Sunny St Moritz is celebrating 150 years of winter tourism this season. Briony Key joined the jet set to sample fine champagne … and spend some fab’ time on the slopes
St Moritz has always had a lavish winter calendar, with as much to do off the slopes as on them, but this season the Engadin team is pushing the boat out with everything from ice-based events such as ski races and a Snow Polo World Cup to music events, and a gourmet festival.
Why are they so keen to share this with the British market? Because the Brits played a key part in the region’s rich history.
Back in 1864 Johannes Badrutt embraced the energy of the Belle Époque and asked his British guests to try something new – return to the region during the winter months.
This had never been done before, so he backed it with a wager – if they didn’t like it, he would refund their money. They loved it, stayed until Easter, and heralded the start of winter tourism.
Badrutt founded the Kulm Hotel, which is still a ‘Downton Abbey’ of fine service and dining, along with décor that drips luxury and a spa to die for!
His efforts paved the way for the high-standards those visiting St Moritz expect today – and helped the area develop to be Switzerland’s largest winter sports’ region.
It’s definitely a plan to check your credit before you shop here, as it would be so easy to break the bank with the giddying list of designers whose outfits wink at you from the windows.
Louis Vuitton rubs shoulders with Chanel and Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, Ermenegildo Zegna and Polo Ralph Lauren. And that’s naming but a few of fashions’ finest that have shops in this remote, snow-sure haven.
So what about the slopes? Like the fashion houses there is something for all tastes, from free-ride slopes, to spacious nursery slopes, and powder that’s a dream to carve through.
There’s also a new run to try on the Corvatsch Glacier. The Georgy was created especially as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations.
Corvatsch and Corviglio lie closest to the main resort, and I was lucky enough to ski at both.
Corvatsch (3,303m) is the highest mountain station of the Eastern Alps. It isn’t a place for beginners, but intermediate, advanced skiers and freestyle fans will find plenty of fun on the 120kms of groomed, wide, north-facing pistes.
It also has Switzerland’s longest illuminated night run (4.2km) and a 9km downhill run to St Moritz via the Hahnensee. A snow park with a half pipe and a bag jump will keep boarders busy.
This place appeals to serious skiers – and you can ski and board here right up until April!
You can also enjoy a variety of restaurants, from the rustic Restorant Alpetta, which serves regional options on the Chastelets slope, to fine dining at the Stars restaurant, which is based in the resort’s Nira Alpina hotel, and certainly stands out from the crowd.
You will see and be seen in Corviglia, as it’s a glam’ ski area to head to, but don’t forget your sunscreen as well as your ski gloves – and trendy shades would certainly not go amiss!
Sunny and picturesque, the 100kms of cruisy east and south facing slopes include plenty of places to stop, take pictures and soak up the rays.
The ski school is located close to top of the cable car, so it’s easy for beginners to access their lessons.
They say Marmite is an acquired taste, but I didn’t see many people having any problems dining at La Marmite, which defines the words ‘indulgent lunch’.
Think truffle pizza and caviar, a five star wine list, and – of course they brought out the bubbles. Equally rich are the views from panoramic setting, add in the views from the Piz Nair (3,057m) and you could fill your Facebook page!
So what else can you do off the slopes? Well, you can try cross-country skiing, hiking and Nordic walking, snow shoeing, curling, ice skating, snow kiting, horse-drawn sleigh rides, tobogganing and yoga on snow (that’s a must for me next time)!
And what better way to get here and back than on the Swiss railway, which – for me – meant the holiday started at the airport as I gazed out of the window at the incredible views and took time to look forward to, and then reflect on, this five-star place.
For holiday info
Flights – UK to Switzerland
SWISS operates up to 200 weekly flights to Switzerland from London Heathrow and London City.
Swiss Travel System
The system provides a range of travel passes and tickets, covering a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination.