A number of major new resorts and packages for travel agents to sell are rolling out across Europe this ski season. Here’s a quick preview.
In Switzerland, the new Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort Lake Lucerne will be heading into its first winter. One and a half hours from the Zurich airport and 20 minutes from Lucerne, the resort consists of three hotels, the first of which, The Palace Hotel, opened just this past March with 108 guestrooms, a French restaurant, lounge and bar, a wine cellar and a terrace overlooking the lake. The Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, is set to open August 28 with 20 suites and 82 guestrooms, plus a Lakeview Bar & Lounge, 66-seat private cinema, cigar lounge and private dining room, as well as a Spices Kitchen & Terrace restaurant. The last hotel, the 160-room Waldhotel Healthy Living, is scheduled to open by the end of the year with a restaurant serving healthy cuisine, as well as spa services and facilities for medical check-ups and other health and wellness services. This fall will also see the opening of the resort’s 107,000-square-foot spa.
Bürgenstock is just a half-hour drive from the Engelberg ski area, which is open from October to May and has 50 miles of ski slopes and almost 25 miles of cross-country runs. This winter the resort will offer transfers and packages to Engelberg, as well as ice skating and curling on the resort’s tennis courts.
Bürgenstock’s winter debut comes as Switzerland Tourism is promoting the destination with its winter 2017–2018 “Upgrade Your Winter” campaign. The campaign includes Switzerland Tourism’s first-ever winter sales manual, which will be distributed to travel agents by mid-September with a list of winter tour operators, top events, commissionable offers and tips on how to enjoy the Alps. The organization is also launching a new, free e-learning “Certified Switzerland Travel Expert” program with three modules aimed at educating agents on the destination.
The new “One Day Experience” package targets travelers who have never skied or snowboarded before, but are looking to try. For a flat rate, guests get a day in the Swiss Alps with a ski instructor, ski lessons, all equipment and a lift ticket. Lessons are in English and last either one-and-a-half or three hours, and the package is available for solo travelers or groups of up to five. The package is commissionable.
The new “après ski train” at the SkiArena Andermatt-Sedrun ski area will transport guests back to their hotels in style.
Elsewhere in Switzerland, SkiArena Andermatt-Sedrun is in the midst of opening 14 new transport facilities in a bid to become central Switzerland’s largest skiing destination. As of the 2017-2018 season, the Andermatt-Nätschen-Gütsch gondola cableways and the Hinterbördli-Strahlgand chairlift will enter service, meaning that Andermatt and Sedrun will be fully connected by the 2018-2019 season at the latest, according to Switzerland Tourism. The ski pass here will include the “après ski train,” which brings skiers back to their hotels while Victor, the rolling bartender, serves up a wide range of drinks, plus a selection of traditional cheese and dried meat platters.
New Club Med in the French Alps
In France, the new Club Med Samoens Grand Massif is set to open December 17. The four-trident resort will provide access to the Grand Massif ski area, the fourth largest in France. Billed as Club Med’s new flagship in France, it overlooks the valley of Haute Giffre and is an hour and 15 minutes from Geneva airport and Annecy Station.
The resort targets family travelers, with 336 guestrooms that include 30 suites and 45 chalet apartments. The main restaurant will have four areas, including a family section, each aiming to evoke a different atmosphere. There will also be a health-focused corner that includes gluten-free options, a wine corner and a terrace overlooking the Alps. Other dining concepts will include a gourmet lounge surrounded by glass facades looking out over the Alps and helmed by French Chef Edouard Loubet, and a kid-friendly “DIY Dinner” restaurant that allows families to create their own dinner from options such as soups, mountain specialties and international cuisines. Families will also be able to take advantage of childcare, a dedicated restaurant and ski room for children, as clubs for children 3 years of age and younger (Baby Club Med and Petit Club Med) require an extra fee.
Nearby, the Grand Massif ski area provides 165 miles of ski slopes for all skill levels, although the majority are intermediate (43 percent) or advanced (34 percent). Ski-in / ski-out packages and other programs include ski passes, while private ski lessons and optional snow sports are available at an extra cost, including cross-country skiing, icefall, paragliding, fat bike, snowmobiling and skidoo. Other mountain activities, all of which include ESF professional guides, include hikes, snowshoe walks and Nordic walking. For a more laid-back day, guests can also relax at the indoor heated pool, Turkish bath and sauna, fitness center or The Spa by Carita.
Room at the new Club Med Samoens Grand Massif.
Eye on Austria
In Austria, 2017-2018 will mark the second season for the newly combined Arlberg Ski Region, which was connected just last winter with a new link in the Flexenbahn cableway between Zürs and Stuben/Rauz. The Flexenbahn is a single circulating cable system with 47 cabins, each seating 10 people.
The new link made Arlberg the largest contiguous skiing area in Austria, comprising St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, Zürs, Lech, Oberlech, Warth and Schröcken. In all, skiers now have access to a total of almost 190 miles of downhill slopes as well as 87 lifts and cableways.
Tip for Travel Agents
It’s easy to forget, but when booking a ski vacation to Europe, price can be a selling point. According to officials at the Austrian Tourist Office we spoke with, the price point to Europe can often be lower than the western United States, especially for travelers from the East Coast. Agents should also be sure to play up the charm of international and European ski resorts versus their domestic counterparts – the skiing experience is quite different from what travelers can experience in America.