It is said that there are sights that always stay with you for a very long time; images, scents and sounds that are imprinted on the consciousness and returned to, again and again. When Mantality first make it to Parkhotel Bellevue and Spa, in the Swiss ski resort of Adelboden, it has long gone past midnight. Visibility on the ground level is severely limited to the lights of the entrance and lobby. But if you raise your head, the sky reveals its night-time secrets; millions upon millions of stars, flickering pinpricks that, away from light pollution, are rendered in all their universe-spanning glory above. It has a way of making you feel small and wonderful, like a child on the cusp of an adventure, discovering the gateway to a larger world.
When dawn breaks, the wonders are even more pronounced. Nestled at the top of the village that played host to this year’s FIS Ski World Cup, the Bellevue and Spa has earned its strong reputation locally as one of the finer getaway ports of the region. It commands a series of stunning views, from the typical wood chalet structures that litter the snow-buried valleys around, to the soaring peaks of the Alps, dotted with clusters of evergreen pine and sheer, slate-grey rock faces. Cast above, the sky stretches on past the visible horizon, a vast, magnetic blue that the eye is always drawn back to, like an involuntary reaction.
This wonderful location is evocative in all the right ways. But scenery isn’t the only thing that eases the tensions of life away from burdened shoulders in Adelboden. This is a place where snowdust glitters on the breeze and being irresistibly carefree and laid-back is a way of life. Here, Mantality sees just why, in the Swiss Alps, a relaxed state of mind pays dividends and how letting go of your pressures brings rewards.
Mantality stays at the aforementioned Parkhotel Bellevue and Spa, overlooking the sprawling Swiss countryside that spills out around it and below. This crisp, modern structure, originally built in 1901, has seen renovation in recent years and offers guests three choices of rooms, burnished with oak and elm, cast with wide spacious windows. It’s uncluttered, minimalist in a way; it has a similar effect on the mind too, in that the experience of simple standing in the space of a room brushes off the excess baggage, worries and foibles that ping around the head. It’s warm, but not in the encompassing sense of an embrace; more, it strips the fears and doubts away, to leave a freedom in place that is oddly secure and comforting.
If the rooms of the hotel release the brain, then the spa that forms half of Bellevue’s complex releases the body. First built in 2001, and overhauled in 2009, treatments and facilities include Turkish baths, fitness areas and medical massages, utilising multiple essences such as stone pine rosemary, mallow and larch to energise, cool and cure fatigue. The coup de grace however is the outdoor salt-water sauna pool, a construct where guests can submerge themselves in 34 degree Celsius water that eases the muscles and warms the body whilst taking in crisp mountain air and stunning, snow-capped views, as the sunset casts the sky in a fiery orange-and-pink hue. It helps to improve fitness, eases residual pain and rejuvenates both physically and mentally, delivering a blissful bathing experience in the pin-drop quiet of Adelboden.
If there is a drawback, it’s that the Bellevue is for the retiring individual; Mantality’s group are the youngest clients of the hotel by some forty years, bar a lone exception. The hotel is exclusive, for regular tourists who use it as their retreat of choice as they slip out of middle-age. For the younger traveller, it is somewhat a shock to the system how removed from the tech-savvy world it is; an elegant, classic structure that does not necessarily favour those hooked to their mobile devices. But therein lies another of its charms; the Bellevue is a wonderful place to try a semi-digital detox at least. By removing electronic communications, the hotel persuades its clients to honour the well-timed art of conversation, be it in the pool or on the restaurant veranda as the sun descends. Sure, for those incapable, there is a television and Wi-Fi; but at the Bellevue, it’s all about breaking new ice, to excuse the pun.
The slopes that surround Adelboden are some of the best Switzerland has to offer; no small boast in its own right. The FIS Ski World Cup is held in the area for a reason, with a fearsome black run the toughest to tackle. For those who are confident on snow, they can even perform a timed run down the world cup slope, and weigh themselves up against seasoned professionals. For the novice, several smaller gradients litter the mountainsides where travellers can take their first leap on a snowboard or hone their rudimentary skills. Adelboden’s winter means that sunlight only fully hits the peaks for a few hours each day – and out of the glare, temperatures sit at a bracing -14 degree Celsius. But that is part of what makes Adelboden’s slopes so relaxing. High above the rest of the world, a serene calm softly caresses the mind and body, the air crisp and invigorating.
Upon reaching the summit of a slope, the adrenaline kicks in; there is something wildly joyous about hurtling down a mountain on thin metal strips, sliding and twisting. A standout of these courses is Adelboden’s sled-specific track, a winding, twisty two-mile narrow strip of polished snow that corners sharply and features very little run-off to a sheer twenty-foot drop. It’s thrilling and liberating; a shot in the arm for the weary which helps to give them a new lease of life, a revitalising experience quite unlike any other.
Cold places require good meals, and in Adelboden, it’s hard to find a bad one. The Bellevue’s own restaurant has been headed up by Jurgen Willing for almost a decade and a half, and a wide range of traditional high-end Swiss delicacies are served up with a French twist, including a delicious steak and tomato sandwich on a glazed ciabatta. For those who wish to venture further afield, the Alpenblick Restaurant and Bistro serves up exquisite five course meals, including a wonderful beef steak topped with marrow and purple carrots. What’s more, all of this is made from scratch; there’s a fresh, elegant simplicity to the food.
Up on the mountains, your choices are no less equally varied. A traditional delicacy of the area is the pork schnitzel; a meaty slab covered in egg and breadcrumbs, flash-fried and served with potato and onion rostis. For the winter sports enthusiast needing a carb boost to keep warm, few things do the trick as well. But what about that dining experience that goes the extra mile – literally? Perched on top of Engstligenalp, a plateau in the shadow of six or seven different peaks, is the Fondue-Iglu; a gargantuan ice structure where guests can feast on a traditional Swiss cheese fondue, surrounded by arresting sculptures and artwork carved into the white walls. The location is beautiful, magnificent – and the fondue itself is a wonderful winter warmer that makes the experience a must for any traveller looking to sample Swiss delicacies at their finest and most unique.
Adelboden has a bit of history with ski holidays; the first ever package tour from Britain came here in 1903. Its first recorded mention in the regional annals was in 1409 – and by the arrival of the 20th century, it was already a predominantly tourist-driven locale for the affluent. Today, the town is best known internationally as a regular host of the World Ski Championships, with its testing black runs and courses that wind their way sharply down the sides of the surrounding white crests. But outside of that, its major economy is supported by local traffic rather than foreign tourism, as the area is some distance from major international airports in contrast to more popular resorts. Consequently, Adelboden remains a truly organic Swiss location, free of traditional visitor trappings outside of the odd shop, and still predominantly filled with typical wood cabin structures of a Germanic design. It is still heavily reliant on local produce too; outside of the ski season, water, cheese and wine produced in the region sells strongly domestically. What this all adds up to is that Adelboden feels like a step out of the modern day and back in time; an era where getaways were precisely that, an escape into a wonderful new world rather than a week in a typical destination, surrounded by the same techno-crowd that sit next to you in day-to-day life.
Hidden away in the crest of the Swiss Alps, Adelboden is a resort that has a cinematic, poetic beauty to it. It is a place that softly seeps into the body and bones, a well-preserved retreat that offers a relaxing alternative to other resorts of the region. It’s a hideaway choice for the more chilled explorer, one happy to switch off and submit to the rural, snowy charms. From gorgeous landscapes to atmospheric spa treatments, the Parkhotel Bellevue is a great hub for the luxury traveller to station themselves for a few days in this corner of Europe. There are few places where one can feel so in touch with the earth and the sky; in Adelboden, they meet with breath-taking results. Tick one off the bucket list!