Gstaad Glam

as actress Elizabeth Hurley once recalled, “Gstaad oozes glamour and style and is as picture-book pretty as anywhere on earth.” And, hence, this snowy resort town nestled in the Swiss Alps is the setting of Assouline’s latest tome, Gstaad Glam

The book opens with an introduction by Geoffrey Moore, a restaurateur who spent his childhood days in Gstaad with his father, late actor Roger Moore. Moore delves into the town’s history, ultimately crediting the opening of the railway line from Montreux to Gstaad on December 20, 1904, as the beginning of the Gstaad we know today. World class ski runs and iconic establishments like the Gstaad Palace Hotel followed soon after, putting the quaint town on the global jet set’s radar. Fast forward to the 1960s—after decades of improvements and new construction—and Gstaad was coined “the place” by TIME magazine because of its international acclaim and distinguished part-time residents. 

In addition to its 124 miles of ski slopes, Gstaad’s attractions include iconic hotels like the Hotel Olden and the Grand Bellevue in the heart of the village, and gourmet restaurants like the Sonnenhof, a favorite among locals, or the Eagle, a chic members-only option. High-end fashion boutiques line the main promenade, perfect for post-skiing shopping. All of this is set against a backdrop of a comfortable year-round climate—never getting too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter—meaning there is no “off-season” in Gstaad.  As Homera Sahni, producer of In the Spirit of Gstaad, perfectly summarizes, “[It is an] enchanting village in all seasons. Sound of cowbells in the summer, tranquility of snowfall in the winter…The Palace overlooking the village, like a giant chess piece.” 

Moore contrasts the essence of Gstaad with other similar ski resort towns like St. Moritz, characterizing it as having “less of the bling factor and [priding] itself on a more low-key atmosphere.” Notwithstanding its uniquely subdued nature, Gstaad has become celebrity magnet since the 1960s when the English rat packs would build their winter homes there to enjoy luxury comforts and much-desired privacy. Celebrity frequenters to Gstaad have included Princess Grace of Monaco, David Niven, Frank Sinatra, Prince of Wales, and Liza Minelli, all of whom would mingle in the same restaurants and bars without bothering one another. This level of class is also understood by the locals, who are unfazed by the celebrities and routinely wine and dine in the same establishments. While glitz and glamour are in abundance in Gstaad, local tradition and culture are always close by, and the book perfectly showcases the town’s elegant and unexpected treasures through the words of its favorite frequenters.

Alfresco breakfast on the balcony of the Gstaad Palace hotel. (Courtesy of Claire Menary)