Whilst we spend most of our year in the Alps scouting driving routes and checking out hidden gems worth a visit, come late November all that comes to an end and the action is all about the snow and the skiing in the Alps.
And this year the snows arrived early and it’s arrived heavy. Check out the perfect conditions in St Moritz right now, there’s already more than 1.5M on the upper slopes.
Anyway, last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to St Moritz for its official opening for the winter season. By chance I also bumped into a friend (GaBriella La Bretton) writing a feature for the Telegraph….actually she’s been commissioned to visit and write up 20 ski resorts in 20 weeks, it’s a tough life for some, haha. Will post the link as soon as the first feature get’s published.
Back to the weekend though. St Moritz offers some stunning skiing on over 200km of sunny slopes that apparently get around 250 days of sunshine a year. Coupled with one of the most up to date lift systems in the Alps it’s a gem of a resort. Here’s the rub though, with its jet set reputation, and fondness for 5 star hotels, many people are put off travelling to the resort by the price, and let’s face it, Switzerland’s not exactly the cheapest place on earth.
However with some inside knowledge from the tourist board of Engadine, I checked into a gem of a hotel, “the Piz” and was in for a pleasant surprise. Based in St Moritz Bad (Bad loosely translating to swimming pool, so by the lake) the hotels just a couple of minutes walk from the slopes – and if that’s too much, a typically efficient Swiss bus service stops directly outside the door every 10 minutes. The hotel was completely renovated and reopened last season and whilst it doesn’t look much from the outside, inside it has a trendy modern feel; one of the best Pizzerias in St Moritz, as well as a cool bar to unwind for a quick apre ski tipple. The big suprise though is the price – spacious rooms with bath and shower are available from 80 CHF per person, which includes a pretty reasonable breakfast buffet.
Check out details at www.piz-stmoritz.ch. In the evening St Moritz Dorf (village) which is 5 minutes walk up the hill from Bad is the place where’s its happening. Check out Bar Hauser – you cant miss it, the open bar and loud music (accompanied by skiers attempting their latest dance moves in 5kg ski boots) right in the centre of the town opposite the roundabout. Later, head over to the Schweizerhof Hotel directly opposite, the underground Piano Bar is one of the most atmospheric bars in St Moritz, or try the cool Muli Bar with its resident DJ, if you like the more modern beats.
Travelling to St Moritz there’s a few options. If you happen to be in possession of a Lear jet, try the private airfield at Samedan, it’s a breeze (I’m told). For the rest of us, the best bet is to fly into Zurich – hire a car from the airport then it’s around 2 hours 30 drive, which includes a spectacular run over a snow covered Julia Pass (2284M and open all winter). The other option is the train – and to be honest, if you have the time, this is my recommendation.
On the train, the big bonus is that you get to ride the single gauge railway from Chur to St Moritz, which heads over the Albula Pass, following the path of the Glacier Express over a series of stunning railway viaducts. The views are unbeleivable! Train costs 138 CHF for a return ticket and takes around 3 hours 30, but it really is a “sit back, relax and enjoy the views” kind of ride. Checkout the timetable at www.sbb.ch
Zurich is an international airport hub, so plenty of options. Travelling from the UK there’s around 20 reasonably priced flights a day (Swiss, Easyjet, BA) from various corners of the UK to Zurich, a weekend skiing in this iconic resort doesn’t just have to be the preserve of the rich and famous, it just helps.