It has snowed. And snowed. And snowed. Five days and nights now. Big, heavy flakes, a constant dump of deep powder and miles of deserted slopes. We feel cut off, a long way from home. And we’ve paid good money, for this?
Oh yes, yes we have! And you know? Being a bit crazy-in-love with the white stuff, we are SO not complaining. This is just how we like it. How many of us sit at our 9-5 desks, 340-something days of the year and fantasize about these few days away, where we get to play, frisking around the mountain, kissing cold, crisp air and tasting a bit of carefree-ness?
And then, after a hard day’s riding and sliding, when the hill is done and dusted, it’s great to head indoors and wind down into a cosy, inviting, chilled-out space to refresh, eat and share stories about the gnarly happenings, the 360 you almost bagged and the views from the top.Ok, even if you’re not inclined towards this type of winter-time frolicking, we are pretty sure that you appreciate the importance of having the right space to come ‘home’ to after all the adventures of the day, be it sun-lounging and cocktails by the pool, bungy jumping from the tallest bridge in the world, sight-seeing the ancients or any of the myriad activities we throw ourselves at during our few days of ‘annual leave’. For us, this means continuing the theme of expression, emotions, of the activities, of the place, albeit with comfy beds, cosy duvets, tasty wholesome eats, a warm soaking to ease aching limbs, chilled tunes somewhere in the background and catching up on that book/film we’ve been meaning to read/see but haven’t got around to back home.
Somewhere where imagination, quality and value haven’t been compromised by the ‘pile ’em high and ship them out’ bucket-holiday tour operators.
Somewhere that has been curated especially for ‘me’, the generation of traveller that is looking for the whole experience, not just a holiday.
Places we want to go stay especially because of this include the Riders Palace in Switzerland, Ace Hotels in the US and Droog Hotel in the Netherlands to name but a few, that have added value to the desire to be the ‘something different’ which you go home with at the end of your stay, remember for a long time and want to tell everyone you know about (but don’t, for fear they’ll be ‘taken over’).
I’ve been following the development of Ace Hotel over the years as it reinvents the narrative of hospitality to create “…something, fresh, energised and human.” They reimagine classic buildings and interesting opportunities, creating a sense of history and place while reinterpreting those details for a sense of modern bohemia that marries the pragmatic with the romantic. The hotels are creative, inspired by an affinity for the soulful and fueled by localised handmade culture. No two rooms are the same, each renovated individually and sustainably and you can even take your dog!
In 2013 Ace Hotels opens its fifth hotel in downtown LA in the historic United Artists building built in 1927. The theatre and tower stand as monuments to a group of seminal American artists pushing out on their own. As Ace Hotels are doing.
Riders Palace in Laax is another such place. Opened in 2001, it’s no newbie although it was ahead of its time then and still is with its timeless architecture, its ecological sentiments and its irreverent rejection of the typical Heidi-on-a-pine-rampage nostalgia which is the style de rigueur, or so it seems, in high altitude living; it’s curated party nights by the Ministry of Sound; it’s multi-choice accommodation options where everyone can afford to go stay and play and where the fun had outside continues inside.
For this winter we visited the French Alps and stayed with snow-pod.com, the design award-winning ‘apart-hotel’ in Tignes, the sister-resort to Val d’Isere. Launched as a ‘pop-up’ in 2008 which became so popular it stayed put, Snowpod#1 has been curated to provide accommodation and a service offer with all the benefits of room service, top in-house entertainment and exceptional skiing/snowboarding to offer a home from home experience which goes ‘beyond the vertical’.
Behaving like your very own, stand-alone hotel suite, with ‘room service’ ie meals, snowboard/ski hire, pampering treats, etc being booked for you before your arrival and delivered ‘in-pod’, Snowpod really is a model of tailored satisfaction. As Yvonne Russill owner and creator of Snowpod Ltd says “This is a really exciting time for the industry with creativity and reinvention playing a key part in attracting business. With times being economically challenging, guests want and seek out real value for their money, engagement on different levels and something that looks and feels a little different to the usual run-of-the-mill, package holidays”.
And finally for now, having spent some time hanging out in Amsterdam recently, I help myself to regular visits to Hotel Droog in the centre of the city. Designed to turn the hospitality experience and hotel concept upside down, at Hôtel Droog you’ll find the Droog store, a gallery, café and tea room. I have shopped here, had the most delicious wholesome lunch, sat in on a design debate of an evening and popped in to look around its recent exhibition. Next, to stay the night in the very quirky and sumptuous surroundings of the-one-and-only bedroom!
These examples show that curating spaces to stay and play in needn’t be a chore for the business and more importantly, the guest.