Nestled in Eastern Switzerland’s Schanfigg Valley and enveloped by the Alps, the charming village of Arosa offers a blissful combination of energetic winter sports and relaxed après-ski – most skip the bar and hit the spa. Add cosy, eco-friendly hotels and a snowy backdrop framed by the dramatic peak of Weisshorn, and you’ve got yourself a perfect winter getaway.
Valsana Hotel and Apartments (https://valsana.ch), is the most eco-friendly property in town – in fact, it was crowned the World’s Best Green Ski Hotel last year at the World Ski Awards. The hotel re-opened in 2017 after an extensive refurbishment which saw sustainability take centre stage.
A passion for the environment extends to everything in the hotel, from a menu bursting with local ingredients, to recyclable mattresses made from natural materials. The pièce de résistance however, is a highly technical Ice Battery (more on that later), which heats the entire hotel.
Valsana’s convenient location at the entrance of the village means you can walk everywhere, even to the slopes – there’s a ski-lift at the train station a quick 5-minute walk away.
A HUB OF SUSTAINABILITY
The hotel has managed to rapidly cut its Co2 emissions but installing a huge Ice Battery in the basement. The ‘battery’ uses geothermal probes which capture waste heat from other appliances and converts it into energy. The hotel now saves 30,000 kWh, which is enough energy to boil about 30,000 kettles – likely needed if the Brits are in town.
To further reduce C02, Valsana offers guests the chance to offset emissions from their journey to and from the hotel. A donation to myclimate goes towards a mountain gorilla project in Rwanda.
All discarded soap bars from Valsana are given to Sapo Cycle, which uses them to make new products. The hotel also has a strict recycling policy, and food waste is given to a biogas fuel company.
Swiss ingredients and local produce are a focus – expect a complimentary minibar filled with Swiss products including juice and creamy Swiss chocolate. There’s no alcohol in the mini bar, but a self-serve wine and spirits dispenser can be found in the Twist Lounge – it does the trick if you’re looking for a night-cap.
A NATURAL DESIGN
Interior design at Valsana was headed up by Swiss Architect Carlo Rampazzi, who focused on natural materials like wood, glass and stone. An important part of the design, joint General Manager Michael Lehnort tells me, ‘was ensuring that the interior style perfectly reflected the natural surroundings of the hotel’, and reflect the surroundings it does.
Behind the hotel sits the Arosa forest, so naturally, the design is heavy on wood; oak floors, wooden wall panels, wooden bed frames, and wooden tables. Sustainability was considered and much of the wood used was salvaged during the demolition of the old hotel, back in 2015.
Many luxury Alpine properties verge on kitsch when it comes to design, but not Valsana. The hotel’s 40 rooms and suites have a rustic warmth; expect leather chairs, heavy woollen throws, and lots more wood. Rampazzi does an excellent job combining natural materials, with a sprinkling of retro nostalgia. There’s a record player in all rooms, complete with your very own selection of vinyl’s.
Valsana’s most impressive piece of furniture can be found at Twist Lounge, where you’ll find a huge 14th-century fireplace recovered from a chateau in France. Nab the table opposite the roaring fire, order a drink (the Old Fashioned is excellent) and sink into one of the dark green Chesterfield armchairs.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served at Restaurant Twist, the hotel’s only on-site restaurant. The menu offers a selection of healthy, seasonal dishes using local ingredients where possible. Meats and fish is from Switzerland, and dairy is supplied by local farms in Arosa.
The large salad bowls on the menu are extremely filling, and the vegan Zoodles (Courgette noodles) with a curry-coconut foam looked fresh and healthy. The showstopper, however, was the Pike fish with lentils and sprouts – it was light and extremely delicious. For dessert, don’t miss the Rocket Salad and Green Apple. It took a lot of persuading for me to order it – after all, who wants salad for dessert? But the flavour combinations of the sweet apple sorbet, velvety olive oil cream, and peppery rocket worked surprisingly well.
The restaurant has a superb collection of wines, with over 90% from Switzerland. There’s also a gin and tonic menu, featuring 13 different Swiss gins each bursting with alpine botanicals. Twist also has a terrace with great views across the Alps.
THE GREAT UNWIND
If a soapy soak in the bath doesn’t cut it after a day thrashing around in the snow, head to Valsana’s spa. Start with a swim in the Relax Pool and lap up the breath-taking views of the mountains. The pool is cleaned through a huge sand filter which reduces the amount of chlorine needed – great for the planet and your hair.
Spa treatments can be booked at reception and all products used are vegan and organic. The whole spa area is extensive at 800 square metres, and there are several saunas and a steam room – leave you inhibitions at home as you’ll need to be naked in both. There’s also a relaxation room with views over the Arosa forest – clothes are encouraged for this bit for the sake of those snowshoeing below…
Personal training is managed by Munich based R1 Sportsclub. There’s also a yoga studio with mountain views – the perfect backdrop for some mindful stretching.
Valsana offers complimentary transfers from Arosa railway station. The train journey from Chur takes about an hour and has picturesque views of local villages and snow-capped mountains throughout.
For more information on Arosa take a look at our ski-guide here