Following an eight-month renovation that began in summer 2020, Cervo Mountain Resort in Zermatt, Switzerland, has become a showcase for sustainability with a new well-being philosophy that calls upon practices from around the world to heal body, mind, and spirit. It’s a grand and impressive transition, to be sure, but what inspired hoteliers Daniel and Seraina Lauber to make such a radical change at a hotel that was already very successful?
The answer, for Daniel, lies in one word: values. Many people judge themselves by their successes, but this longtime hotelier uses a different measuring stick. In 2009, along with his then-wife Seraina, he created Cervo to be a fresh take on traditional mountain hospitality. “A modern interpretation of a huntsman’s lodge with a new Alpine-chic style,” is how he described the hotel then. It was an instant success and remains so today. Still, the man who trained at international five-star hotels in both the U.S. and Switzerland appraises himself not by what he has accomplished, but by what he should.
“I did a lot of traveling earlier in my life,” he explains, “to Nepal, Bhutan, Japan, and Peru, and that helped me to open my eyes. It showed me that life should have a bigger purpose than just being a hotelier. Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of what we have accomplished with Cervo. But if you have a set of values, then I think to live with yourself, you need to share those values.”
Ha! Well, he is still a huntsman. But now he’s also a gatherer and a global nomad. He’s not dead. Not by any means. But his values have changed.
After 10 or 11 years, he knew...Ok, I knew that it was time to evolve, to incorporate a new approach and mentality. I needed a next step. And the hotel needed one, too. The question was how to grow both myself and the hotel together. I had a more mindful attitude, so I wanted Cervo to have that as well. Seraina and I asked ourselves, “What is the purpose of a hotel?” And for us, it’s a way of living. Yes, it’s a hotel, but it’s also about the guest connecting to the self. There’s leisure and luxury, of course. Though now it’s designed to be holistic and very organic. One doesn’t just use the hotel to explore nature, one feels a part of the natural world.
Yes, we are not together anymore. But we live on the same floor of the hotel. We have two young boys, so family and stability are important. We are best friends.
Absolutely. We wanted to create an atmosphere where the customer could tap into the mystical feel of Zermatt, the nature, the Matterhorn—capture that energy. To explore, yes, but also to relax, calm down, and discover oneself. Personally, I was kind of tired of that familiar spa experience, the one with 10 saunas where you feel stressed to use all the facilities. A big part of our spa is outside because outdoors is so much about this place and the region. That’s why we created a little yurt where you can have tea. We are also adding a natural pond where you can swim and experience the temperatures and textures of the land and feel a holistic balance between hotel, nature, and the environment that surrounds you.
Ok, so we put in a ritual room for yoga, meditation, and sound meditation, but we thought, “Hey let’s have a space where people can dive into a few moments of alone time. So it’s calming isolation, a small little hut. You hear nothing outside. You sit on pillows on the floor. There’s a little oven with water set on top and you make your own tea. And you just sit there and are wherever you want to be. You just be. There is no music. Just the smell of the fire. Pure mindfulness. In a rush to be so much for guests and give them everything, we can easily forget that sometimes what they need is not more but less.
Yes, people love it. And they love the ritual room. That too is part of our new Mountain Ashram Spa, where we have complimentary meditation and yoga twice a day. We also offer coaching, onsen baths, massages, sound meditation, and treatments.
Yes, right, you find this in Japan at “listening” bars. It’s usually acoustic music. Sometimes we listen to an entire album, from beginning to end. People really dive into it. The music evolves, so the experience evolves.
It does. We work with a Berlin-based deejay who makes our entire musical lineup for summer and winter, and who creates our meditation sets. Locals can join in, so that gives guests a nice interactive experience. We also create daily happenings, such as classes with chefs and macramé workshops, or we participate in local festivals.
Yes, we buy from local farmers and producers. It’s very important to us that our resources come from within a 150-kilometer range. However, living in the Alps means that sometimes you have to jump over the next mountain to get these things! We also work with an important group in Switzerland called Ibex Fairstay that helps us to track our sustainability efforts. To become a member, a business must do everything right, from management and finances to the handling of resources. This requires a clear focus and an operating culture that is in harmony with nature, which is a priority at Cervo. We are the first hotel in Switzerland to receive Ibex Fairstay’s Gold Label status. That’s a big step for us!
Luxury is important to us, of course, but it must be sustainable. That’s key. So we put in a geothermal heat pump that allows the hotel to generate up to 95 percent of its energy requirements for hot water and heating; this includes heating of all buildings and the spa. It’s quite a complex system. Basically, you drill holes between 100 and 120 meters deep—we’ve drilled 42—and you put water into the holes; the Earth’s temperature at different depths creates energy. It’s very interesting. And it’s complicated!
Well, yes. But awards are a byproduct of our efforts, not the goal. For example, we chose to collaborate with a company called “My Climate” on our “Cause We Care” initiative because they make an important difference in the world today. Through the program, guests contribute three francs a night to ensure that they have a carbon-neutral stay. If they participate, and it’s totally voluntary, then the hotel matches their contribution, helping our visitors—and Cervo—to reduce their footprint. Guests love it.
Absolutely. Seraina and I both are. There’s been a lot of change from the beginning to now, but that word “change” makes it sounds drastic. I see it more as an evolution. The original values of Cervo—to celebrate the authentic and traditional—are still in place. So while there’s been a tremendous amount of change, it’s built on a foundation. The huntsman is still here. He’s still part of our DNA. But he has experienced an awakening!
Lead image, portrait of Conor Creighton, and macrame image Jaclyn Locke