The High Life: Taki remembers the golden era of mountain living

"Such was the rarity of ski resorts back then, that people believed nobody was truly unhappy on the Alps..."

There is a mordant Spanish proverb which says that living well is the best revenge, although there are certain conditions, especially at wintertime: It is essential to the status of the world’s snobs that they be found skiing, and be seen après skiing, in either Gstaad or St Moritz in Switzerland. 

Let me amend that. It used to be essential, but no longer. In fact, it is the opposite: The Alps during wintertime are now the place where the unacceptable nouveaux riche, the incredibly vulgar and the criminally connected now meet and party. Russian oligarchs, Gulf potentates who have yet to understand the workings of a water closet, and European hustlers hoping to meet their marks have now replaced the aristocracy and glamour of the post-war years when I first arrived in a snowy little village high up in the Bernese Alps, a place that looked like a movie set, including a cast of locals in lederhosen and pipes, and an Oompa band. 

Gunter Sachs and Bridget Bardot: the jet set's de facto King and Queen of St Moritz

But this is about yesterday, before catastrophic wild fires, collapsing ice shelves, recycling, oil spills, Tropical Island flooding, immigrant invasions, and racism, the ubiquitous word that now rules our lives. It was a Noel Coward world, Rattigan plays about the upper crust, and films without explosions, car chases and the F-word as adjective, adverb and noun. It was all about pleasure and the pursuit of happiness in a gentle manner. It was wintertime in the Alps.

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