Never mind chocolate eggs this Easter, we’re thinking about chocolate box ski resorts. The term chocolate box is used to describe quaint, traditional Alpine villages. To be classified as a chocolate box resort, buildings must be made of wood – not concrete with cladding – and originally have been cowsheds rather than apartments. These wooden chalets must be set around a town square, ideally with a medieval church.
The beauty of a chocolate box village is that they have retained their history, charm and character despite mass tourism across the Alps. Our ski experts have chosen a few of their favourite villages in France, Switzerland and Italy.
The small village of Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland has a rustic charm and is centered around the 15th-century church. The chalet-styled village is set in a long valley and offers panoramic views of its surroundings. More than 210 kilometers of pistes are easily accessible from the village, as well as a selection of cross-country skiing trails, a snow park and winter hiking routes.
Adelboden was the first Swiss destination to be awarded the Alpine Wellness holiday resort certificate, making it the ideal for a relaxing break. You can also learn about dairy production from local herdsmen or dine on cheese fondue from the local dairy in an igloo during the winter months.
Find out more about Adelboden here.
Encompassed in the vast Three Valleys ski area, St Martin de Belleville was an old farming village until the 1980s. With access to its neighbouring resorts of Val Thorens, Meribel and Courchevel, there are a vast 600 kilometers of skiable pistes. The village is composed of traditional wooden chalets and a 16th-century Baroque-style church. Runs into the village are long and intermediate level, and during months with little snow there is extensive snowmaking.
Find out more about St Martin de Belleville here.
This traditional village is located on a wind-protected terrace with above average sunshine hours. Enjoy incredible views of the Bernese Alps, particularly the peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. From here you can easily access the family-friendly slopes of Kleine Scheidegg-Männlichen, as well as the World Cup runs on Lauberhorn. Wengen is car-free and is only reached by the mountain railway. The line also calls at Grindelwald, another chocolate box resort.
Find out more about Wengen here.
Set in the heart of the Bernese Oberland, the attractive Swiss village of Gstaad defines a chocolate-box ski resort. The car-free village is made up of beautifully-designed chalets and opulent hotels. Gstaad has a selection of stylish shops and gourmet restaurants; perfect for those looking for off-the-mountain activities. The ski area is as pristine as the resort; with modern chairlifts and 200 kilometres of tree-lined slopes. A stand-out feature of the village is the renowned and castle-like Gstaad Palace.
Find out more about Gstaad here.
With pistes at 1,500m and 3,000m above sea level, Mürren is the highest ski resort in the Bernese Oberland. The village is part of the Jungfrau ski area, which has 206 kilometres of pistes. Mürren is a tiny, charming and virtually car-free resort. There are panoramic views of the Bernese Alps, especially when tackling the Schilthorn black run – a 1,300m vertical piste with breathtaking terrain.
James Bond fans can visit 360 degrees rotating Piz Gloria restaurant, which was made famous by the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There is also an interactive exhibition where you can get a glimpse behind the scenes of the film.
Find out more about Murren here.
The largest village in the Dolomites’ Val Gardena, Ortisei is a charming Italian village in South Tyrol. The resort has access to the Dolomiti Superski ski area, which is made up of 12 ski resorts and covers a total of 1,200 kilometers of piste. Many of the slopes are long and wide, making it a perfect destination for leisurely skiing.
The village’s architecture has been influenced by its Tyrolean roots, with pastel-coloured hotels, restaurants and bars. The yellow, turreted Adler Spa Resort dates back to 1810 and is one of the most beautiful properties in the Dolomites.
Find out more about Ortisei here.
Dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Alps’, Saas-Fee is surrounded by 13 mountain peaks reaching 4,000m or higher. The ski area has 100 kilometres of slopes and is ideal for near beginners and intermediates. Due to its altitude, you can even ski during the summer months on the glaciers.
Another car-free chocolate box resort, there are electric buses that shuttle visitors around. There is an authentic and traditional feel of the village with narrow streets and cowsheds still in operation.
Find out more about Saas-Fee here.
One of Switzerland’s largest (and sunniest) resorts, Crans Montana is separated into two distinct areas. Modern Crans has upmarket designer shops, including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermès, and older Montana with its traditional atmosphere. Crans Montana has a lively après ski, which you don’t tend to find in chocolate box resorts. Despite the lively bars, the village has a laid-back, uncrowded feel, which is echoed on the gentle blue and red runs.
Find out more about Crans Montana here.