Being a competent skier has been on the list of requirements for a fully-rounded royal for well over a century in many of the world’s most famous families. Most British royal brides-to-be are traditionally taken on a ski holiday as part of the official process of bringing them into the family – this was the case for Fergie and Di – and Kate’s relationship with William was first publicised when she was invited to Klosters with the royals in 2005.
The relationship between the royals and us has changed a lot over the years. The most relaxed royals of northern Europe may even be happy to share a chairlift with you, if you happen to be in the right queue at the right time, and you can certainly book in to some of the same hotels they do.
Find out where you’re most likely to rub shoulders with royalty on the slopes by reading our Royal Ski Guide.
The British Royal Family
The British Royal Family are famous for hitting the slopes and many column inches are filled in the press worldwide each winter covering their ski trips. Although Klosters is known to be Prince Charles’ resort of choice, the younger generation (William and Kate) are equally likely to be seen on the slopes of Verbier and most recently Meribel and Courchevel in the Three Vallees. Pippa Middleton is also fitting into royal life well; skiing at the Vasaloppet Cross Country Ski Race in Salen, Sweden.
Prince Charles, who has been a keen skier since 1963, has had to face a remarkable number of public and private issues on his annual trips to the slopes, including the tragic death of his friend Major Hugh Lindsay in 1988 when the party in which both were enjoying some off-piste skiing above Klosters was hit by an avalanche; then in 1983 he and Princess Diana played cat-and-mouse with the media around the Alps trying (largely unsuccessfully) to elude the press posse by staying first in Liechtenstein, where Diana had learned to ski, then in Laax and Lech. In 2007 the Prince cancelled his annual Swiss ski trip “to cut carbon emissions” in the wake of criticism over flying to the US to accept an environmental award.
Want to stay where the Royal Family has stayed? Prince Charles and Diana once stayed in the Arlberg Hospiz Hotel at St Christoph above St Anton, where, the manager tells us, they had their first public screaming match. But in more recent years Charles has favoured the five-star Walserhof hotel in Klosters. Prince Andrew prefers to splash out £65,000 on a private chalet with the same name as his daughter, Eugenia, in Davos. The Duke first stayed at Chalet Eugenia for the Davos forum in 2009, when he hosted a drinks party for guests including Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne.
The Swedish Royal Family
The Swedish Royal Family are, like most Swedes, prolific skiers and as happy on the Swedish slopes as they are in the Alps, where they’re regularly spotted at the top resorts. Their resort of choice is often St Moritz where they’ve stayed in the exclusive Suvretta House Hotel taking private guides from the hotel’s own Suvretta Snowsports School. Patrik Wiederkehr, the school’s director, recounts skiing with Swedish King Carl Gustav in deep powder in the Sunretta Valley, but they were hampered by the king’s bodyguards who could not keep up.
The Norwegian Royal Family
Being Scandinavian the Norwegian Royal Family are all keen skiers, particularly cross country skiers. The family’s greatest love is for ski jumping, cross-country and biathlon events at the spectacular Holmenkollen stadium above Oslo, although they can also be seen on the country’s downhill ski slopes, with Oslo Ski Center one of the closest to the palace.
The whole family – King Harald and Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, Prince Sverre Magnus and Princess Astrid – all turn out for the big ski jumping World Cup events each March, even bringing the family’s dog, Milly Cocoa, with them. Princess Astrid is reported to have attended more than 70 of these events while Crown Prince Haakon is so keen he has even posted YouTube video clips of himself commenting on the events.
The Monaco Royal Family
The glamorous Royal Family of Monaco, headed by billionaire Prince Albert, owns a chalet in exclusive Zürs, next to Lech in the Austrian Arlberg, to which annual excursions are taken. Caroline, Princess of Hanover, is a particularly regular visitor to the chalet, often with her youngest daughter, Princess Alexandra travelling with her.
The Spanish Royal Family
The Spanish Royal Family owns a chalet in Spain’s leading resort Baqueira Beret and while you cannot rent it, you can stay in La Pleta de Ley (‘the King´s hamlet’), the most up-market district in the resort. The resort’s best hotel, the five-star La Pleta, is complete with the Occitania spa and is now part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group. King Juan Carlos doesn’t ski much these days and you’re more likely to see Prince Felipe, Spain’s next king on the slopes, along with his sisters, Princesses Elena and Cristina.
Off the slopes, Baqueira has plenty to appeal to royalty including an annual ‘Month of Caviar’ and even without the annual celebration of fish eggs, the resort is famous for its seafood including the king crab and king prawns from the nearby Galician coast.
The Danish Royal Family
The Danish Royal Family is one of a growing number that usually chooses Verbier as their ski destination of a choice, where they rent a chalet each winter.
The Danish Crown Prince Prince Frederik and his wife Princess Mary usually roll up with their four young children Prince Christian, Princess Isabella and twins Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine. Princess Mary’s birthday is on February 5th so the family often make their trips down to Switzerland to coincide with the date, sometimes with a group of close friends in tow.
The Dutch Royal Family
The Dutch Royal Family is in a state of on-going turmoil following the avalanche accident of popular Prince Friso, second in line to the throne, who was buried without oxygen for 20 minutes after an avalanche accident in Lech in February 2012 and has been in a coma ever since. The prince was skiing with a childhood friend who was using an avalanche protection air bag and survived the avalanche relatively unscathed.
The Japanese Royal Family
The Japanese Imperial Family is fairly reserved about its social life compared to some of the western royals but is known to include keen skiers, and although winter sports participation has dropped by two thirds in the country over the past 20 years, there are still around 600 ski areas to choose from.
Crown Prince Naruhito, as head of Japan’s Olympic Committee, prior to joining the IOC in 1998, was crucial to bringing Winter Olympic Games to the country while Crown Princess Masako is known to be a long time fan of Minowa ski resort.
You can stay in accommodation built for the Imperial Family for use during the 1998 Nagano Olympics. The Ridge is located 2.5 hours by bullet train from Tokyo, within the prestigious Wadano area of Hakuba, at the base of the largest ski resort Happo. Its Penthouse has a designer bathroom, panoramic wrap-around balcony, designer furniture, a giant bed and much more besides.
The Serbian Royal Family
The Serbian royal family fled Yugoslavia in early 1941 as Hitler’s armies swept across Europe and were then prevented from returning after the war by the new communist regime (they were greeted by vast cheering crowds when they finally did return 50 years later in 1991). The king at the time, and more recently the Crown Prince Alexander II, have never abdicated.
Crown Prince Alexander II joined the British Army and in 1972 became the army’s ski champion. And despite being exiled, the Crown Prince is known to be a strong supporter of skiing in the countries of the former Yugoslavia and has spoken out in favour of international support for the 1980 Winter Olympic venue of Sarajevo in Bosnia.
Royal ski resorts: Share a chair with royalty