8 Euro-style Hotels add charm to U.S. Ski Vacations
by Kim D. McHugh
“Que la vie est belle,” proclaims your host. “Bon appetit!” With that, you toast the good life before devouring a French supper worthy of a five-fork rating.
So you’ve taken a ski vacation to France? No, Taos, New Mexico. You are the guest of Jean Mayer, a Frenchman from a small town near Chamonix. Mayer, technical director of the Ernie Blake Ski School since 1959, also owns and operates the Hotel St. Bernard, one of a small collection of hotels throughout snow country that have “Europe” written all over them.
While western resorts may offer the mountain vistas and diversity of terrain of their European counterparts, it is hard to duplicate that joie de vivre (joy of life) that comes from European hospitality.
Settle into one of these hotels and you get a taste of the Euro experience without having to cross an ocean.
Hotel St. Bernard, Taos, New Mexico
Smack dab at the base of this legendary ski mountain is this 28-room icon and the resort’s original hotel.
Reminiscent of a French country house, it boasts the gingerbread trim, window boxes and hand-painted murals that are the signature of so many buildings in the mountain villages of France.
All rooms face the mountain and feature antiques, duvet comforters and hand-painted armoires and lamps. So popular is the ski week package (it’s the only way you can be a guest), it is tough to get into the hotel. But once in, you are welcomed as family.
“Our guests cover three generations and are now a part of the St. Bernard family, said Mayer. “It is so nice to see them coming back year after year to share their vacation with the same friends they have met here.”
Guests join Mayer and his instructors for a day on the slopes, returning to meals prepared by a staff of predominantly French-trained chefs. Of particular interest is Mayer’s collection of hand-painted cowbells and other Euro artifacts.
Hotel prices per guest (dbl. occupancy) start at $2724 a week for seven nights, three daily meals, six lift tickets and instruction. Discounted pricing starts at $2224 per guest (dbl. occupancy); single occupancy is slightly higher. A condo stay is slightly lower. 505-776-2251, www.stbernardtaos.com.
The Alpenhof Lodge, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Originally built and owned for over 20 years by Dietrich and Anneliese Oberreit, who came from Germany and Switzerland respectively, this is a Tyrolean lodge to the last detail.
Guests frequent this 42-room lodge not only for its European warmth, but also its proximity to the slopes (it is just 75 feet from the tram).
Striving for authenticity, the hotel has appointed its rooms with hand-carved Bavarian furniture, down comforters and nick-knacks from the Alps. The property also has a few staff members from Europe that, on occasion, wear the traditional dirndl.
In the bistro, you’ll find a sleigh hanging from the ceiling, as well as hand-painted murals depicting the history of skiing. The cuisine has Tyrolean flair with Zwielbelsuppe (onion soup with Gruyère), Jägerschnitzel (pork loin medallions), Wachholder Antilope (juniper spiced antelope), Fondues and the classic Weinerschnitzel leading the menu choices.
Managers Mark and Ann Johnson and the staff provide a level of service that explains why guests return year after year. Enriching the guest experience are the lodge’s two golden retrievers Molly and pup Lucy. Nightly rates range from $129 to $479 per night, depending on travel dates; check their web site for four- and five-day special packages. 800-732-3244, www.alpenhoflodge.com.
The Bavarian Lodge & Cabins, Taos, New Mexico
So entranced by the skiing experience of Taos, German-born entrepreneur Thomas Schulze settled in the valley and built a ski alm in the spirit of those found in the mountains in his native Bavaria. It opened in 1996.
Running the lodge with his wife, Jamie, and their two young children, the family makes guests feel willkommen in a place that feels more like a home thanks to beautiful European antiques and finely crafted furnishings. Trompe-l’oeil murals, and carved and painted detailing by Swiss artist Reto Messmer and local artist Kristin Bortles exude an atmosphere that is decidedly Bavarian.
The first phase of Bavarian Chalets, added to the property in 2009, feature the classic sloped roof and wide, overhanging eaves. At dinnertime guests select from German dishes like Sauerbraten, Jagerschnitzel, Fondue and Spatzle, homemade Bavarian pasta, as well as chef’s specials like Chicken Shashlik, Roasted Duckling and Filet Mignon.
Taking the chill away in the lodge is the authentic Kachelofen, a Bavarian tile stove, while the bar is home to beers from the Spaten-Franziskaner brewery in Munich. Rates range from $355 to $750 a night depending on travel dates. (575) 776-8020, www.thebavarian.com
Goldener Hirsch Inn, Deer Valley, Utah
If you have visited Austria, you might just recognize this place. You see, this sister inn was modeled after the world-famous Hotel Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg.
Right at the base of Deer Valley’s Sterling lift, this 20-room hotel offers all the luxury, charm and elegance of a classic European hotel with the “kick-back-and-relax” comfort of an American country inn.
Each room is appointed with hand carved and hand-painted furniture, as well as down comforters and fabrics woven in Europe. The suites are sought for their fireplaces and private balconies.
You had best work up an appetite on the slopes, as the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant (AAA-Four Diamond and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner) will challenge your diet to a dual with a fabulous selection of traditional Salzburg specialties. Its lobby and lounge feel more like a living room and serve as ideal retreats for après ski or cozying up to a book. Rooms range from $309 to $1439 per night, depending on travel dates. 2- to 3-night and 4- or more night packages are available. 800-252-3373, www.goldenerhirschinn.com.
Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer, Vail, Colorado
Enter this Vail landmark and you are transported to another continent. Your Austrian-born host, Pepi Gramshammer, and his wife Sheika, dole out generous portions of alpin kindness.
A snowball’s throw from the Vista Bahn lift and in the heart of Vail Village, this 40-room inn takes its architectural cue from the movie “Heidi.”
Original European art and artifacts join thick down comforters, hand carved furniture and hand-painted murals in creating an Austrian ambiance. Throughout the hotel you’ll find hand carved wooden beams, hand-painted accents and a staff dressed in traditional attire.
Credit the German, French, Swiss and Austrian accents of many staff members for adding an even grander European feel to your visit.
If you want to feel like a local, pull up a chair on Pepi’s Porch, a wonderful sun deck that is perfect for people watching. The hotel’s boutique gives you the opportunity to go home with some European clothes and accessories, while The Antlers Room and Pepi’s Restaurant give you a taste of Austria. Rooms range in price from $260 to $805 per night, depending on travel dates. 800-610-7374, www.pepis.com.
Sonnenalp Hotel, Vail, Colorado
Warm cordiality, a comfortable place to be. In German that is gemütlichkeit and that hospitality is ever present thanks to owners Johannes and Rosanna Faessler.
“We have a deeply rooted, established style that we believe is timeless,” explained Johannes. “I can quickly feel the difference when I walk into a luxury hotel where there isn’t really a connection. The moment our guest walks through our door they feel as if they are coming into our home.”
Each of the 112 suites or 15 rooms are decorated with cushy comforters, hand carved armoires and plump furniture that begs you to linger.
The hotel is sought for its top-drawer service, proximity to Vail Mountain, a trio of Zagat Guide-worthy restaurants and spa. Don’t be surprised if the owners pop over to your dinner table to visit.
“We’ve been doing this now for a little over 30 years and a good portion of our guests have been coming over that time,” Johannes commented. “You build extraordinary personal relationships that we see our new guests enjoying as well.”
Lodging ranges in price from $250 to $2700 per night, depending on travel dates. Special packages are also available. 800-654-8312, www.sonnenalp.com/suites.
The Stein Eriksen Lodge, Deer Valley, Utah
When it comes to hosting guests, few do it in the style of Norway’s most famous Olympic Gold Medalist, Stein Eriksen.
With 68 suites and 112 rooms, Utah’s only Forbes Five Star, AAA Five-Diamond lodge may sound large, but it is very intimate. Situated at an altitude of 8,200 feet, it is sheltered by spruce and aspen trees at mid-mountain.
A potpourri of fabrics, wood, furniture and art from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Norway give the lodge an old-world ambiance. Rooms are decorated with hand-painted chandeliers, hand crafted tiles, plush comforters and Scandinavian color schemes that transport you to the land of Ullr, the Norse god of snow.
Brace your waistline for a culinary assault from The Glitretind restaurant, an elegant mountainside eatery that is frequented for its contemporary cuisine and a Forbes Four-Star eatery. Rated #1 Resort Spa by Condè Nast Travelers readers in 2011 the spa can help vanquish stress.
The Troll Hallen lounge is also well worth a visit. With any luck, Mr. Eriksen might just stop to say hello. Rooms range from $750 to $2000 a night, depending on travel dates; Suites range from $2000 to $5000 a night. Special packages are available. 800-453-1302, www.steinlodge.com.
Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont
Nine years before The Sound of Music opened on Broadway (1959) the Trapp Family Lodge started welcoming guests visiting Stowe, Vermont. After a fire in 1980 destroyed the original 27-room retreat, the family built a stunning 96-room lodge in its place.
Today, under the stewardship of Johannes von Trapp, President of Trapp Family Lodge, the iconic structure draws guests who appreciate its attentive service along with its unmistakable Tyrolean architecture that includes a traditional Austrian bell tower.
Decorated with European-style furnishings rooms in the dog-friendly lodge showcase panoramic views of the Green Mountains as well as the 2,500-acre property.
Villas and Guest Houses are other lodging choices available to guests, with the latter accommodating up to six people for Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday visits. Serving award-winning European cuisine, the lodge’s restaurant gets guests going in the morning with a bounteous Vermont country breakfast. Evenings treat patrons to a blend of classic Austrian dishes and inspired American fare. Leave room for a slice of Black Forest Cake or Linzertorte and beer lovers need to sample the Trapp microbrews. Lodge rates range from $175 to $515 a night; Guest House rates range from $1750 to $3500. 802-760-6325, www.trappfamilylodge.com.
*Rates at all lodging properties are subject to change; contact the properties for current pricing and special packages.