St Moritz

Switzerland

World-famous St Moritz is as spectacular as it is glamorous and with three main ski areas it also has some great skiing.

Scout Loves

  • A plethora of fun winter sports, on and off the slopes.
  • Long and open intermediate groomed runs.
  • St Moritz plays host to many glamorous events, such as snow polo and ice-horse racing.
  • Some of the most spectacular scenery in the Alps.
  • Glitz and glamour that provides some excellent people watching.
  • St Moritz plays an important role in the history of snow sports.

Scout Tips

  • The main town is divided between St Moritz Dorf (“village” - the more glamorous, historic center) and St Moritz Bad (“spa” - hotels and apartment blocks).
  • There are two main ski areas – Corviglia (closest to the town) and Corvatsch. A 30-minute bus ride connects the two.
  • Getting around and to the slopes isn’t as easy as other resorts.
  • Everything is on the pricey side.
  • St Mortiz doesn’t offer a lot in the way of nightlife.
  • German is the primary language in this part of Switzerland, though English is widely used.

Scout Review

St Moritz is about as famous as it gets when it comes to ski resorts around the world. A destination for the well-heeled, it’s like Vail with even more money and Aspen but even more glamorous. This resort has luxurious 5-star hotels that would compete with the best in Paris and room prices that would easily beat those in New York. Yet, walking through the town one might also be forgiven for thinking you’re in Oxford or Cambridge – plenty of the English elite come here wearing outfits that would seem more appropriate in Hogwarts, having completed their day’s training on the historic Cresta Run (more about that later). With all of these comparisons wrapped up, it makes St Moritz a truly unique destination … and to top it off it has some great skiing too.

St Moritz is located in the Engadin region of Switzerland and is steeped in winter sports history. It claims to be the birthplace of winter tourism having attracted visitors for winter holidays since the late 1800s. It has played host to the Winter Olympics (in 1928 and 1948) as well as plenty of Alpine Ski Championships.

Yet, despite its fashionable reputation and popularity, the town itself isn’t as charming as many other resorts throughout Europe. It’s sprawling and many buildings (particularly in St Moritz Bad) are a blot on the landscape. The streets are busy and apart from one lovely pedestrian street in St Moritz Dorf you will be dealing with traffic. However the overall setting, with frozen lakes on a wide valley floor, spectacular Alps and frequent blue-sky days, is truly breathtaking.

One of the top reasons for coming to St Moritz stems from its history as a winter holiday destination – there is so much to do here beyond just skiing. It has some of the best cross-country ski trails in the world and plenty of winter walking trails (especially on the frozen lake). There’s even a mountain (Muottas Muragl) that is devoted to everything but skiing. The sledge run here is one of the longest and fastest in the world (and where Scout discovered our inability to turn a sled going around corners … let’s just say we were glad we were wearing our ski helmet!). There are also a plethora of spectator events that take place throughout winter, from snow polo and ice cricket, to ice hockey and alpine ski racing … there’s always something going on that adds a unique dimension to a ski vacation. And those who enjoy a little retail therapy will find plenty to keep them (though not necessarily their wallets) satisfied.

St Moritz Skiing

There are three main ski areas that make up St Moritz ski resort, Corviglia, Corvatsch and Diavolezza – each quite different and quite separate from the other.

Corviglia is the most extensive resort and the only one connected to the main part of town. It also has base areas at Celerina and St Mortiz Bad, therefore it’s the most popular and can be quite crowded. We found the terrain here to be great for intermediate skiers with plenty of open groomed runs. There is little on-piste for advanced skiers (few of those marked black were genuinely steep), however if you’re game enough to go off-piste we found some nice runs that didn’t get skied out too quickly (our pick was the Muntanella run directly by the Chantarella train – access it from under the station). With only 163km of runs, the area didn’t feel huge and we were able to cover the resort easily in one day. You can ski back down to any of the base areas, which will then require a bus or walk to your accommodation.

Corvatsch is the second biggest area and is reachable by cable car from Surlej (connected to St Moritz Bad and Dorf via bus). Two cable cars whiz you up to Corvatsch Bergstation at 3303m which has unbelievable views on a beautiful day. From there you can ski down the Corvatsch glacier and continue skiing the Corvatsch area or head over to the Furtschellas area. For the more daring and advanced there’s a great off-piste run from the top station, down the northwest face. In good snow conditions strong skiers can also ski all the way back to St Moritz Bad.

Diavolezza is the smallest of the three areas and also the farthest from town (about 50 minutes by bus). But it has the most advanced skiing out of the three areas thanks to some excellent north-facing pistes under the cable car. There’s a 10km run from the top (2978m) to the valley floor train station at Morteratsch – though we would recommend a guide as it goes along a glacier with possible crevasses.

St Moritz For Families

St Mortiz has several areas for beginners with magic carpets and snow-play areas, plus several ski schools. But given the general expense of accommodation and food, and relative difficulty getting to slopes it wouldn’t be our first choice for a young family’s ski vacation in Switzerland. If your children are older, capable of carrying their own gear and skiing intermediate slopes it wouldn’t be a problem and given the amount of great side activities they can enjoy it will provide not only decent skiing, but great memories.

St Moritz Accommodation

St Moritz has some of the ski world’s most glamorous and luxurious accommodations – so it’s not surprising it also has Switzerland’s highest concentration of 5-star hotels.  These hotels have excellent facilities and rooms to die for – many with spectacular views across the valley and frozen lake. Apart from Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains (which is in St Moritz Bad) they are all situated in St Moritz Dorf, contributing to the town’s up-market atmosphere. There are also some great 4-star hotels and a smattering of decent 3-star hotels. Better value accommodation can be found in the outer lying areas of St Moritz Bad, Celerina and Surlej – all of which are linked with St Moritz Dorf via a public bus system that is free (busy during peak hours) with a ski pass.

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Resort Activities

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If you like doing things other than skiing on a ski vacation, then St Moritz is a great place to come! It’s also perfect for groups that may have some non-skiers since there’s so much to do and it’s easy for non-skiers to get up to the tops of the mountains to enjoy the same scenery and mountain restaurants as their skiing friends.

St Moritz would have to be one of the best places in the world for cross-country skiing with endless kilometers of groomed and scenic trails (including tracks lit at night). There’s also snowshoeing, winter hiking, tobogganing, bob sleds, ice-skating, indoor golf, curling, hang gliding, kite skiing, heli-skiing and plenty of excursions to do. For more relaxing activities there are spas, shops, galleries, cultural walks and museums.

St Moritz also hosts a ton of events each winter – some that are quite unique. Since the ice on the lake is so thick, it is used for snow polo, cricket, horse jumping, horse racing and more. It’s great fun if you can combine a visit with one of these events.

However it’s the Cresta Run that is one of St Moritz’s most iconic activities. Held on its own icy track near Celerina – it’s essentially like the head-first skeleton run seen in the Winter Olympics. It is a must - whether just to watch, or for the more adventurous to participate and stems from the early days of British visitors looking for a thrill and competition. In 1884 the then owner of the Kulm hotel built the track and today the club is as popular as ever. Members are amateur sledders, most of whom are English and the ones walking around town in Hogwarts-style outfits talking in posh accents. In 150 years few things have changed - women are only allowed to compete in one event at the end of the season (providing they have an invitation from a club member) and members still congregate each day in the “Sunny bar” at the Kulm Hotel. So if you are a man and fancy zooming headfirst down an icy, twisty track … go for it. Five runs will set you back CHF500 (about USD$535) though you will definitely want to check up on your insurance policy.

Getting There and Around

The closest main cities to St Moritz are Zurich and Milan – both easily reachable by train or car and both just under 3-hour drive. The train takes a little longer but is a spectacular journey. You can also fly to the small St Moritz airport on your own private plane, or on commercial flights from Zurich, Munich, Milan and Geneva.

St Moritz Dorf is easy to get around on foot, though it’s all relatively hilly since it’s on the side of the valley. It’s a climb up the hill to the base of the Chantarella train (for access to Corviglia). St Moritz Bad, on the other hand, is flat and also has an access point to Corviglia via a cable car. It’s possible to get between the two areas via public bus (included on a lift ticket) or by walking (though not advisable in ski boots).

When To Go

Diavolezza is the first resort to open, with one cable car operating for skiing mid-way through October. The rest of the resorts start turning the first lifts in late November, with all lifts operating by the week prior to Christmas. The resorts have a similar process for shutting down, with the final lifts closing at the beginning of May.

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