The longest established and most prestigious winter-sports resort in the Swiss Alps, redolent of the glitz and glamour of a bygone age; a haunt of royalty, high society figures, and those who aspire to associate with them; venue for the annual White Turf International horse races, run on the frozen surface of its lake; and home of the world famous Cresta Run toboggan ice-course.
St Moritz is all this and more: it still reigns as Europe's most esteemed old-money Alpine playground, but it's also a modern snowsports resort with much to offer a wide demographic of skiing & snowboarding holidaymakers, with two high-altitude ski areas on its doorstep plus others within easy reach.
The town is comprised of two parts: chic St Moritz Dorf on the hillside overlooking the lake, plus the spa resort suburb of St Moritz Bad on the adjacent southern shore.
The story of the origins of winter tourism in the Alps has its roots in St Moritz, dating back to the summer of 1864 when pioneer St Moritz hotelier Johannes Badrutt wagered with a group of well-connected British guests that they would enjoy the then summer-only spa village even more in the snow: the guests were invited to return in the winter on the understanding that if they didn't enjoy the experience then Mr Badrutt would cover the full cost of their stay.
The guests accepted his wager, and did indeed enjoy the experience, thereby becoming the first official winter tourists to St Moritz. Word of the wager and the wonders of wintertime in the Alps quickly spread and winter tours to Switzerland soon became a status symbol amongst fashionable society; St Moritz flourished and developed into one of the ritziest resorts in Europe, an allure it retains to this day.
There are three separate principal ski areas associated with St Moritz: Corviglia is the closest and biggest area, accessible by ski lifts directly from the resort; the slightly smaller Corvatsch area lies a little way to the south, accessible from the nearby bus-linked village of Surlej; and the minor Diavolezza-Lagalb area, furthest away to the south-east close to the Bernina Pass and the frontier with Italy and accessible by bus or train. All are served by a great selection of very good mountain bars & restaurants.
The Corviglia area is linked with St Moritz's neighbouring village of Celerina, and tops out at 3,057m on the summit of Piz Nair: the slopes are accessed by a two-stage funicular from the upper end of St Moritz Dorf, and by a cable car based at St Moritz Bad.
There are a number of fair black runs throughout the linked area but the majority of the pistes are a reasonably varied mix of high-end blues and mid-range reds; there’s also a very good snowpark easily accessible from the top terminal of the funicular.
The Corvatsch area offers more testing terrain; with more genuinely red-grade pistes, including enjoyable long runs down to the area's two base stations. The summit sector reaches an altitude of 3,303m on Piz Corvatsch itself, with the uppermost piste beginning on the Corvatsch Glacier. When snow conditions are good enough on the lower slopes, there's the bonus of a long black run all the way down to the outskirts of St Moritz Bad.
The more remote Diavolezza-Lagalb ski area is comprised of two sectors on either side of the Bernina Valley, which are linked via a simple rope-tow across the valley floor; both sectors offer a handful of very good long red and black runs down the lines of their respective cable cars, but the biggest draw here is the terrific off-piste terrain, including a 10km run down the Pers and Morteratsch Glaciers to the train station at Morteratsch.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Away from the ski slopes and the Cresta Run, St Moritz is a place to see and be seen, with a great selection of high-end boutiques, hotel terrace bars, cafés and tea rooms in which to do so; the town also has numerous very good restaurants.
There’s a well-established thermal spa complex and a leisure centre with a swimming pool and sauna; a stylish new aqua-leisure facility is also currently under construction for completion in summer 2014.
More active pursuits include winter walking paths and snowshoeing trails, ice skating and curling, indoor tennis and squash. Sightseeing options include horse-drawn sleigh rides, helicopter flights, and tandem hangliding/paragliding.
Apres ski begins on the slopes, the prime spots being the Schirm Bar and Alpina Hutte at the mid-altitude Corviglia lifts junction above St Moritz, building into a lively and fun atmosphere from early afternoon onwards.
Down in the town there are a number of lively bars serving the post-piste crowd, the Pitz de Tsechna has occasional live music sessions, and there are also plenty of plush lounge bars to choose from for a more sophisticated ambiance.
Nightlife is equally well catered for, with an excellent selection of cosy little bars, stylish cocktail lounges, a number of nightclubs, plus a casino. Dress codes apply at many venues: generally smart casual, jacket and tie in some cases.
Bars and clubs
Pitz de Tsechna