We have good reason to be skipping work early on this wintry Friday afternoon.
That's because we are headed for Davos, the magical Winter Wonderland in the Swiss Alps! Given the exciting weekend program awaiting us, we had no way of packing light: there's a suit for the gourmet dinner reservation, full-blown ski gear and a pair of swimming trunks for when we hit the spa at the Waldhotel Davos.
Davos is Europe's highest altitude town
Who knew that more than 11'000 residents live in Davos, a mountainous town at 1560 meters above sea? Sure, I was aware of the buzz surrounding the annual World Economic Forum, but I had no idea how large Davos actually is.
With all the restaurants and bars along main street, it could be seen as a handicap to have a hotel away from all the action. The Waldhotel Davos is located in an elevated spot just below the forest. So yes, the walk home after a night at the pub will be a steep one.
On the flip side, step out of the hotel lobby and you will find yourself on a panoramic hiking trail. With the town below and the dominant Weissfluhjoch across the valley, there is nowhere else in Davos we would rather be.
Back in 1911, the Waldhotel Davos was built as a sanitarium for the treatment of lung disease. Thanks to the fresh mountain air and exposure to the sun, its illustrious guests had a better chance for a speedy recovery. Today, the hotel is classified with a four-star superior rating as it has a rich history, a gourmet restaurant and an in-house spa.
(Frankly, I am not sure why the "superior" rating. I enjoyed my stay and the four stars are well deserved, but I have been to hotels from the same category where comfort was more and the staff was more knowledgeable, suggesting insider tips and exceeding expectations. The hotel's shuttle driver got lost in Davos and we had to Google directions to the ski lift for him.)
Our program for the rest of the day? Shredding some fresh powder at Davos Parsenn!
It is fun to imagine that Davos is where the world's first ski lift went into operation in 1934. Back then, the bar that was invented by a Zürich engineer was shaped like a letter "J". Only in the following year, a local ski instructor enhanced the original ski lift by doubling the bar. It was now suitable for two skiers, an innovation Jack Ettinger referred to as "his and her" lift. Alas, the T-bar ski lift was born.
Obviously, the days of T-bars are long gone and Davos ranks as a top ski resorts with guaranteed snow. Among six distinct areas covering 300 kilometers of slopes, winter sports enthusiasts like yours truly have ample choice: the Jakobshorn for freestylers, Madrisa and Rinerhorn for families, or Schatzalp for those who enjoy aprés-ski as much as skiing itself.
We opt for Parsenn, a classic ski resort within easy reach from the main street in Davos. Courtesy of a swift funicular, we arrive at the bottom of the chair lift in under 15 minutes.
I particularly like the wide slopes of Parsenn and the option for longer runs in between. One of my faves is the descent from Weissfluhjoch to Parsennhütte. It has the perfect balance of slopes for carving and downhill "freeways"... And with all that fresh powder, snow guns are definitely out of a job today!
A bit of relaxing in the sun cannot hurt, right? The Weissfluhjoch mountain lodge is the restaurant of choice.
Back at the hotel, we indulge at the Gourmet Restaurant SENS 1605...
Jeroen Achtien is a young talent to keep an eye on. This 31-year old Dutchman calls 1 Michelin Star and 16 Gault Millau points his own, and he has been enchanting guests at Restaurant Sens at Vitznauerhof. This will be his first season to run the SENS 1605 fine dining restaurant at the Waldhaus Davos, aptly named for its altitude above sea level.
Pictured below is sous-chef, Marcel Koolen:
Whether the dry aged pork belly or red mullet chevice, the Dutch team continues to surprise our pallets as we eat our way through the tasting menu.
I especially like Chef Achtien's philosophy of creating similar taste experiences for all diners. "I want everyone at the table to share the same experience - whether they are vegans, vegetarians or meat lovers," he explains. Also, it becomes clear that each course is carefully prepared and serves its own purpose. Whether it is a tease for the senses or a way of announcing the next dish, each course has the unmistakable creative fingerprints of Chef Achtien.
The following morning, we wake up to this pretty view! The sky is overcast, making the contrasty mountains stand out that much more:
Downstairs at the breakfast buffet, we lock eyes with this box of colorful fruits and vegetables. It's calling our name, asking to be blended into a delicious carrot-orange-ginger smoothie...
But before we head home to the flatlands, you guys have suggested we visit KaffeeKlatsch in Davos Platz.
Thanks for the great advice! This Bohemian coffeehouse on Promenade 72 is truly a parallel universe - and their berry tarts are from outer space! Upstairs or down, this is one of those places where you can easily spend a couple of hours reading a newspaper, watching people or simply indulging in foamy cappuccini...
What a fabulous weekend in the Swiss mountains! It's sure one to remember.
7270 Davos Platz
Phone +41 81 415 15 15
(As part of this research trip, the Waldhaus Davos has generously invited us for two nights, including dinner and ski passes.)