Skiing and Snowboarding in St Moritz, Switzerland

St Moritz, Switzerland Ski Holiday Guide

St Moritz's tag line is 'top of the world', which quite sums things up for a resort that still manages to be ahead of the rest of the ski world in terms of social recognition. A quick stroll around the center of St Moritz Dorf might give the impression that the place is entirely about money, elitism and little else. From Bulgari and Prada to Badrutt's Palace and games of cricket on the frozen lake, this appears to be no place for those on a budget.

Foster St MoritzCredit: Wikipedia

But if you scratch the surface of princely hotels and gourmet restaurants, a different St Moritz starts to come out - of boutique hotels and tapas bars, Friday night ski parties on Corvatsch and snowboard parks. St Moritz lays claim to be the birthplace of winter tourism in the Alps, with a visit from four English visitors back in 1864. Now, almost a century and a half later, a new, more appealing St Moritz is rising from their shadows, a place that welcomes billionaires and boracic snowboarders alike.

The resort bears much to recommend these. The sun allegedly shines an average of 322 days annually. There are three individual ski areas up to 3,000m and, thanks to the World Championships in 2003, a state-of-the-art lift system for those who favor skiing to cricket. Altogether, if you can handle the glitz, St Moritz really is among the best all-rounders.

Having an impressive 350km of piste and 56 lifts, St Moritz's skiing area is a solid recommendation for cruising intermediates who could spend a great week roaming the well-groomed blues and reds. More difficult terrain is harder to come across, but it does exist - and the off-piste is tough enough for anybody. There are three primary ski areas - Corviglia, Diavolezza/Lagalb and Corvatsch.

The sunny home ski area of Corviglia starts immediately above the town and can be reached by funicular, cable-car, gondola or chair, depending on which part of St Moritz's sprawl you're at. When you're up the mountain, the lifts continue up to a snowsure 3,057m at Piz Nair, reached via a 100-person cable-car with a ghost-like mid-station that made the steepest ever start to a men's World Cup downhill -0-130kmh in just seven seconds. Carry on up to the top and the option is red or dead - the severely steep off-piste from here is for experts only. The rest of the mountain is a treeless mix of wide, sun-drenched blue/red gradients mixed with no less than 14 equally sun-drenched lunchtime retreats.

Just a bus ride away is Corvatsch, St Moritz's highest skiing area and under the shade for much of the day. This combination entails chilly chairlifts but frequently great snow conditions. Main access is by cable-car from Surlej, which takes you up 1,500m in two stages and leads to a mountain of long, generally easy reds. Whenever the queues for the cable-car are long, you may take the other access point at the other end of the lake that is generally quieter. The only way to ski back to St Moritz is through the reddish black Hahnensee piste from the top of the Giand'Alva chairlift, although it's usually closed. Corvatsch markets itself as a fun mountain featuring two snowboard parks, a lot of loud mountain bars and, every Friday, a Snow Night party - you can ski on a 5km floodlit piste from 7pm till 2am and party along. It's well worth the attendance, but get there early as it's a quite popular event.

The third main ski area, Diavolezza / Lagalb, is a good half-hour drive from St Moritz and situated just a snowball's throw from Italy at the base of the Bernina pass. Actually it's two separate mountains, both accessed by underused cable-cars and both are worth the trek to get to. The slopes are trickier compared to those at Corvatsch or Corviglia, including a couple of really long blacks and the famous 10km off-piste classic down the Morteratsch glacier from the top of Diavolezza, which weaves its winding way among the crevasses on the 1,000m descent.

In a poseur's heaven like St Moritz, it's no surprise that there are some quite fancy mountain eateries, including, on Corviglia, the preposterously expensive gourmet treat that is Marmite. Think caviar and truffles instead of sausage and chips. More appealing to most would be the Suvretta House-owned Trutz Lodge, dishing up traditional food and has splendid views in cozy environment. Over on Corvatsch, the Hossa Bar is the place to be - just follow the thumping music and you will find it, together with great coffee, fur-lined seats, delectable barbecue lunch and a packed sun terrace.

To attract more snowboarders, a lot of investment has gone into creating two new decent snowboard facilities. The Mellowpark, on Corviglia, has jumps, a hip, a spine and rails. The park on the Corvatsch side isn't in a separate area, but rather the jumps, corners, rails and other obstacles are set all over the mountain, making the whole Furtschellas area one big free ride park.


Apres Ski

If money is no object, then you'll be welcomed at each turn in St Moritz, from a run down the Cresta Run; men only except for the last day of the season) or shopping in Louis Vuitton to dinner at Badrutt's Palace or a brief visit at the Casino. If your budget is  a bit limited, then there's still a lot to do here. There's a public indoor pool in Bad, 180km of cross¬country tracks, 150km of prepared hiking trails (including a philosophers' trail dotted with quotes from the likes of Socrates) and an ice-skating arena. St Moritz is also the starting point for the Glacier Express to Zermatt, one of the great rail journeys on earth.


Bars and Restaurants

A self-respecting foodie should not miss a trip into the past at Hanselmanns, an exquisitely handsome tea-room in the center of Dorf satiated with white linen, divine almond cake and a taste of history. Anywhere that sells itself on polo and the Cresta Run won't be lacking in the fine dining department and the opportunities for overindulgence are a lot at places like Grischuna and Suvretta's Grand Restaurant. For something a bit less stretchy on stomach and wallet, the Secondo, part of the trendy Julier Palace, has an excellent, relaxed feel and dishes out everything from tapas to pasta, together with cool cocktails and funky music. Going out of Dorf towards Bad, La Botte, is a good-value pizzeria, the ideal antidote to St Moritz's galloping gourmets. For fondue, the Ada restaurant inside the Hotel Schweizerhof, on the main square, is the right place to dip your bread. For a real blow-out St Moritz-style, John's Talvo, set in a gorgeous 17th-century farmhouse in the nearby village of Champfer, will cost small fortune but serves up revered haute cuisine using local delicacies like venison in a beautiful out-of-town setting.

The real fun begins for numerous St Moritz regulars when the sun sets below the surrounding peaks. If you are still in your ski boots, head for the sole open-air bar in town. On the main square, the Roo Bar isn't exactly romantic but draws in a good post-slope crowd. If you have already changed into your fur coat, notorious haunts like the members-only Dracula Club, the wealthy-only King's Club and the Casino calls -just don't forget your wallet. For a drink in somewhat more down-to-earth environs, faux English Bobby's Bar is one of those curiously continental innovations -a pub inside a shopping mall. Still, it serves pints and pinball rather than champagne cocktails. Also down-to-earth but relatively more attractive is the handsome stubli in the Hotel Schweizerhof - all wood paneling and cozy lighting. For something a little more urbane, any film-loving fashionistas must head over to the Scala Bar, right beside the cinema.


Accommodations in St Moritz, Switzerland

There are a few genuinely extravagant places to lay your weary head in St Moritz and top of the list are Badrutt's Palace, a luxury Nogbad's Castle of Gothic extravagance built in 1896 and lording it over the lake; Suvretta House, a sort of mini-resort; or Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, which opened up in 2002 in Bad and is where 'tea time is celebrated like the Royals in England'.

If these dormant dinosaurs don't attract you, and you've forgotten your jacket and tie, St Moritz can still accommodate in style. Two fine four-stars, the Schweizerhof and the Steffani (face one another across the main square and boast great facilities and a more homy feel. For something a bit funky and a little less fancy, head out of St Moritz Dorf to the nearby villages of Celerina and Silvaplana. In Silvaplana, the Julier Palace has noisy, nice or deluxe rooms and board culture is the name of the game. In the other direction, Celerina is home to many Italians, and the Misani Hotel, close to the base of the gondola for Corviglia, is a breath of fresh air. It has pop art on the walls, marvelously individual rooms, a thousand different influences and international cuisine.

Youthhostel St. MoritzCredit: ?A=3657

For backpackers, there’s the Youthhostel St. Moritz, which is an ideal starting point for varied activities at any time of the year. Skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking, cycling, everything is just a few minutes away. Following a long day out and about in the great outdoors, the cozy foyer with a crackling fireplace is the ideal place to relax and recuperate. Rates start a $41 per person.

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