Reputedly Johannes Badrutt wagered some English summer guests the cost of their stay at the Hotel Kulm in St Moritz if they did not enjoy wintering there as much. He won his bet and with that the winter sports industry was born. Badrutt and his son, Casper, were responsible for a series of innovations, including coining the term Palace to describe a grand hotel and creating the world's first bobsleigh course. Thanks to their industry, and two Olympic Games, St Moritz is now the most famous winter sports resort in the world. Whilst it is undoubtedly and justifiably renowned for the jet set clientele it attracts - there is an airport at nearby Samedan - this is both a tribute to its appeal and is also misleading, in that the Engadin valley is not just for the affluent few. Along the wide valley floor of the Upper Engadin there is plenty of affordable accommodation to be found (including an excellent youth hostel), some fabulous skiing and snowboarding and probably a greater variety of world-class winter sports activities than anywhere else in the world. One of the more exhilerating things you might ever choose to do is to pay to sit in a four man bobsleigh on the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic Bobrun. Do it, I dare you...
Long favoured by the rich and famous, amongst the celebrities who have shown a preference for St Moritz are the Maharajah of Hyderabad, Eva Peron, the Aga Khan, King Carl Gustav of Sweden and Prince Harry. Charlie Chaplin was reputedly the first man to drive to St Moritz in the winter, and Alfred Hitchcock kept a suite at the Palace Hotel for many years. For people of a certain generation, the lyrics to Peter Sarstedt's 1969 single "Where Do You Go To My Lovely?" will resonate: 'When the snow falls you're found in St Moritz with the others of the jet set And you sip your Napoleon brandy but you never get your lips wet.'. And in some ways, St Moritz is locked into the image of it's golden age, with resorts like Verbier and Laax attracting a younger crowd. However St Moritz really is a unique Alpine destination with as broad a range of attractions, and skiing as varied, as anywhere in Europe. Every winter sports enthusiast really should visit this corner of Switzerland at some time in their life!
Sky and Rail
The nearest airport to St Moritz is Zurich. There is a railway station in the airport.
Best of the Slopes at St Moritz
For the experienced, there is both the World Cup run off Corviglia to St Moritz Dorf and the amazingly scenic 9km Hahnensee descent from Corvatsch down to St Moritz-Bad, although the pistes on these mountains are mostly for intermediate level skiers and boarders. The most challenging runs are probably those around Piz Nair and there is a fair amount of lift-served off-piste. A bus ride away, Diovalezza has a leg-burning, adrenalin-pumping, long descent on the famous 10km off-piste glacier trail to Morteratsch, whilst the Lagalb also has a couple of good runs for experienced skiers and boarders.
Where to Eat and Party in St Moritz
The Corviglia top station has a bunch of restaurants, including the world renowned, rather expensive and quaintly named La Marmite (+41 81 833 63 55). The restaurant at the top of Piz Nair (+41 81 833 08 75) is also good with stunning views, but El Paradiso is my favourite (+41 81 833 40 02). A lot of the nightlife and dining centres around the plush hotels like Hotel Laudinelli, Hotel Schweizerhof and Badrutt's Palace. The Post Haus is a good place to fritter away some large denomination bank notes. Needless to say, the 5 star hotels have restaurants dripping wih Michelin stars and GaultMillau points.
Getting to St Moritz by Train
The best destination to access the downhill slopes by public transport in this ski area is St Moritz. St Moritz station is 15 minutes walk uphill from the mountain railway for Corviglia, but it is more convenient to take bus #1 or #9 to St Moritz Bad Signalbahn from the station. Alternatively alight from train one stop earlier in Celerina, with a five minutes walk to the Marguns gondola base station. For Corvatsch, take bus #1 from St Moritz station to Surlej Corvatschbahn.