The luxurious five-star Kempinski Palace Engelberg in the Swiss Alps is a so-far lesser known ski resort, only a 40-minute drive south from Lucerne, nestled at the foot of Titlis mountain – one of the highest peaks in its range.
It has all the features you’d expect of a five-star hotel, from cosy log fires and rich leather to unbelievably beautiful mountain vistas from every angle. Incredible architecture is showcased in the gorgeous Art Deco Palace Bar, which is over 100 years old, and classic design in the Habanos Cigar Lounge which has a cool, vintage vibe and serves amazing after-dinner cocktails.
However, it was the gourmet culinary offerings that proved to be the crowning glory thanks to head chef Michelle Muller, who was previously a private chef to our current King Charles III!
When you’re skiing, the need to refuel is great, and locally farmed meat, Swiss apple pie and cheese galore, were washed down with delicious local Swiss wine during a private dining session in the restaurant kitchen. Think MasterChef without the dining mishaps! The fondue (a firm favourite) and charismatic Head of House pouring wine, enhanced the intimate ambience.
On and off the slopes
While staying at the Kempinski, I felt dizzy at the thought of taking a gondola and the rotating Rotair revolving cable car 3,238 metres up Mount Titlis, but I was easily distracted by the stunning snowscapes and the crisp air. The impressive off-piste skiing is ideal for seasoned skiers, but there are lots of spots for beginners, too. You can visit the Glacier Cave, where the ice is up to 5,000 years old, brave the highest-elevation suspension bridge in Europe on the Titlis Cliff Walk and take a pit stop in the cosy Panorama Restaurant for steak tartare and local beer.
Engelberg has a history as a tight-knit community with the beautiful 900-year-old Benedictine monastery at its heart. Guided tours are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
There are plenty of opportunities to explore the area too and we opted for a mountain bike ride. The electric bikes allow you to cheat your way uphill and focus instead on the scenery – streams and small ranches – on our route. We were sorry to have missed the local cattle show though which we were told was quite an event.
For room prices and more information, see kempinski. com
Our next stop was the chic four-star wellness hotel Frutt Mountain Resort at Melchsee-Frutt, which is closer to both Lucerne and Interlaken. It’s a car-free zone in winter so we took the gondola from Stöckalp to be welcomed by views so pristine they didn’t seem real.
The 144-room hotel overlooks the sparkling Melchsee lake and has three restaurants on site. As we lounged on the terrace in the hot sun, sipping Aperol spritz in true off-piste style, we didn’t want to leave. In ski season, as the only hotel in sight amid the vast expanse of snow, it’s truly a “ski in ski out” venue. This means you can be as quickly out in the snow as you can be back in the warmth of the hotel, relaxing beside the open fire, sipping a Moscow mule or local red wine.
If you’re feeling energetic, Frutt offers several hikes, including one that takes you from Brunni mountain to Titlis, passing numerous natural lakes.
A slice of spa heaven
Breathtaking views can also be appreciated through the picture windows of the fabulous Frutt spa which boasts steam rooms, saunas and a pool. Our host “warned” us that it’s a traditional Swiss spa and so permits visitors to discard their swimsuits. We laughed nervously in typical stiff Brit fashion and accepted the small cloths available for more modest visitors. But the sight of the uninhibited locals reassured us that au naturel style was indeed the acceptable way to go!
Regular spa rituals are held every day and we felt wonderfully relaxed as herbs were wafted towards us in a mesmerising circling motion. If your aching body is in need of some TLC post-ski try the Alpienne Sport Vital massage which uses marmot oil to stimulate circulation and relax those tight muscles. We also made use of the dark scented steam rooms, ice showers, foot baths and fresh herb teas, which we sipped on the spa terrace, reclining on a lounger. Heaven!
For room prices and more information, see fruttmountainresort.com
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