The sun always shines in ST. MORITZ
The resort is perfectly located where the sunshine warms the south side of the beautiful Engadinedal. It boasts ski chalets worth DKK 100 million and hotels with suites that cost DKK 10,000 for a single night. Europe’s royal families and Hollywood stars are among the regular guests and more than 10,000 private planes land every year in the nearby Engadine airport. Mink and Ferraris are common sights on the street and around the stately Badrutt’s Palace Hotel there are fashion and jewellery stores, such as Cartier, Armani, Versace and Vuitton. St. Moritz is also the only ski resort with its own registered trademark with exclusive licence agreements. Cuvée St. Moritz comes from the Rotschild vineyard
St. Moritz has the perfect location for sunshine, with 322 days of sunshine a year, meaning countless famous people have been attracted by the combination of sun, snow, luxury and beautiful mountains. Director Alfred Hitchcock was a regular guest at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel for 50 years. Charlie Chaplin preferred to stay in St. Moritz when he wanted to relax. In more recent times, John Travolta, Robert de Niro, Liz Hurley and Ivana Trump have stayed there, as well as royalty and industry magnates such as the Heineken family, Agnelli family (Fiat) and the Onassis family.
Despite all this glitz, St. Moritz is uniquely accessible to everyone. The atmosphere is laid-back and there is nothing remarkable to differentiate the famous faces with everyone else; everyone mixing together (of course, the very rich still have access to places that are beyond our reach), and this gives St. Moritz has a very special quality.
Nine mountains available
Skiing takes place on fantastic pistes, spread across no fewer than nine mountains, with three main skiing areas: Futchelles-Corvatch, which boasts 3451 m at the highest peak, Corviglia-Marguns, lies above the resort, and Pontresin-Diavolezza. The pistes are wide, and they are maintained with Swiss care. With a sea of ski lifts, St. Moritz is a modern skiing resort that has something for the whole family, and with many free ski buses you can easily get around to the different key points.
But if you are rich and impatient you will obviously not wait in the lift que in St. Moritz, and you won’t take the free bus. You will call for one of the many helicopter taxis and let it fly you to the top. It costs just under DKK 1,000 and you are at the top in 3-4 minutes. And when you get to the bottom, in one piece, you simply call the helicopter again.
Nightlife in St. Moritz
When the in-crowd want to be seen without skis, they will probably go to Mario’s Bar at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, to the casino at the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains or go to the Dracula Club at Kulm Hotel, a club owned by the now deceased playboy Gunter Sach’s son Rolf Sachs. The resort offers gastronomic delights with lots of restaurants, two of which, Chesa Pirani and Jöhri’s Talpo, have the highly-prized Michelin stars.
The clientele in St. Moritz has grown, both in the bars and on the pistes, greying hair is normal and many hold onto ski equipment with ski boots and skis from the 1980s. Likewise, it is not wild, sweaty afterskiing you see in other places. People maintain control and style here and change into eveningwear when night falls.
Polo on ice
St. Moritz is more than Alpine skiing. Some of the resort’s most entertaining activities take place on the frozen lake that lies at the foot of the mountains that supply the snow for skiing. There is thoroughbred racing on the ice, and there is Jöring, an Olympic discipline from 1928, where the jockey stands on skis behind the horse. This race has been a fixed event since 1906 when 13 skiers completed a 10 km race on skis, pulled by their galloping thoroughbred horses.
One of the absolute high points for visitors is the St. Moritz Snow Polo World Cup. The lake is cleared of snow and stands are put in place.
The polo horses have special horseshoes with winter soles and studs that stop them from slipping when they race after the orange ball, which ideally should end between the goalposts. The players are among the best in their sport and come from all over the world. White turf events attract exclusive crowds and famous people mingle with the crowd. Many people wear fur, and expensive champagne flows freely when the celebrated events are held.
The more curious events include the Cresta Run, which is held on a natural ice skeleton toboggan track at the end of the resort’s main street, where middle-aged men – for reasons that are unclear, the sport is only enjoyed by men – mainly from England, race on their stomach on a small toboggan. There is also crochet on ice, an Olympic bobsleigh track and other esoteric activities. Even snowboarding has found its way to the otherwise slightly conservative ski resort.
St. Moritz is known as the world’s first ski resort. At the start of the 19th century, tourists were mostly upper-class English visitors, who came to Switzerland for the spa resorts and to hike in the mountains during the summer. But the original owner of the historic Kulm Hotel, Johannes Badrutt, made St. Moritz into a winter resort destination by chance, when in the 1850s he made a bet with some of his summer guests that the local weather was so good they could sunbathe on the hotel’s terrace in December. He promised that they would experience the magical moment when the snow would fall and the snow crystals would look like champagne bubbles in the sunlight. He won the bet and after a couple of years the hotel was fullybooked during the winter season.
It was the beginning of the Alpine Tradition, where skiing was the main focus but wild sledge rides, skating, polo on the frozen lake, indulgence, gastronomy, luxury, jazz music, dancing and romance also became important activities as well. The resort hosted the Winter Olympics in 1928 and in 1948, with its own specially built Olympic bobsleigh track. More recently, it hosted the Word Ski Championships (2003). Each year the Ski World Cup is held in St. Moritz and the area is fully modernised with ski lifts – but among the visitors there are still many nostalgic people who long for the good old days.
The glory of times past can still be experienced at St. Moritz’s leading hotels. Johannes Badrutt, who established St. Moritz’ as a winter resort, owned Kulm Hotel, which is the oldest in the resort. The hotel was established in 1855 and in 1878, the restaurant was the first in Switzerland to have electric lighting. Today, Kulm is a luxury hotel filled with tradition and with a fabulous view of the lake and the mountains that surround St. Moritz. There is a 9-pin golf course, spa and tennis courts. While it has an exclusive atmosphere, the hotel ensures that families with children are also welcome.
The Badrutt family are also responsible for the imposing Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, which has many suites, seven restaurants and a spa centre providing world-class luxury. Wild parties with elephants and sea lions are part of the hotel’s history and New Year Parties at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel are still amazing and unforgettable events in St. Moritz. The hotel also owns the resort’s oldest farmhouse, Chesa Veglia, which contains three more restaurants and two bars. The King’s Club in Badrutt’s Palace is one of Europe’s most famous ski bars, where there is a dress code and guests dress to impress
Finally, the more demanding visitor can also choose the impressive and very exclusive Kempinski Grand Hotel Des Bain. While most of the other hotels lie high up on the mountainside, Kempinski Grand Hotel Des Bain is located at the bottom of the valley next to the ski lift that carries skiers to the top of slopes. Kempinski Grand Hotel Des Bain exudes the glory of times past. A doorman welcomes guests, their luggage is carried in and their adventure can begin. The hotel opened at the end of the 19th century but obviously it is also a modern hotel in every sense of the word. Kempinski Grand Hotel Des Bain was as the name implies, originally a spa and fitness hotel, where Europe’s upper class came to enjoy the natural springs that are located next to the hotel. Today the hotel has its own spa centre with an indoor pool.
If you do not stay at any of these three hotels, then you should at least enjoy a drink in one of their bars - or even in all of them – to experience the special atmosphere which makes St. Moritz the amazing place that it is.
Getting to St. Moritz is easy. Engadine airport is located close to the resort and there is also a rail terminus for the classic Alpine rail routes, the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express. UNESCO made the Bernina rail line a world heritage site ten years ago, and today St. Moritz is the only resort in the world that can boast it is part of a UNESCO world heritage site and which has hosted the Winter Olympics.