As a lifelong skier who thrills to the sight of gorgeously groomed fields of snow, I have schussed many an Alpine piste. But when I planted my poles at St. Moritz for the first time last winter, I discovered that this famous Swiss resort more than lives up to its exalted reputation: Not only are the skiing and snowboarding everything adventurous honeymooners would want, but so is the glitz and glamour—gourmet restaurants, designer shops, and exciting nightlife.
A Deluxe Retreat
Wanting to do things right, I decided my mountain base camp had to be Badrutt's Palace Hotel, a luxurious retreat rising above the Lake of St. Moritz in the center of the Old Town. As you might expect in a place like this, rooms are grand—high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, big fluffy down duvets, and Italian marble bathrooms. Many of them have incredible views, and arriving as I did during a quiet period just before Christmas, I was graciously upgraded to a junior suite overlooking the lake.
Though I was here for the skiing, I soon discovered Badrutt's has much to entice visitors in every season: a health spa, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, and golf. Given such surroundings (and the pleasures of the hotel's bountiful buffet breakfast), getting myself to actually leave the premises and head for the slopes turned out to be one of the biggest challenges of staying there.
But skiing was a must, if only for the pleasure of basking in what long ago was dubbed St. Moritz's Champagne climate—clear, dry air and sparkling light. If you prefer to fly unencumbered by gear, the hotel's state-of-the-art ski shop will outfit you with the latest equipment before sending you off in a hotel-arranged shuttle to one of three three main slopes: Corviglia, Corvatsch, and Diavolezza. The most popular, the sunniest, and my own favorite (I'd describe myself as a high-level intermediate skier) is Corviglia, where the slopes and trails are beautiful and broad. Skiers at every level will find runs to love here, although for true beginners, the bunny slopes of nearby Celerina are a better bet.
Given the Alpine altitude and excellent snowmaking, the conditions at Corviglia are almost always prime. I particularly enjoyed the long trails Grischa and Shlattain, descending from the spectacular Piz Nair peak jutting into the sky at 10,029 feet. Corvatsch also has excellent runs, a little steeper, with a bit less sun but more challenging terrain. On Friday nights Corvatsch is the setting for romantic moonlight skiing, which is really one big downhill party with little slopeside wine bars lining the piste. For advanced skiers, Diavolezza, at 9,827 feet, offers deep powder and glacier skiing.
As for food, there are all kinds of mountain restaurants to restore you between runs, from canteens with spectacular views (like the restaurant atop Piz Nair, where the simple fare includes sandwiches, sausages, and soup) to such gastronomic spots as Reto Mathis’s La Marmite, at the base of Corviglia, where you can savor marinated salmon, foie gras, and a broad selection of Swiss and Italian wines.
Despite the 220 miles of slopes around the area and many lovely tracks for lovers of cross-country, St. Moritz isn't just for skiing. There are lots of other activities to try, from ice-skating and golf on ice to hang gliding and bobsledding down the Olympic bobsled course. For this exhilarating adventure, riders are sandwiched between a pilot and a brakeman in a sleek, aerodynamic sled that flies through the world’s only natural-ice bobsled course at about a hundred miles an hour. Those who prefer spectator to participatory sports will find abundance all winter as well—there's the famous Cartier Polo World Cup on Snow in January, ski jumping, polo, and cricket competitions on the frozen lake, and horse and greyhound races, among others.
My own favorite off-slope diversion was taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride, deep into the woods of nearby Pontresina to lunch at a charming pink-washed inn, Roseg Gletscher. The menu was Swiss rustic with a touch of Italy—dishes like cheese fondue and tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms.
I also had fun late afternoons pampering myself at the hotel or in the village. With its enclave of sedate stone-facade buildings and pricey boutiques, St. Moritz is not your typical, quaint Alpine village, but it is a pleasant place to stroll and shop. On several occasions I headed straight for Hanselmann's, the wonderful pastry and chocolate shop just off the main square, for their famous hot chocolate and a fruit tart. I brought home some of their beautiful handmade chocolates as gifts and a little package of their cocoa as a tasty souvenir.
As befits a jet-set resort, St. Moritz offers a cornucopia of dining options, whether you crave pizza or pasta—or prefer five-star gourmet feasts. In Badrutt's Palace, there's the formal, though somewhat cavernous Le Restaurant with a Continental-French menu; the warm and welcoming Le Relais, with a new decor and new Mediterranean-inspired menu by executive chef Enrico Derflingher, once the personal chef to Princess Diana and Prince Charles; and the casual Trattoria. My most cherished dining experience in St. Moritz was at the Chesa Veglia, a charming former farmhouse, all ancient carved wood and candlelight, that is located at the top of Old Town and dates to 1658. You can get everything there from a three- or four-course dinner in the main dining room to a wood-oven pizza downstairs. Reservations are a must.
A Vacation Fit for a King
Evenings after dinner, I was content to have a quick nightcap in the renowned wood-paneled Renaissance Bar, a prime spot for people watching, then return to my beautiful room and revel in its setting. But for night birds, the hotel’s exclusive, Moorish-style King’s Club provides an exciting way to end the evening, with tables saved for those who order their beverages by the bottle ($200 for a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Champagne, for example). You can also sit at the bar and order your drinks by the glass. Either way it’s expensive, but then again, the King’s Club is one of the hottest and most exclusive clubs in Europe. Just think: You can party till seven in the morning and in the company of royalty, no less, without ever having to leave the hotel!
Where to Stay
Badrutts Palace Hotel
St. Moritz Tourist Office
Swiss National Tourist Office