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Gstaad, Winter Wonderland

Need a break from cases? Decompress in Gstaad, Switzerland, which certainly lives up to its story book reputation.

After a grueling first semester at HBS, a ski vacation was just what I needed to mitigate the effects of overbooked schedules, five-hour sleep, and the pressure to perform at flip-cup competitions. I visited family in Gstaad, Switzerland and could not have found a better place to decompress. One does not have to do much to appreciate the beauty of this high-profile ski resort. I worked on my tan while having wine and cheese all day at the chalet and then there is getting up in the morning to catch snowflakes! The new year brought in 20 inches of snow which turned Gstaad into a glistening winter wonderland overnight.

The quaint village is exactly what you would imagine from a fairy book tale. On top of the mountain, the Palace hotel towers like a castle aglow. With the glistening Alps on the background, the central car-free promenade is laced with exclusive shops, gourmet restaurants and charming hotels. A Glhwein (German mulled wine) stand in the center offers a great respite from shopping in the cold, while children visit the ice skating rink, trampoline, and playground.

For ski enthusiasts, there are six skiing regions, with over 60 different lifts, including the improved Glacier 3000, with spectacular views of the Alps. Atop the Glacier, sits a restaurant where skiers bask in the sun, have their filling of charcuterie and champagne while facing a magnificent view of the Matterhorn. For traditional Swiss fare and to fill your craving for Fondue and Raclette, the Restaurant Baren continues to be a top choice. On the Promenade, the Rialto offers delightful Italian/Mediterranean cuisine. The biggest secret however, is the fantastic ribs with four dipping sauces at Saanen Pub.

Gstaad continues to live up to its reputation of being a celebrity hangout, with Paris Hilton making an appearance at the GreenGo Club in Gstaad Palace. A friend once told me Switzerland is the most beautiful place but also the most boring. I disagree. The newly opened Porsche 911 Club at the Hotel Bellevue is reminiscent of New York’s modern ultra-chic bars. Its Hardy’s at the Hotel Bernerhof is a laid-back cigar bar perfect for chilling out. Late night takes the single scene to the casual Richi’s pub, equipped with pool tables, foosball and video games (in this town of high rollers, this might be the only place for a game of flip cup). But my favorite is the Chlosterli. Voted one of the best night clubs in the world, the Chlosterli is housed in one of the oldest chalets in town-if you can imagine contemporary design, trance music and floor lights in a log-cabin.

Only two hours from Geneva by car, Gstaad is also accessible by train which offers breathtaking views of Montreaux and Lausanne. For anyone making the trip, I hope you fall in love just as I did. And as much as I would like to talk about escaping the HBS bubble I must admit, I begged the DJ at Porsche 911 to play “Sexy Back,” aka “Sec-C Back,” NC’s section anthem, and I did wear the requisite section fleece on the slope.

January 22, 2007
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