Not long before Christmas, me and my soon-to-be-Mrs-Smith found ourselves touching down in the heart of the Swiss Alps, for a weekend reconnaissance mission at Solis Cambrian Hotel & Spa – one of the latest additions to the Smith boutique hotel collection. We visited Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland, a village-sized cluster of gingerbread-house wooden chalets surrounded by pine trees and flanked by snow-capped peaks. Switzerland’s scenery doesn’t get more craggily dramatic – plunging valleys, dizzying heights and snow thick enough to lose children in. Criss-crossed by cable cars and ski lifts, the picturesque resort town is a haven for snowsports fanatics and Alpine adventurers, and in summer, when a carpet of greenery covers the slopes, Adelboden becomes the destination of choice for hilltop hikers, spa-seekers and lonely goatherds alike.
It’s a tiny place, reachable only by bus from nearby Frütigen, and I confess that before Mrs S and I pitched up, we’d never heard of Adelboden. However, after three days – and wishing for longer – we realised that the place had oodles to offer Smith-style snow-seekers. Here’s a swift run-down of five ways to get the most out of the dainty Alpine enclave…
Adelboden has more than 185km of pistes and is criss-crossed with ski lifts and cable cars to shuttle you from one piste to another, and the ski-supply-shop-to-people ratio is one of the highest on earth. Most shops have equipment rental too. If you’re a first-timer on the slopes, get lessons at the Swiss Snowsports School (www.skischule-adelboden.ch). If you’re ready to hang up you skis and try snowboarding, the Official Snowboard School (www.crazy-sports.ch) can teach you all you need to know about falling down a mountain strapped to some wood.
We spent more time than is probably healthy at the Solis Spa, which not only has all the usual suspects (sauna, steam room, massages and beauty treatments, fitness suite), but also has one of the most incredible outdoor pools we’ve ever had the pleasure of wasting a day in (pictured). One corner is a Jacuzzi, another has a pair of invigorating waterfall pipes, and there’s a wall of underwater massage jets. The biggest draw, however, has to be the view – being caressed by bubbles in an outdoor hot pool, while whirls of snowflakes dance around your head and mountains tower before you comes in just behind showering in champagne in the list of decadent experiences.
Follow the Tschentbach river as it carves its way through the Choloren Gorge – a 100-metre gully lined with steps and walkways. At the end you can take an invigorating (okay, freezing) dip in the ‘Fountain of Youth’. Not the real one, sadly. Alternatively, set off along the valley floor to Engstligenalp, where you’ll find the second tallest waterfall in Switzerland. I should point out that this probably better in summer, when the snow isn’t waist-deep.
Switzerland’s national dish is the fondue, popular in both cheese and meat varieties. Cheese-wise, you’ll find rich, tasty blends of local cheeses (including the region’s speciality, Emmental), often mixed with champagne, and enjoyed with chunks of bread. Meat fondues use either hot oil or clear Chinese-style soup. We sampled a banquet-sized portion of the latter in the laid-back restaurant at Hotel Adler (+41 (0)33 673 4141); having spent most of our time consuming cheese faster than a dairy could produce it, we couldn’t face any more. Adler offers every fondue variety imaginable, as well other Swiss staples such as rösti, raclette and bratwürsts ago-go.
Although Adelboden’s main (and pretty much only) street is lined with hotels and the entire area is dotted with pretty pine chalets, Solis Cambrian really is the only place to consider. With this kind of landscape, – you could be sleeping in a drafty shack and still come back raving about it. At Solis, however, no luxury is spared – this is Alpine living at its smartest. The decor is a soothing medley of snowy whites, warming browns and slate-greys that, while it won’t wow the design world, does perfectly suit the surroundings and knocks the socks off every other hotel in town. Just like the service, which is friendly, intuitive and bend-over-backwards helpful. We’ll be back. And we might even manage to get out of the hot tub next time.
PS Mr & Mrs Smith also have an extensive collection of spa hotels, stylish ski chalets and self-catering stays in Switzerland, so if you’re on the lookout for luxury in the Alps, have a gander at our insider destination guides to Verbier and Klosters too.