17 units, you should get something pretty nice from a hard product standpoint, and Ultima Gstaad reflects ownership that didn’t miss sparing any expenses from the oversize king beds to the plush furnishings, Louis Vuitton and Hermes pillows and throws, discreet but well-focused lighting (you have enough light to read a newspaper) as well as a selection of design-oriented, yet utilitarian lamps of all types that give the feeling you are in a luxury home instead of a hotel.
Clever use of mirrors and popular art combined with comfortable furniture, provide a pleasant environment. Each suite and residence has its own dedicated, encrypted WiFi network so you can send and receive confidential material. In a home-like touch, there are different goodies placed in packages and bowls around the room, including nuts, dried fruits, chocolates and fresh fruit, in addition to the complimentary minibar which is stocked with a split of Bollinger champagne. There are at least $500 of value in the free drinks and snacks. I liked the Nespresso machine where the “on” button is easy to find.
When you enter the hotel, there is a seven-meter-high Baccarat crystal chandelier that hangs, a Schimmel grand piano, made almost entirely of glass to reveal its inner mechanics, and an all-glass elevator. There is no front desk. You are taken directly to your room.
Beyond all the glamour, Ultima has two key selling points. First, it is ski-in, ski-out, something Americans often take for granted, but not always the case in Europe. Secondly, it is the only 5-star hotel in Gstaad open year round, partly because its branch of Geneva’s Aesthetics Clinic the hotel serves as a nice venue for patients to recover for several weeks after surgery. If you like the mountains in the summertime, it also provides an excellent base for biking, hiking, climbing, rafting, gliding and the myriad of fitness-oriented activities that make Switzerland a great summer destination.
The hotel opened in December, and while it has cardio equipment, it is still waiting delivery of its Technogym weight machines (supplier delays), but the hotel will arrange access to a local gym. In the future there will be a 30-seat cinema and an activity lounge for families with video games, a pool table and play area for smaller children. There is no air-conditioning, not unusual in the mountains, but worth noting even though summer evenings here are usual very pleasant.
In terms of reviews, being in a niche luxury destination such as Gstaad and with only 17 units, and brand new, feedback is slender. There are 11 reviews on TripAdvisor, eight Excellent/Very Good, two Average and one Poor. The latter was based on a visitor who stopped for lunch and was taken aback by the high prices. My dinner for one with langoustine appetizer, filet of sole main course, cheese course and two Grey Goose martinis with tip set me back CHF 250. If you are scared of your American Express statement, you probably should stay away from Gstaad anyway. That said, the rates (below in Accommodations) in my opinion are very good, especially in the off-season where you can get a 2-bedroom suite for CHF 1,290 per night.
In terms of management, always critical in a new hotel, the GM Andres Oppenheim’s credentials include Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne as well as early in his career The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. In my three nights, I found the staff friendly and attentive. The two nights I dined in the restaurant I was the only one there the first night and the second night there was part of a family. The hotel was about 50% occupied and it’s the beginning of off-season. There are slight inconsistencies. The first night my Dover Sole was served on a plate, the second night on a square slate platter that was slightly awkward to eat off if you are typing on a laptop at the same time. Most guests probably aren’t.
The hotel has gotten very little press that I could find, surprising since these top of boutique properties are favorites of luxury editors right now. I heard about it via a friend in the industry and with a weekend to kill decided to give it a try, and was happy I did. If you value ski-in, ski-out, Ultima will win in Gstaad. The walking distance location into town is also nice. Overall, it has that rare combination of local character, modern design and comfortable functionality that is very difficult to find.
The hotel is a single building in Swiss farmhouse design, with 11 suites in the forward part of the building, and six more residences, two, three, and four-bedrooms in a rear sector that has a private entrance but also has access to the main hotel through a subterranean passageway that provides access to the spa, clinic, indoor pool and fitness.
Design of all the suites and residences is similar except that the suites have white marble from Northern Italy and the residences have brown marble from Spain. There is a mix of European woods, and the vibe is Swiss farmhouse with a sleek, modern aesthetic worthy of James Bond. All material is hypo-allergenic and there are huge oversize loungers, couches and king beds, each accented with throws and pillows from Hermes and Louis Vuitton. There is way too much design where function is sacrificed for form in the luxury hotel sector. Ultima deserves huge credit for not sacrificing comfort while executing beautiful design.
The bathroom amenities are Hermes, well stocked, and there is even cologne provided. High-tech remote controls are used to control the TV, in the case of some rooms rising from a hidden cabinet and adjusting which way it faces, or starting the gas fireplace. iPads built into the wall enable you to select music from an endless number of internet radio stations. Residences all include secured jewelry cabinets. All units have mini-safes and large walk-in closets.
Depending upon your needs and preferences, the top categories may or may not be your best choice.
Royal Residence (1)
Located on the second (top) floor in the back part of the building that contains the six residences, two per floor, at 2,766 sq. ft., the Royal Residence is the largest of all accommodations with three relatively compact bedrooms. The ceiling is the wood roof gables and in the living room and dining area, this means a spectacular high-ceilings around the wood-burning fireplace and a lovely venue for private dining at a table that can seat up to 12. There are also white leather bar stools at a marble counter leading to a full open Miele kitchen (as all the Residences have), so good if you have a private chef or if you want the hotel to prepare your meal in front of you.
The master bedroom, which has a tub and walk-in shower (the second and third bedrooms only have showers), has a low slanted ceiling when you enter. If you are above 5’10” you will need to duck your head. Each bedroom has its own private balcony, however, the third bedroom has a gas fireplace, although it only has a shower.
Rates range from CHF 2,190 to CHF 9,690 based on time of year.
4-Bedroom Residence (1)
The 2,680 sq. ft., 4-bedroom Residence (No. 4) is located on the 1st floor.
3-Bedroom Residences (2)
Residences Nos. 1 and 3 share a similar footprint, both 3-bedrooms with the difference that the latter, on the second floor has balconies, while Residence No. 1 has a private garden with Jacuzzi. The trade-off is better views from the higher floor. Out every window from the valley you will see the sloped roofs and painted wooden shutters of nearby chalets with the mountains and fields in the background.
Both are 2,389 sq. ft. and provide a large open Miele kitchen, spacious living area, large dining area and table seating up to 12 and three moderately sized bedrooms. The Master in each has both a tub and shower, while the second and third bedrooms have only showers. While they are popular with families and even friends, they are also a good venue for a single couple wanting space. The hotel can bring in exercise equipment or convert a bedroom to a study if you need. The main living area is excellent for entertaining friends and colleagues who might also be in Gstaad, and the outdoor entrance provides the likeness to renting a standalone chalet, but the internal access allows you to take advantage of all hotel services, including room service and catering.
Rates range from CHF 1,950 to CHF 9,000 base on time of year.
2-Bedroom Residences (2)
There are two 2-Bedroom Residences (No. 5 on the 2nd floor and No. 2 on the Ground Floor with private garden and Jacuzzi), one at 1,593 sq. ft. and the second at 1,862 sq. ft. Both have two full bathrooms, a full Miele kitchen, dining table seating up to 12, bar area, wood burning fireplace and extensive living room area.
Rates range from CHF 1,300 to CHF 7,600 based on time of year.
Presidential Suite (1)
The 1,722 sq. ft. Presidential Suite is 2-bedrooms, 2.5 bath with a full kitchen and dining area, in this case seating up to 12 people. It has its own private elevator (bulletproof) that can take you to the dining room, spa or parking garage.
Rates range from CHF 2,990 to CHF 10,980 based on time of year.
Prestige Suite (1)
The Prestige Suite (No. 9 on the 2nd floor) is 1,291 sq. ft. with 2-bedrooms and a living room divided into two areas, one with couches, the fireplace and television and adjacent area for reading. The Master Bathroom has spectacular mountain views while the second bedroom has a fireplace.
Rates range from CHF 1,290 to CHF 5,600 based on time of year.
Signature Suites (6)
The six Signature Suites (all are on the 1st floor except No. 8 on the 2nd floor) are all slightly different in layout (ranging from 700 to 785 sq. ft.), but each features a oversize walk-in shower that could probably fit at least six adults. Each also has a sunken tub, a walk-in closet with dressing area and a living area with oversize sofa, lounge chair, coffee table, work desk and gas fireplace. In true classification, these would be junior suites as there is not a full wall between the living room and bedroom area with oversize king bed. I stayed in No. 7 on the first floor which has beautiful views of grass fields, chalets and the mountains in the background. With the doors open I could hear the babble of a nearby stream. It’s fine for a couple, in fact I liked the spacious layout quite a bit, as long as you or your companion won’t be on overnight phone calls, etc. since it is one big room.
Rates ranges from CHF 980 to CHF 3,220 base on time of year.
Restaurants and Dining
The Duchessa is surprisingly large for such a small hotel with over 25 tables, however, they are separated into three distinct sections, including the main area which surrounds a wood-burning fireplace. They can close the second and third areas for private parties. Like the rest of the hotel, the restaurant successfully draws together woods typical of Swiss farmhouse with sleek modern design, very comfortable banquets and chairs with good spacing. There is a focused menu with classics such as Steak Tartare and Dover Sole (finished tableside) and an Italian bent with ingredients such Palma ham, pesto and Alba white truffles. I found the food to be very good, prepared in a healthy way with good portions. The fresh burrata (driven in from Italy daily) with a cherry tomato salad was excellent. The intention doesn’t seem to wow, just provide a really good and satisfying dining experience, which I think is a good objective after a day of outside activities.
The Lobby Bar
With padded ivory leather upholstery, the Lobby Bar channels the chic side of Gstaad. Around the bar are comfortable bar stools, also upholstered in leather, with small tables and armchairs. It’s a good place for a cocktail before dinner The all-glass Schimmel piano is a nice centerpiece along with the all-glass elevator. In the nice weather, the bar opens out to a 3,000 sq. ft. wooden terrace looking out to the mountains. There is also a variety of gourmet snacks.
The Shisha Bar
The Oriental style Shisha Bar is designed to be reminiscent of the tents of Dubai with a color scheme of deep reds, violet and orange; the wood and leather are elegant and warm. There are soft armchairs and sofas. For those with a taste for cigars or hookahs, there is a smoking area. It seems like if you were with a group or during the busy season, it is a good late night hangout.
The Detox Bar is part of the spa and prepares freshly made vegetable and fruit juices in any combination you can dream up.
There are six treatment rooms at the Ultima Spa, including one couples’ room. For face and body, the Ultima Spa works with La Prairie, known for its anti-aging cellular therapy. Choose between a white caviar treatment with firming properties, a hot stone treatment, or a special men’s treatment. There is a Hammam, Sauna, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi, and gym with cardio equipment and Technogym weight machines on order, plus a 50-foot lap pool (above).
The Aesthetics Clinic is a medical clinic (branch of Geneva’s Aesthetics Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Medicine), featuring Botox, PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma), Detox, Cavitation (cellulite reduction, Cryolipolysis (promising to remove up to 30% of fat deposits without liposuction) and Revitalization treatments. There is also DNA testing, skin tightening by radio frequency, and cosmetic surgery. Patients from the Geneva come to Gstaad post-surgery relaxation, one important summertime market for the hotel.
Below are some of the season activities the concierge can arrange for guests.
Hiking, biking, mountain biking, golf, mountaineering, mountain climbing, swimming, summer tobogganing, canyoning, fishing, horse riding, sled dog outings, and trekking with animals.
Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledging (8 runs for all levels), ice-skating, ice hockey, curling, air boarding, winter hiking, and winter biking
The regions has over 100 festivals, events and celebrations in the region. You can also visit the workshops of traditional craftsmen and there is lots of luxury shopping in Gstaad, including boutiques from Louis Vuitton, Breguet, Chopard, Hublot, Brunello Cucinelli, Hermes, Prada and Loro Piana.
Gstaad Saanen Airport has a 4,593 ft. runway at an elevation of 3,307 feet and is open 24 hours but is not an airport of entry. It has full FBO services and is 3.5 miles from the hotel. Alternatively fly into Geneva Contain Airport and take a helicopter transfer to Saanen, about 20 minutes. Bern Airport is a similar alternative if you have a bigger jet. The scenic Golden Pass train from Montreux is about 1.5 hours and well worth it for the spectacular scenery as it scales the side of Alpine mountains and passes through quaint villages where you can literally see through the windows of the chalets.