When it comes to the most glamorous winter playground in the world, nothing can compare with the majestic Alps and their myriad of star-studded resorts, top rate skiing facilities and exclusive après-ski amenities.
Stretching across Switzerland, Italy, Austria, France and Germany, for many centuries these mountains were not visited by foreigners but early naturalists, soldiers or travelers headed to regions that they could not reach if not climbing over the mountains. Then, between XVIII and XIX century European artists and scholars developed a growing appreciation for the small cozy alpine towns blessed with fresh air, clean waters, sunny weather and inspiring views on the majestic heights. In the same period pioneer mountain explorers, mostly Swiss and British, started conquering pick by pick the highest Alps, inspiring more adventurers to follow.
Soon roads and cog railways were laid across the mountains, making those regions much more accessible. In an era when sports became a real sensation among the upper classes, the founding of fine “modern” winter sports facilities near luxurious hotels and lavish spas spilling thermal waters made the rest: the Alpine high-end tourism was born.
Starting from the interwar period towns such as St.Moritz, Verbier and Gstaad in Switzerland, Lech in Austria, Courchevel and Megeve in France, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Madonna di Campiglio and Courmayeur in Italy became a regular destination for discerning travelers and skiing enthusiasts. Their reputation as first-rate location for winter sports grew even stronger as numerous Winter Olympics and World Championships came to take place in the region.
Ski Clubs with a strict membership policy allowed only the most fashionable crowd. Among the sporting gentlemen padded with tweed, knitwear and fur while descending the piste at high speed one could easily spot a young Porfirio Rubirosa, who would become a habitué of the region in the decades to follow, after the war interruption.
The widespread availability of commercial jets in the late ‘50s, in facts, set the premise for ‘60s and ‘70s becoming the undisputed heyday of ski style and unabashed old-school hedonism. For a generation of the artistic, political and economic crème de la crème, there was only one mountain range to see and be seen and that was the Alps. These were the years when Rubi and fellow playboys Gunter Sachs and Gianni Agnelli, all expert winter sportsmen, would lit up the mountains during the day and hit the most exclusive parties at night. Here the chic yet practical winter sports style was born.
There was at the time, and still is nowadays a grand-yet-eccentric atmosphere complimented by a relaxed and family feel in these alpine ski resorts, with their gorgeous panoramas, delightful towns, traditional yet refined restaurants and luxury hotels and boutiques.