It can be a tough choice each year deciding where to go on your next ski holiday. But imagine if, along with things like flight schedules and space for your children in daycare, you had to find a landing strip for your private jet and a spare room for your bodyguard?
Despite these tough challenges, the world’s billionaires, politicians and superstars manage to make it on to the planet’s best ski slopes each winter, so perhaps their choices can provide some inspiration for the rest of us. We can even stay in the same hotels, in some cases the same suites, as our movie, music, political or sporting heroes. Find out where you can meet the stars on the slopes . . .
Hollywood A-listers past and present have made ski resorts their winter playground. Resorts like Aspen, Sun Valley and Vail are all synonymous with Hollywood superstars from the Golden Age, and in recent decades many now own their own spectacular homes in the mountains with Telluride and Jackson Hole as popular choices. Robert Redford, of course, bought his own ski resort—Sundance in Utah.
Canada’s West is also popular. Justin Timberlake stayed at Island Lake Lodge in Fernie during winter 2011/2012 and Leonardo DiCaprio and director Christopher Nolan with the cast of Inception stayed at the Delta Kananaskis at Nakiska ski area while filming the climactic snow scenes of the movie at nearby Fortress, a closed former ski area that has since been partially re-opened by a local enthusiast, in part thanks to money from the film company.
The Fairmont hotels nearby have all seen a swathe of stars pass through their doors with Chateau Lake Louise’s list including Jim Carrey, Dan Aykroyd and John Travolta, and the Banff Springs hosting the late Robin Williams, Michael Douglas, Vince Vaughn and Bob Hope. Marilyn Monroe also stayed there when filming The River of No Return in Banff in 1953.
In the Alps, Hollywood’s superstars have tended to head en masse to St. Moritz right from the very early years of downhill skiing and indeed of Hollywood. Charlie Chaplin made particularly strenuous efforts to reach The Palace hotel in St. Moritz, driving up roads previously thought unpassable in winter using a car with tank tracks on its back wheels when most people just took the train.
The Palace has seen hundreds, probably thousands of famous people pass through its impressive lobby over the past century but one of its longest running regular guests was director Alfred Hitchcock who first arrived on his honeymoon in the 1930s and made regular return visits for around 50 years afterwards, seeing his suite in the hotel as a sanctuary as well as a place to develop movie ideas.
But whichever St Moritz five-star hotel they stayed in alongside Europe’s royals and top politicians, the place to get coffee was the now century-old Hanselmann's, purveyor of fabulous cakes and ice cream, where you can still sit in the seat reputedly beloved by Audrey Hepburn.
Hollywood greats don’t all have a reputation as responsible guests however. When he rolled in to top Italian resort Cortina d’Ampezzo and checked in to the luxurious Cristallo Palace Hotel and Spa, Frank Sinatra immediately ordered 200 fresh raw eggs which duly arrived on a big silver tray.
“By the end of the evening the wallpaper in the room needed replacing,” said a rueful Hotel spokesperson. That room is now the superb Frank Sinatra suite, so in the long run Sinatra’s antics were probably worth the wallpaper.
Sinatra was not the only famous guest welcomed at the Cristallo Palace however. Peter Sellers stayed here in 1963, liking it so much that scenes from The Pink Panther film were shot here and again you can now stay in the same suite as Sellers.
If the stars you aspire to are of a more literary or artistic persuasion then the best known tended to make their tours of the mountains back in the pioneering days of snow sports. Sherlock Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for example, made some skiing firsts around Davos in the 1890s and Ernest Hemmingway toured the Alps in the 1920s staying in resorts including Austria’s Galtür, the inspiration for his short story, ‘An Alpine Idyll’ and where he did a lot of ski touring, using seal skins to ascend from a base at Madlenerhaus. He frequently drank—red wine—at the Hotel Rössle and was known to be a regular visitor to the Hotel Post, too.
Composers have been inspired by the mountains and rock and pop stars of the past five decades all love to visit.
The Beatles filmed the iconic ski scenes for their movie ‘Help!’ in the Austrian resort of Obertauern not far from Innsbruck and stayed in the Hotel Edelweiss which is still going strong and proud of their Beatles connection.
A young George Michael, then a teen heartthrob in the band Wham! Stayed in Saas Fee for the filming of that ‘Last Christmas’ video that still appears on our TV screen every December. He stayed in 1984 at the five-star Ferienart Resort and Spa and you can still book the suite that was used in the video.
Ischgl has a long list of famous musician alumni including Kylie Minogue, Diana Ross and Elton John. More recently Mariah Carey stayed at the five-star Hotel Trofana Royal for her fourth wedding anniversary and her twin babies' Moroccan and Monroe’s first birthday.
POLITCALLY CHARGED SKIING
The biggest on-snow gathering of world leaders and other movers and shakers takes place at Davos in Switzerland each January at the World Economic Forum.
Indeed it was here in 2012 that then Russian prime minister and now president again Putin put forward his plans for a string of world-class ski areas along the mountains to the south of his huge nation to international investors, aiming to build on the momentum of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Putin has built a reputation as a physical action man in his homeland, as well as a political one, and is often seen skiing with the locals on a ski hill in Moscow where he is the leading member of the Shukolovo Ski Club, as well as being the man behind those brand new Olympic ski resorts near Sochi.
But Putin is not the only world leader who takes ski vacations, while President Obama isn’t a familiar sight on the slopes, wife Michelle is a fan of U.S. ski resorts, recently staying at The Sebastian in Vail on a 2011 visit.
So the choice is yours. If you want to add ‘favourite celebrity endorsements’ to the criteria you search through when choosing your next ski destination it’s just a case of narrowing it down to rock star, politician, great author or movie star. It’s likely you’ll find one or more great names has found the resort that suits your taste before you.