Iconic Alpine Experience

Intercontinental Davos, Switzerland

Intercontinental Davos, Switzerland

The future of travel has arrived in the Swiss Alps, and it is the InterContinental Hotel Davos. This glimmering steel orb, set high above Lake Davos, looks a bit like a golden spaceship, and the inventive gastronomy served at three distinctive restaurants is definitely out of this world. Parquet flooring and plush accents adorn the 216 individually appointed rooms and suites, and you’ll absorb the alpine splendor from your private balcony. Continue reading


150 Years of Winter Tourism in Switzerland


Pop quiz: who was the innovative St. Moritz hotelier who attracted the first winter guests to the Alps in 1864 with a simple bet that turned out to be the birth of winter tourism? Tweet your answer to @skivirtuoso

Snow sports are amazingly addictive, they can take you across the world, and you’ll meet many new friends and have some of the most memorable days of your life. Following is my hand-picked selection of top Swiss resorts and destinations, and favorite experiences.

Recommendation from my favorite ski instructor: take lessons at every level as it is always possible to improve and there is always another harder slope to tackle.

All hotels below (except The Chedi in Andermatt) are members of the Virtuoso luxury travel network and my clients will receive guaranteed rates, complimentary upgrades, exclusive perks and amenities, and free breakfast daily. From A to Z:

• served as the stunning backdrop to James Bond in Goldfinger
The famous Glacier-Express railway that connects Zermatt and St. Moritz boards and disembarks in Andermatt. The cable car takes you to the Gemsstock with incredible panoramic views from the summit over the heart of Switzerland and about 600 Alpine peaks. The wide open slopes are ideal for experienced skiers, snowboarders and fans of deep snow.

The Chedi: Alpine chic meets Asian sleek in this sublime hotel chalet. Its
extensive facilities include fine restaurants and cosy lounges, a ski-in living room with sports boutique and ski butler, comprehensive spa and wellness center with a tranquil retreat of hydrothermal baths and a duo of swimming pools. Although this hotel is not in the Virtuoso network, I included it because of its unique ambiance. Currently, I can offer promotional rates for a 3-night minimum stay including spa access & treatments, daily breakfast and one dinner, and other perks.

• free “inside” guest program
Davos is a place of superlatives: the largest resort for mountain holidays and at 1560 m the highest town in the Alps. Guests of the ski hotels can benefit from local insiders providing free and exclusive skiing adventures on a daily basis from 20 December 2014 to 6 April 2015. At night, too, there’s plenty of entertainment, with bars, discos and a casino.

InterContinental Davos offers spacious rooms with a modern, warm alpine feel underlined by high tech amenities. The trendsetting dining and lounge experiences and state-of-the-art spa and gym complement the hotel’s Green Engage sustainability effort.

• Glacier 3000
The chalet village of Gstaad attracts countless celebrities who appreciate the quiet and discreet atmosphere. The resort appeals to active travelers offering one of the largest and most diverse winter sports regions in Switzerland with guaranteed snow.

Gstaad Palace, set on a hill overlooking the village, is an elegant hotel with a relaxing ambiance and awesome views of the surrounding Alps. Guests also enjoy the tastefully decorated rooms, restaurants, spa, and world-famous night club. I recently participated in an interactive webinar to get all the latest updates before the hotel opens on December 19.

Alpina Gstaad, the first luxury hotel to be built in Gstaad in 100 years, boasts stunning rooms, private apartments within the hotel, and 2 chalets. All restaurants share a single floor of the hotel with floor-to-ceiling glass doors flowing onto an outdoor terrace. Japanese restaurant Megu is the first European location of the celebrated concept, with its flagship in New York.

• Jungfrau
The Jungfrau Region offers no less than 43 mountain railways and ski-lifts offering perfect skiing over some 125 miles of slopes. Non-skiers also get their money’s worth: more than 60 miles of winter footpaths enable you to explore the mountains on foot.

Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel combines modern comfort with old world charm. The most recent renovation of the rooms and the spa was in 2010. The spa is a veritable fountain of youth and health, offering virtually unlimited sporting possibilities matched by few other hotels.

St Moritz
• White Turf Horse Race
St. Moritz is the cradle of winter tourism and it is the only Alpine destination with own regional airport, located at an altitude of 5.905 ft. There are more than 200 miles of pistes with a state-of-the-art infrastructure in the surrounding area. Benefit from the countless opportunities in the region with a visitor’s card that is a travel pass for mountain transport facilities and buses, a parking disc and a credit card all in one while also entitling its holder to a great many discounts. Every winter, frozen Lake St. Moritz is the site of the White Turf Horse Race, which attracts the world’s finest thoroughbreds.

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel is where it all began 150 years ago! The answer to the pop quiz is Johannes Badrutt. At Badrutt’s Palace Hotel graceful ambience is matched with breathtaking, pristine alpine scenery that surrounds this fairy-tale hideaway. Fashion and food are just as celebrated as outdoor activities, making for a well-rounded experience.

The Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains is ideally located in St. Moritz Bad, with direct access to the cable car station for Corviglia. All rooms and suites are elegantly and timelessly appointed and reflect unpretentious luxury and stylish class. The hotel also boasts award-winning restaurants, a spa and many more facilities. My friend, Alessandro Benedetti, is the Director of Sales & Marketing at the hotel.

• Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition Portfolio
I learned to ski in Verbier as a junior in high school. Verbier and the entire 4 Vallées ski area (not to be confused with Les 3 Vallées in France) is a paradise for all winter sports enthusiasts, from beginner to expert.

The Lodge is a stunning nine bedroom chalet (including a specially designed bunkroom for up to 6 children) accommodating a total of 18 guests. Although we also stayed in bunk beds during our “ski class”, it was nothing like you will experience at Sir Branson’s Lodge… with its private party room, indoor pool & jacuzzi, steam room, and mini ice-rink. Gastronomes will appreciate the private chef , wine cellar and house Champagne.

•    Matterhorn
The idyllic mountain village at the foot of the iconic Matterhorn has developed into one of the world’s most famous ski resorts with more than 188 miles of marked trails and a resort lift capacity of nearly 92,000 people per hour.

Grand Hotel Zermatterhof has been welcoming guests from all over the world since 1879. You will enjoy the newly renovated rooms, fine restaurants, popular bars, and a lavish spa with indoor pool.

Mont Cervin Palace stands out with its attractive façade and roof with numerous turrets and the hotel’s red horse-drawn carriage is an ever popular photo opp. Well-appointed rooms, Dine Around concept, and exquisite spa facilities & wellness center make for a fine stay.

Viviane Tondeur, CTC, DS is the Departure Lounge winter sports expert with a passion for anything snow, a wealth of knowledge, and some very cool tools to lead you to the right slopes. Viviane has completed the Switzerland Tourism program through the Virtuoso Travel Academy and has received the designation of “Switzerland Specialist

What is your most memorable snow adventure? Contact me here and let’s plan another one!


Winter Getaways and Gear

Winter Getaways and Gear
Come join me for Departure Lounge‘s last travel event of 2014, Winter Getaways & Gear. We’ll showcase the top snow destinations worldwide with exclusive promotional offers and door prizes.

At 3 p.m. our neighbor, St. Bernard Sports will feature a fashion show of the latest snow gear for your trip.

Also enjoy Departure Lounge’s wine flights and cheese plates at happy hour prices all afternoon.

This event is a come-and-go gathering, so stop in whenever you can between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Street parking and the parking facility at the former post office across the corner are the best options.

I’ll be available to help with any upcoming trips and St. Bernard Sports staff will be on hand to assist you with any gear or wardrobe additions you may need. I still have last minute (limited) availability for the holidays and other peak travel times at some of the top resorts.

What: Winter Getaways & Gear
Where: Departure Lounge, 311 W 5th Street (at Guadalupe), Austin TX 78701
When: Saturday, December 13th, 2014 from 2pm to 4pm (come and go)

RSVP: call me at 818-268-6552 or email vtondeur@departurelounge.com

As a Virtuoso travel advisor affiliated with Departure Lounge, I can offer my clients exclusive benefits and perks at close to 100 “Best of the Best” hotels and resorts in the top snow destinations:

– complimentary upgrades, daily breakfast, and special amenities at four- and five-star hotels and resorts

– exceptional savings or upgrades on business- and first-class international air fares

– destination-based experts to serve as your guides and local concierge service for insider experiences

What is your favorite snow destination? Call me now to discuss and book your travel plans!

Trips of a Lifetime

Taking a break in Fez, Morocco with my friend Chuck

Taking a break in Fez, Morocco with my friend Chuck


You’ve been imagining an African safari for ages, and your espresso this morning reminded you of that Mediterranean cruise you’ve always wanted to take. Well, now’s the time to follow those dreams straight to your Virtuoso travel advisor for a customized trip of a lifetime. With my insider connections and the $12.5 billion buying power of the Virtuso luxury travel network, I can make anything happen – so go ahead, dream big.

This issue of the Virtuoso Travel Catalog features trips of a lifetime like:

– Sipping Champagne while cruising the Chilean fjords;

– Getting a massage after windsurfing in Moorea;

– Feel right at home in Paris in your residence-style hotel;

– Let Irish lore come alive during your stay in a 700-year-old castle;

– Float over the Masai Mara in a hot-air balloon;

– Soak all your cares away in the Chihpen hot springs in Taiwan;

– Ski or ride the fabulous pistes of the Alps;

– Meet locals in rural Laos;

– Walk among polar bears in the Canadian Arctic;

– Wander the aromatic spice markets in Marrakesh.

Where would you like to go? Call me now to discuss and book your travel plans!

As a Virtuoso travel advisor affiliated with Departure Lounge in Austin, I can deliver enhanced experiences with Virtuoso benefits and exclusive perks:

– complimentary room upgrades, daily breakfast and special amenities at more than 1,000 four- and five-star hotels and resorts worldwide

– complimentary shore excursions with gourmet meals, exclusive cocktail receptions and dedicated hosts – including yours truly – on 400+ luxury cruise sailings per year

– special savings or upgrades on business- and first-class international air fares with the top airline carriers

– destination-based experts to serve as your guides and local concierge service for insider experiences

– a professional travel expert who is always there to correct any issues that may arise during your travel

World’s Best Ski Towns

Matterhorn in Zermatt

Matterhorn in Zermatt

National Geographic’s selection of the 25 best ski towns in the world. Do you agree? Where do you like to ski?

Just what makes a classic ski town? It starts, naturally, with skiing and snowboarding so good they attract people like youth-bestowing fountains. Then add an inviting mountain burg steeped in ski heritage, amenities, and culture. These are the 25 best. For insider tips, we asked local luminaries where to stay, play, and party, whether you’re on a budget or indulging.
—Aaron Teasdale

World’s Best Ski Towns – National Geographic.

My personal favorites (not in order):

1. Chamonix, France

2. Zermatt, Switzerland

3. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

4. Park City, Utah

5. Taos, New Mexico

and because I ski year round:

6. Valle Nevado, Chile

7. Bariloche, Argentina

On the wish list for 2014-2015 season (come to our ski event on December 13 for special promotions and door prizes): Whistler, British Columbia; Sun Valley, Idaho; Squaw Valley, California

Join me? Hit Follow and be the first to receive dates and rates.

Viviane’s weekly picks October 12

Paris in Autumn

– With it first renovation in 30 years, the Eiffel Tower’s highlight (literally!) is the glass floor pavilion which offers visitors incredible views of the landscape and people below from 187 feet up in the air. Insider tip: if you lie down on the glass floor, you can take a selfie that looks as if you’re in the air! Continue reading

Top snow getaways and gear


Snow season is just around the chair lift! Did you know winter tourism started 150 years ago in St. Moritz, Switzerland? Join ski and snow travel expert Viviane Tondeur and St Bernard Sports at Departure Lounge to launch the slope season in style on Saturday, September 27 from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Departure Lounge’s screens will showcase the best snow resorts in North America and Europe and St Bernard Sports will demo the newest gear and latest fashions. Score great deals, learn about Virtuoso insider access, exclusive benefits and amenities, and enjoy happy hour pricing on Departure Lounge’s wine flights during the event.

Score amazing deals in the countdown to winter promotion or win the Grand Prize, a 2-night Vail ski vacay!

When: Saturday, September 27 from 2 pm to 5 pm

Where: Departure Lounge, 311 W. 5th Street (at Guadalupe), Austin, TX 78701

Questions? Call Viviane Tondeur at 818-268-6552

Don’t worry about missing the Longhorns @ Kansas, we’re broadcasting the game live!

Viviane’s Top Weekly Picks August 3


Could be the cooler than normal temps are tricking my legs to think about the upcoming ski season …? Well, yes, it so happens quite a few updates and announcements came across my desk so here goes:

The Chedi Andermatt

The Chedi Andermatt, part of the multi-billion-dollar resort development, opened in December 2013 and set new standards in the Swiss hotel industry. The chalet-style property is a modern interpretation of alpine architecture by designer Jean-Michel Gathy. The result is a mountaineer’s version of hedonism with luxuriously appointed rooms and suites, 3 restaurants overseen by Michelin-starred Executive Chef Mansour Memarian, spa, and dedicated ski butlers.

Rocky Mountain High

Recently renovated Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creak, CO is a ski-in/ski-out Rocky Mountain Lodge with brand new additions including ski concierge, restaurant, bar, and retail shops. The ski valet service has moved to a heated outdoor area with hot cocoa, coffee, hot cider, and of course legendary Ritz-Carlton service.

Southern Hemisphere

If you need to get your summer ski fix now, 2014 is turning out to be an epic snow year in Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

Considering Repositioning?

Seasonal cruises when ships relocate from one part of the world to another, can offer as much as 70% off regular rates. You’ll enjoy more days at sea to indulge in spa treatments and participate in workshops, lectures, cooking classes and food pairings. Sailings in October & November on Crystal, Celebrity, Windstar and Oceania Cruises, and Holland America Line.

Vibrant London Awaits

Departure Lounge clients are taking advantage of our premium, business, and first class fares on the daily British Airways non-stop flight from Austin to London. Make easy connections to other European destinations, or enjoy a few days in the vibrant capital.

Las Ventanas al Paraíso, Cabo San Lucas

Hollywood’s newest “it” couple, Academy Award winning actors Charlize Theron & Sean Penn, and Departure Lounge founders Keith Waldon & Bryan Glatt recently luxuriated in a stay at the legendary resort which unveiled its 12 new villas, each with a private infinity pool and swim-up bar. Best of all? you can get there in a little over 2 hrs non-stop from Austin and you’ll enjoy Virtuoso exclusive benefits and amenities.

Exclusive Cognac Tasting Tours

From December to February, Courvoisier offers an 8-hour “Cognac & Truffles” tour with a local trufficulteur and a truffle inspired lunch at the elegant Château Courvoisier. The rest of the year, you can enjoy the 7-hour “From Grape to Glass” tour including everything but the truffles. Rémy Martin offers a 10-hour Louis XIII Experience, featuring the “king of cognacs.”

Destinations: Switzerland, Colorado, Chile, Argentina, England, Mexico, France, ocean cruises

Departures: January 1 – December 31

Contact me here to help you plan and book your next trip.


Top Skiing Destinations in the World

International Bellhop Travel Magazine

Ski -- header

As wintertime is beginning to wane, and spring is chugging-along into summertime, we are already dreaming of the next ski season.  If you are a lover of skiing too, learn about these beautiful ski resorts and skiing destinations, and begin planning your next ski trip early…

Les Sybelles, France


On of the most famous and most luxurious of the French Alpine ski resorts, Les Sybelles’ warm and comfortable rooms and haute cuisine are just as alluring as the pristine white slopes.

  • 20 green slopes
  • 40 blue slopes
  • 31 red slopes
  • 5 black slopes
  • 310 km (193 mi) slopes total
  • 2 snowparks

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, Switzerland

Located in the valley below the famous Matterhorn Peak in the Swiss Alps, Zermatt is an agricultural community and area that became the epicenter for mountaineering, skiing, and vacationing for much of Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. The village itself is pristine, with much character, and is even a…

View original post 325 more words

Peak Adventure in Switzerland

Glacier Express train between Zermatt and St. Moritz

Glacier Express train between Zermatt and St. Moritz

Reliable snowfall, perfectly groomed slopes, long runs, lively villages – discover true bliss on a 12-night Switzerland ski odyssey that I can customize for your personal travel preferences. Enjoy grand stays and authentic charm in Zermatt, St. Moritz, and Zürich, including Virtuoso amenities and dinners at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, Badrutt’s Palace and the Dolder Grand; first class seats on the Glacier Express train: five-day lift tickets in Zermatt and Engadin; and all transfers.

Destinations: Zermatt, St. Moritz, Zürich, and of the greatest train rides in the world

Zermatt: embraces 3 ski areas with superb snow conditions and longest ski season in the Alps. Oh yes, and it’s located at the foot of the majestic Matterhorn!

St. Moritz: considered by many the most elegant and exclusive ski resort in the world. Amazing skiing, chic boutiques, snow polo, spas, elegant nightclubs, and casino.

Zürich: a relaxed stroll through the city reveals something amazing at every corner: architectural highlights, historic squares, streets and districts, churches, works of art, and world class shopping.

Departures: December 1, 2013 – April 30, 2014

Call Viviane, the snow sport expert at 818-268-6552 for more information or to make reservation. From $6,800 per person, double occupancy.

About Viviane Tondeur, MBA, CTC, DS: travel advisor affiliated with Departure Lounge, a member of the Virtuoso network. I focus on snow sports, river cruising, and delicious culinary experiences. As an expert FIT and group planner – I specialize in personalizing clients’ travel experiences, and regularly lead tours to favorite destinations.

About Departure Lounge in Austin, TX: sleek, elegant, one-of-a-kind coffee and wine bar with a cool travel discovery zone. Departure Lounge clients enjoy Virtuoso insider access plus complimentary upgrades and amenities. Departure Lounge travel advisors are part counselor, part global concierge and part magician. We follow a specific process in collaborating with you and have some very cool tools to lead you on the right path.

About Virtuoso: travel industry’s leading luxury network with 1,300 of the world’s premier travel providers, as well as exclusive services, experiences, and products.