We've all seen photos of the snow-capped villages and sparkling white slopes that characterize Switzerland in winter. But the powder is just part of the picture when we imagine traveling to the region's renowned mountains -- the swanky ski resorts, with legendary Swiss service and even more unbelievable views, is part of that dream, too.
Unfortunately for most of us, five-star experiences in Switzerland's most exclusive ski towns can easily cost around $1,000 per night. But there's a strategy for bringing all the posh pampering and picture-perfect vistas closer to reality: staying in summer, when rates are up to 45 percent off.Case in point: The Kulm Hotel St. Moritz is the very destination where winter tourism was born in Switzerland 150 years ago. In the past century and a half, the resort's high repute hasn't waned one bit, thanks to grand facilities like the chandelier-filled ballroom of a main restaurant, a 21,500-square-foot spa with floor-to-ceiling windows by the pool, and a star-studded bar where toboggan racers and celebs lounge. Even the pillars in the lobby are wrapped in silk and linen Italian designs.
The rooms are nothing to sniff at, either. While decor may range from pale purples to rich blues, every room's best feature is arguably the tall windows that open up to either the mountains or the lake. Mirrored closets with copious shelving further brighten the room, and marble bathrooms tempt travelers to soak for days on end. When it's time for bed, breathe in the scent of Swiss stone pine -- proven to lower blood pressure -- or choose from a menu of 11 different pillows. (We love the heated cherry pit ones, perfect for soothing tired muscles.)
From mid-July to August 15, double rooms are 590 CHF per night (around $612), dropping down to 535 CHF ($555) after that until the season closes out September 6. While those prices aren't easy to write off, consider that "mid-season" winter rates are 755 CHF -- going up to a whopping 980 CHF in "peak" season. In other words, summer stays mean a savings up to $461 per night.
As always, the rates do include a half-board Dine Around program -- covering breakfast buffets and six-course dinners at the Grand Restaurant, three-course meals at the onsite Chesa Al Parc restaurant, and lunch vouchers at select eateries on the area's mountain peaks. You can also enjoy the three a la carte restaurants onsite with a 45 CHF credit, or book a private chef's table once a week, depending on the length of your stay.
Getting there: It's not too late to book a flight to Switzerland this summer if you have some flexibility in your schedule. We found direct fares from New York to Zurich on Swiss Air for $848 round-trip (August 26 to September 2) -- not exorbitantly pricey for the season, and certainly not when you consider the short advance.