Located 200 km (124 miles) from Zurich, 200 km (124 miles) from Milan, 360 km (224 miles) from Munich, and 370 km (230 miles) from Salzburg, St. Moritz, TOP OF THE WORLD, is centrally located and easily accessible by car, rail, or airplane. Situated in the Swiss Alps, 1856 meters (6089 feet) above sea level, winter visitors have the opportunity of skiing, snowboarding, skating, and sledding, and in the summer can hike the trails or sail on its many lakes.
Edward F. Nesta and I traveled to St. Moritz in late January2008 to experience all that this sexy city has to offer. After spending a few days in Arosa, Switzerland, we used our Swiss Travel System pass (designed for international visitors that may be purchased before your trip) and took a train to St. Moritz. Although we selected the Swiss Pass, there are several types of passes available. Check their website to determine which pass best suits your needs. The Swiss Pass offers unlimited first class travel on trains, buses, boats, and provides holders with free entrance to approximately 400 museums. Check the website www.MuseumPass.ch for list of participating museums.
We stayed at the luxurious 173-room and suite Kulm Hotel St. Moritz, the oldest hotel in St. Moritz, founded by Johannes Badrutt in 1856, where the service was impeccable, and the view from our room was spectacular.
During our stay we took every opportunity to utilize their swimming pool, steam baths, and whirlpool, as well as indulge in well-deserved pampering in their Panorama Spa & Health Club.
We enjoyed two gourmet dinners in their restaurant, Rôtisserie des Chevaliers (14 points GaultMillau) one with Executive Chef Hans Nussbaumer who creates classic cuisine, and another evening with Guest Chef Emmanuel Renaut of Flocons de Sel in Mégeve, France as part of the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival.
There is no better introduction to the sophisticated world of St. Moritz than to attend the Cartier Polo World Cup on Snow. The sport of kings, emperors, and princes, polo takes on a whole new challenge in St. Moritz when this exciting game is played on packed snow over a frozen lake.
We arrived on the last day of the 24th Cartier World Cup on Snow just in time to watch the final match of the tournament between Team Cartier and Team Brioni, which was won by Team Brioni, 8½ to 6. Although there was plenty of action on the field, the Cartier Polo World Cup on Snow also provided an excellent opportunity for people watching of the fashionably attired audience who came not only to watch the game, but also to be seen, which is part of the fun. (Read about the Cartier Polo World Cup on Snow in the Adventures section.)
St. Moritz is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders, and we spent an adventurous day of skiing on Corvigliain the heart of St. Moritz and located a short 5-minute walk to the ski lifts from the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz. Long on my "to do" list of places to ski, I finally realized a dream skiing St. Moritz with a friend, Priska Zahner, while Edward, a beginner skier, kept busy skiing on his own.
After a morning of skiing, we met for an al fresco lunch under a bright blue sunny ski at the Chesa Chantarella "where angels meet devils" and sat at a wooden table on sheepskin throw covered chairs and savored the exquisite beauty of the Engadine mountains along with a tasty fondue lunch.
Energized from our lunch, Priska and I returned to the slopes traversing and schussing the red and black pistes (trails), while Edward skied on the blue pistes. As a grande finale to our day at Corviglia (2486 meters/8156 feet) we took the cable car to Piz Nair (3057 meters/10,029 feet) for a spectacular view from the top of the world. (Read about the Skiing in St. Morita, Switzerland in the Adventures section.)
One of the events of the 15th St. Moritz Gourmet Festival was the Grand Gourmet Opening Cocktail at the newly renovated and reopened luxurious Carlton Hotel where we sampled creative and exquisitely presented cuisine from each of the 10 chefs in the hotel's grand ballroom. (Read about the 15th St. Moritz Gourmet Festival in the Gastronomy section.)
Carlton Hotel Via Johannes Badrutt 11 7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland Telephone:+41 81 836 70 00 Fax:+4181 836 70 01 www.Carlton-StMoritz.ch
The architecture in St. Moritz is an eclectic mix of old and new, and taking a stroll we found a few historical houses with the charming Engadine-style painting on them, along with some very interesting modern designs including an egg-shaped ultra-luxury apartment building.
Along with skiing, snowboarding, skating, and sledding, cresta is another exciting winter sport in St. Moritz, although this is a sport for the very brave only and not for the faint of heart. After looking at the Cresta Rider sculpture by David Wynne, we had to take a walk to the Cresta Run to watch this sport in action.
First run in 1885 and established as a private club in 1887, cresta continues to attract those looking for an extreme sporting adventure from just before Christmas until the end of February. Cresta participants ride a small toboggan in a head-first, tummy down position using rakes on the ends of their shoes to brake and steer down a narrow ice run that is ¾ mile in length and has a total drop of 514 feet with graduation variables from 1 - 2.8 and from 1-8.7. If that does not sound challenging enough, imagine literally flying down the icy run at top speeds There are two starting points, Top and Junction, and the record speed from Top is 53 mph and 50.09 seconds is held by James Sunley, and from Junction the record holder is Johannes Badrutt with 41.02 seconds, and remember that these speeds are achieved by man riding a sled! We could not believe our eyes as we watched these daring men (women are not allowed to participate) enjoying a day out on the run.
Another sight that we found interesting is the 12th century Leaning Tower opposite the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz, which has a greater inclination than the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. The tower was originally part of the old St. Mauritius church, which was destroyed in 1890. The 33-meter (108-feet) Leaning Tower of St. Moritz has an inclination of 5.5 degrees, whereas the Leaning Tower of Pisa has an inclination of 3.97 degrees.
After a morning strolling through the city discovering its sights, we took the cable car up to Corviglia to experience an early afternoon cocktail reception at Mathis Food Affairs, where Chef/Owner Reto Mathis creates exceptional food at an altitude of 2,486 meters (8,156 feet). A few of the wonderful appetizers we enjoyed while sipping Perrier-Jouët champagne were Chef Reto's truffle pizza, polenta cream soup garnished with truffles, and spoons of yellow fin tuna tartar.
Curious soul that I am, when I saw a yacht parked on the snow beside the restaurant, I had to inquire as to why. The answer is simple; Chef Reto Mathis has the highest yacht club in the world. As a captain, Chef Reto Mathis has the license to perform marriages, which he does regularly, and as would befit the sophisticated nature of St. Moritz, the Commodore of Chef Reto Mathis' Yacht Club is none other than Prince Albert of Monaco. The yacht may be reserved making it the perfect location for a very special or romantic lunch.
The Engadine region has three ski slopes, Corviglia, the most famous located within the city, and Diavolezza and Corvatsch located a short distance away. After a morning of Spa pampering at the Panorama Spa & Health Club at the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz, we used our Swiss Travel System pass and took the train to Diavolezza to experience another of the famous alpine mountains. For 43-minutes the bright red Bernina Express train wound around and through the mountains as we gazed out the windows enjoying the natural beauty of the alps. The train stops right in front of the entrance to Diavolezza making it easily accessible for visitors, skiers, or hikers to travel.
Surprisingly, with St. Moritz's boast of 322 days of sunshine, we were somewhat disappointed to think that the day we had chosen to visit Diavolezza was overcast as we took the cable car up the mountain. However, once we reached the 2978-meter (9770-feet) summit, not only was the sun shining, we were actually above the clouds, what an incredible sensation as we gazed out on the mountain with the clouds drifting just below us.
Adventure Kids in St. Moritz
We returned by train to St. Moritz in time to partake of a chocolate lover's fantasy, the Chocolate Cult Tasting at Badrutt's Palace Hotel as part of the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival where the artistically presented chocolate desserts beckoned invitingly in the lounge of the stunning hotel, which opened in 1896 by Caspar Badrutt, the son of Johannes Badrutt (who built the Kulm Hotel in 1856). We enjoyed a sampling of the sinfully rich desserts with pots of tea in an atmosphere of soaring ceilings, intricately carved wood, and sensational mountain views.
Shopping is another of my passions, and St. Moritz offers visitors excellent designer shopping to name but a few, Etienne Aigner, Brioni, Chanel, Chopard, ETRO, Louis Vuitton, Jet Set Fashions, and Ermenegildo Zegna boutiques to typical Swiss souvenirs. As usual, I packed a few new "goodies" into my luggage to add to my wardrobe from my shopping trip.
The next morning after a bountiful breakfast at the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz we took the train for the Zurich Airport. We arrived at the airport early in order to do some shopping, which is open on Sundays for both locals and visitors who want to shop on Sunday. The airport also has a wonderful feature for travelers; you may check your bags in the night before your departure to provide you with additional time, as well as keep your hands free, which is all the better for shopping.
Laden down with our purchases at the airport, we made our way to the Swiss International Air LinesLounge, which boasts having the longest bar. Although we did not indulge in the bar, we did enjoy a light lunch before our flight.
On board the aircraft, and comfortably seated in our Business Class seats, we ordered the signature dish of Swiss Chef Reto Mathis of Mathis Food Affairs, whom we met at the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival. Dining on the Filet steak with herb butter and jus lié served with red and yellow carrots and a truffle and potato timbale, and Chocolate truffle cake served on a blackberry coulis, left us with a delicious last taste of Switzerland.
We soon drifted off to sleep dreaming of our time in St. Moritz and eagerly looking forward to returning next season!
Important information for Switzerland
Switzerland is not part of the European Union, and as such, the currency of Switzerland is the Swiss Franc. As of February 2008, the exchange rate was 1.08 Swiss Francs (CHF) to 1 US Dollar (USD), and 1.60 Swiss Francs (CHF) to 1 Euro (EUR). The Swiss Franc coin denominations are: 5,10, 20, 50 cents and 1, 2, and 5 Francs. Bank note denominations are: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 1000 Francs.
Switzerland is a country with many languages: Swiss German, French, Italian, and Romansch, with the Romansch language mainly spoken in the Engadine St. Moritz region. Swiss German is a spoken language, and High German is the spoken and written language for sixty eight percent of the Swiss population. The rest of the Swiss population speaks French (18%), Italian (12%), or Romansch (approximately 40,000) depending on their geographic location. While many Swiss speak English, it is always helpful to have some basic language knowledge when traveling.
Guide to pronunciation
ß = strong S sound (like a hiss) j = sounds like y ie = sounds like ea ü = sounds like ou w = sounds like v