A review of the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa, Switzerland – a luxury ski hotel perfect for families in summer
Wrapped in blankets to protect against the cool summer night’s air, we watched as the mountains around us flickered with fire.
They burned brightly on the ridgeline as they first did hundreds of years ago as a signal to the people to fight for Switzerland’s formation.
It was the end of the country’s national day celebrations on August 1 and the final night of our stay at one of its leading luxury hotels, the Tschuggen Grand.
It had begun with a short flight into Zurich from where my husband, our four-year-old son and I made use of the easy to navigate train system to travel two hours southeast to picturesque Arosa.
Summer opening at the Tschuggen Grand Hotel is from July until October. The winter season runs from November until the beginning of April. Winter rates are between about £380 and £2,250 per double room per night. Summer rates are from £260 to £1,040. Visit www.tschuggenhotelgroup.ch.
This included a journey on a stunning section of mountain railway, through tunnels and on tracks hugging the side of steep climbs and over a 100-year-old viaduct.
We had been delayed, so arrived later than expected, but waiting for us at the station was a concierge, ready to drive us to our home for the next few days.
Unsure of our movements, he had patiently greeted the service as it rolled in hourly twice before he found us at last – our first experience of the out-of-this-world service at Tschuggen.
A short drive up the mountain later and we reached the hotel at 1,800m altitude and entered what felt like another world.
The Tschuggen is extravagant – look no further than the intricate marquetry on the solid wood reception desk or the cashmere covered sofas from Hermes, Paris, in the nearby bar where individually designed Swarovski lamps cast delicate patterns on to the ceiling.
But it is also immensely welcoming and comfortable, taking it beyond its five-star rating not because it is ostentatious, but because it feels like that most precious of holiday wishes, to spend memorable time together, will come true here.
Indeed, there was plenty to keep us all happy in July/August out of the main ski season, when the Tschuggen and Arosa are at their busiest.
The resort itself – which sprang into life around the historic beginnings of the hotel in 1883, when it was founded as a sanatorium for lung patients to benefit from the crisp, clean air – has lots to do, a woodland aerial challenge, lake swimming and mountain biking, for example.
Access to many of these is complimentary with the Arosa card given to hotel guests for the duration of their stay, but we tended to take advantage of the numerous daily activities on offer at the hotel, which were also free.
It was particularly hard to leave the Tschuggen Bergoase spa, 5,000sq m of bliss built into the mountain side.
Designed by leading architect Mario Botta, whose other projects include the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, it has become a landmark in itself, thanks to the distinctive glass sails that jut out into the sky, flooding the space with light.
Its award of the silver architecture prize of the International Olympic Committee and the International Association for Sports & Leisure Facilities – beaten to gold only by the likes of the Beijing “bird’s nest” stadium – is an indication of the magnificence of this facility.
We spent hours there in the indoor and outdoor pools, the various saunas and steam rooms and simply relaxing.
Our son, Kasper, particularly loved splashing about in the water which was just as well-designed for children as it was adults.
He also enjoyed playing in the kids club where he was well-entertained and cared for.
The plush private funicular railway that whisks guests up to the skiing area in the winter is also a treat in the summer and a fantastic way for little – and not so little – legs to climb the mountain before walking back down or vice versa.
From its middle station stop, you can also take a short hike to a cable car ride to the summit of the Weisshorn, the highest mountain in the region.
My husband, James, conquered it this way and took advantage of the Grison’s mountains for a session of Nordic walking with one of the hotel’s personal trainers.
It was during this that he finally met some of the cows whose bells we had heard gently ringing from our impressive ninth-floor suite.
They have some celebrity, as their milk is used to make Toblerone and they weren’t too happy about “their” mountain path being used, resulting in James having to up his pace somewhat.
I took the opportunity to complete some more sedate pastimes, such as the chance to sample some of the area’s wines.
Unless you have visited the country, it is unlikely you have ever sampled Swiss wine. It is so good, it is sold locally almost before it is bottled and rarely, if at all, exported.
The tasting was proof of this and included a visit to the hotel’s cellar, where hundreds of bottles are locked behind an iron door.
I also made “zopf”, a special type of Swiss bread during a baking class, although my cooking was no match for the dining at the Tschuggen.
From breakfast to dinner, our meals were consistently excellent. Highlights were an evening in the Michelin-starred La Vetta and a feast of Swiss delicacies served on national day, such as raclette and Zurich-style veal.
This was accompanied by folk music and dancing and Swiss yodeling, which was harmonious and stirring.
There was also a group of alpine horn players, who encouraged Kasper to have a go, explaining that, as children breathe properly from their diaphragm, he would have no trouble getting it to make a noise.
Sure enough, he did, leaving James and I to make fools of ourselves as we struggled to do the same.
We left the next morning with a box of Swiss chocolate shaped in the style of the distinctive spa “sails” which made our goodbye a little sweeter, a love for the country and the Tschuggen ignited in our hearts.