Founded in the Swiss Alps in 1882, Leo Trippi has been recognised as the ‘World’s Best Ski Travel Agent’ for five consecutive years. With the luxury chalet brand due to host an exlcusive preview of our newly launched St. Moritz range later this month, we caught up with the company CEO to talk about his passion for skiing and arranging extravagant experiences
What is your professional background?
I’ve always loved skiing but from the age of around 10 I became completely obsessed with it and all I wanted to do was ski. So at 16 I moved to Verbier and did six full winters, and in the summers I’d be off chasing snow on the glaciers. On my second-to-last season I skied around 46 weeks out of 52! I was mostly coaching and skiing for fun but at the same time I met Ant Cullen in Verbier and together we set up a travel company called Alpine Guru. Later, we set up Villa Guru, so over the course of six years we built up those businesses which we then sold to Leo Trippi in 2016.
Did you see a gap in the market when you set up those early ventures?
I think I always knew that, after I finished my ski seasons, I wanted to be in business but didn’t quite know what to do. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a gap in the market but it was certainly an opportunity and because I was teaching in some of the big chalets that we now sell and I knew the guests, naturally they’re going to book with you because you have that personal relationship. That was sort of a catalyst for it.
What is the story of Leo Trippi?
Leo Trippi is actually a person, he was the great grandfather of one of my business partners, Florian Steiger. His family had a hotel in Pontresina, which is in the greater St. Moritz area, and he grew their hospitality group to a total of four hotels; three in Saint Moritz and one in Sicily. He was a big figure in Swiss hospitality at the time, so when my now business partners were looking to set up a travel company, they obviously wanted to use the history of the family who had been involved in hospitality for all of those years and revive that and use that story.
What do you like about Globe-Trotter?
I’ve always been aware of the brand and seen the suitcases at airports and thought, ‘Oh, I’d like to have one of those!’ Even though Leo Trippi is Swiss and Globe-Trotter is British, there’s still great synergy between the two. It’s a brand I’ve admired for a long time and I think it correlates a lot with what we do and our guests. Personally I own the original trolley case and the new 30-inch St. Moritz. Our business started in St. Moritz so it makes a lot of sense. Literally every time I get on a plane I get at least one comment, especially from cabin crew who obviously know what they are.
Can you tell us of any special or extravagant experiences you’ve organised for a client?
One of our favourite things to do is organise stays for large, multi-generational groups. Last year we had a family from San Francisco who booked a property in Verbier. They wanted to do a “wow-factor” experience one day so we arranged some hiking to a point on the mountain where a table was carved out of snow, a chef was doing a BBQ and there was a cocktail bar. If you can imagine being on top of a glacier, on top of the mountain, and you can’t see anyone else at all. Extravagance-wise, I once had a grand piano helicoptered from Paris for an eight-year-old boy. That was pretty extravagant!
Where are your favourite places to ski?
My favourites are probably Les Trois Vallées (the Three Valleys); Courchevel because it’s one of the larger ski areas and St. Moritz. One of the most fun places I’ve ever skied was at Bariloche in Argentina. I was travelling through South America and we stopped there for a week to ski. There was just something about it that was quite different and charming. Also Norway. We lived there for about three years when I was very young, so there’s a nice connection.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
I’ve been to South Africa but I would love to explore it properly, then Borneo. The other places I haven’t really travelled to are Australia and New Zealand but I would like to have a good six to eight weeks to explore them properly. I think it would be amazing to do that and have time to do it with a little bit of luxury – no hostels!
Has anywhere surprised you?
Baku is like the Monaco of the Caspian Sea. That’s how I describe it. Azerbaijan is a very rich country but also very poor – it’s a place of contrasts. I lived there between the ages of eight and 13 and going there now, it’s completely changed. I didn’t know a city like that could transform so quickly. The other place that surprised me was the first time I went to Shanghai. There are just so many people. Shanghai is a beautiful place but quite overwhelming.
What do you never leave the house without when travelling?
My Globe-Trotter suitcase. I always take gym clothes so I can try to run or use the gym wherever I go. I try to travel quite light generally and just take what I need. If you forget something you can always buy it when you’re there. I used to make the mistake of taking far too much stuff.
What is your packing style?
I’m completely last minute – as in, I’m the last person to arrive at the airport when they’re just about to close the gate. I definitely pack light though. My trips are frequent but quite short so I never normally need that much stuff. I guess when you travel regularly you learn that you don’t actually need all the things that most people would bring. When my wife packs I’m like, ‘you’re taking stuff to last you a year!’
What was the last book you read while travelling?
The last book I read fully was Red Notice by Bill Browder about his experiences setting up a hedge fund in Russia. It’s an incredible book and also we’ve just opened an office in Moscow, so one of my friends told me to read it. It probably doesn’t paint the best picture for someone who’s about to set up a business there but it’s a fascinating book. Next on my list is The 5am Club by Robin Sharma. I only read non-fiction – I’d much rather hear about people and true stories than fiction.
Do you collect any souvenirs?
If I go on a personal holiday I try to buy some art. I used to make a point of doing it and trying to find some local art that’s interesting and which you wouldn’t be able to find at home. We’ve got a good collection but none of it is hanging up.
What’s the best hotel you’ve stayed in?
Sher Bagh in Rajasthan, a tiger tent and safari camp operated by Suján. That was an amazing experience. The service was faultless and it was just really cool and very intimate. We went there in January this year. I highly recommend it, it was amazing.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve had abroad?
I would say it was at a place called Cuc Gach Quan in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a few years ago. It’s like this big townhouse that’s a bit chaotic and rough around the edges but they bring out the most incredible, truly authentic food.