Dome, Sweet Dome

Traveler 1105

The road to luxury is paved with moguls. Not those nice symmetrical bumps through which you can neatly pick a line, but rather monstrous snow piles underneath which a Jeep or a woolly mammoth might lie in hiding. The trail we're skiing, which has led us over the backside of the Swiss resort of Villars, flattens out just beyond the mogul field. We skate around a bend and are met with the quintessential Alpine scenescape: jagged peaks stretching as far as the eye can see, pocket-size villages tucked into creases in the valley floor and solitary mountain huts, their plumes of white smoke curling invitingly. But one of these scenes is not like the others: To skier's left sits a colony of small white domes, a modernist refuge of tents dotting the snowpack. The setting for some new Survivor-meets-snow reality series? No, there's no mere surviving going on at Whitepod, a futuristic new luxury resort.

Billed as an eco-tourist camp, Whitepod comprises five geodesic domes anchored by frozen stakes to wooden platforms. The only way to reach it is via skis or snowshoes. After the snow melts, the "pods," made from triple-insulated cotton, break down entirely, leaving no trace. But pull back the heavy-duty zippered portal and step inside the wood-stove-heated space (there's no electricity) and you'll agree—this is hardly roughin' it. Wood floors are covered with chic cowskin rugs and a wood-framed bed is piled with sheepskins, a thick duvet and down pillows. An iPod sits on the bedside table.

Whitepod is the creation of Villars local Sofia de Meyer, an attorney in a former life who returned to her hometown ski resort with the seed of an idea and the determination to plant it. That vision? A stripped-down setting where skiers can get close to the mountains. The pods have no plumbing, so a maximum of 10 guests share two bathrooms and a solar shower in a 19th-century farmhouse just downslope, where they also eat their meals, socialize or read books in the den of rough-hewn wood. Passed down through de Meyer's family for decades, the renovated farmhouse is where she arranges organic meals (using local produce, such as hand-gathered morel mushrooms) and squeezes fresh juice before guests take off for their guided activities, from skiing and snowshoeing to backcountry touring in the 8,000-foot peaks above Villars. First tracks? Step outside. Just don't expect to find a newspaper.

November 2005


Whitepod's closest airport is Geneva International, 90 minutes away. Rates are $435 per person, per night all-inclusive, or $165 per person, per night with dinner only. Contact 011-41-79-744-62-19;