Winter fun without the crowds in Switzerland

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T1122GRAUBUNDENSKI_CPhilipp Ruggli
Flims Laax in Graubunden is home to the world's largest halfpipe and Europe's largest snowpark. Photo Credit: Philipp Ruggli
Felicity Long
Felicity Long

Travelers looking to return to Europe this winter -- but without the mingling associated with big cities -- can get away from it all in style in Graubunden, Switzerland's largest region and a cold-weather playground that encompasses everything from off-the-beaten-track villages to big-name resorts.
And while skiing and snowboarding are renowned in the region, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy a winter vacation, on or off the slopes. 

Retracing Olympic history in St. Moritz 

St. Moritz, for example, is famous for being a posh ski mecca, but it's also steeped in history. The resort has hosted two Winter Olympics, in 1928 and 1948, and visitors can relive some of that past glory by ice skating at the open-air rink overlooking Olympic Park. They can also watch bobsledding in the oldest bobsled run in the world, the Olympia Bob Run St. Moritz-Celerina, where the 1948 Winter Olympics were held at the Piz Nair.

Ski packages are available at a number of St. Moritz properties, including the recently renovated Hotel Laudinella, with multiple eateries on site, and the Art Boutique Hotel Monopol, located among the restaurants, boutiques and bars in the heart of St. Moritz. The Monopol also offers a rooftop Sky Bar, spa and wellness facilities, lake views and proximity the Chantarella funicular for access to the Corviglia summit and ski area. 

Sunshine in Celerina 

Visitors looking for sunshine and access to open-air winter sports can find both at Celerina in the Engadine, an Alpine valley region in the eastern Swiss Alps.

T1122GRAUBUNDEN_C_HR [Credit: Cresta Palace Celerina]
Cresta Palace in Celerina was built in 1906. Photo Credit: Cresta Palace Celerina

The village comprises traditional Alpine houses providing a dose of Old World charm, as well as an aerial cableway to the St. Moritz-Corviglia and the Corviglia/Piz Nair ski areas.

Not a downhill skier? Try cross-country skiing along the vast network of trails in the Upper Engadine -- some easy enough for beginners and kids -- or go sledding and winter hiking in Muottas Muragl, accessible via funicular, or tobogganing at the nearby Cresta Run

Accommodations include the Chesa Rosatsch Hotel on the banks of the Inn River, which occupies a 300-year-old building with three restaurants serving regional specialties, and the Cresta Palace, built in 1906 and featuring art nouveau architecture, a modern spa, two restaurants and close proximity to the train station and cable cars for access to the slopes.

Snowboarders welcome at Flims Laax 

Snowboarders often feel neglected in Europe, but not so in Flims Laax, a quaint Swiss mountain village that has welcomed "riders" since the mid-1980s.

Billed as the freestyle capital of Europe, Flims Laax is home to the world's largest halfpipe and Europe's largest snowpark

Got kids? In Flims Laax they can try the skate park, trampolines, slackline, ninja course and parkour zone at Crap Soin Gion, a multi-use complex that also features a mountain and cable car station, restaurants, bars and a cinema.

Accommodations include Signina Hotel at the Laax Valley lift station. The recently renovated property features six restaurants, spa and wellness amenities and a fitness center.

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