The “Best of the Alps” regions live up to expectations.
By Elyse Glickman
Once upon a time there were two mutually exclusive groups of savvy Europe-bound travelers. One preferred metropolitan destinations such as Munich, Zurich and Vienna for their culture, cuisine and shopping. The other, more athletically inclined group headed for the hills–those really BIG hills that make up the multi-country swath known as the Alps.
Sammy Salm, managing director of Best of The Alps, is leading an effort to unify these seemingly disparate group of travelers by making them realize each unique community is a perfectly balanced center of sport, history, culture and luxury. He also has the enthusiastic support of representatives from the dozen historic communities covering Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. They have been getting word out, and their first line of conquest is via travel writers with diverse interests.
“We are here to show you that these Alpine resorts and cities are world class,” Salm announced at a luncheon staged at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills. “Though all the regions are picturesque and have some of the best alpine skiing on Earth, they are destinations all year around, with everything ranging from adventure tourism for people at varying fitness levels, to cultural festivals, biking, hiking, golf, spas and wellness, and culinary trails that incorporate artisanal producers of cheese, produce and other excellent products.”
While Best of the Alps came together 22 years ago as a response to an aggressive campaign staged by the Rocky Mountains’ tourism board, they understood that with the right approach, the twelve individual regions could sell themselves separately and collectively to a variety of people beyond the ski set in a manner that was organic and free of artificial hype.
One clear advantage is that each area is anchored with villages boasting histories that date back hundreds or thousands of years, as opposed to destinations built from a marketing plan. Alpine village cultural festivals also have an appealing authenticity, given they were originally planned for locals to enable them to maintain generations of cultural traditions. Although eco-tourism is a new trend throughout the world, the regions have maintained a respect for their natural settings for as long as people have been coming to visit.
A skier could travel through each resort area and have a very different experience on each of the slopes. The same is true for non-skiers, those traveling with children, foodies and culture seekers. Here are examples of what they can look out for when planning their own perfect Alpine vacation:
- Zermatt, the southernmost destination in Switzerland associated with the Matterhorn, has been free of cars since anyone can remember. It is also regarded as a mecca for mountain climbers, and more recently, bikers, hikers and all kinds of nature lovers.
- Kitzbühel, Austria, has gained recognition as a foodie destination and gathering place for some of Europe’s top young chefs. The region’s villages Aurach, Jochberg and Reith are proximate to farms where top-quality bacon, lamb, beef, milk products, bread and schnapps are sourced.
- St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria, not only boasts superlative winter sports activities, but also standard-bearing luxury hotels, a Ferris wheel, cable car, spa and wellness facilities.
- After 120 years as a leading international destination, Engadin-St. Moritz continues to surprise visitors. This winter marks the opening of the Giardino Mountain resort, already generating a buzz for its spa and cuisine. In November 2011, Martin Dalsass and his wife Lorena took over and revived Restaurant Talvò by Dalsass (formerly Jöhri’s Talvò) in Champfèr. Dalsass is known for his innovative olive oil based recipes.
- Grindelwald and Jungfraujoch are known for their cultural festivals throughout the year as well as their artisanal craft shops and artists.
- The Kirchner Museum in Davos enhances encounters between people, art and landscape. Architecture combines functionality and aesthetic in showcasing the work of renowned artists.
One advantage everybody can agree on is accessibility, and all destinations can be accessed via auto or train from major airports. SWISS, Austrian, Lufthansa, Air France, Delta and United are among the carriers that can connect North American visitors to the perfect escape.
For more information on all 12 communities, visit www.bestofthealps.com.