St. Moritz has been an Alpine winter resort destination in the glacier-crowned Engadin since 1864, when hotelier Johannes Badrutt made a bet with his guests that they would enjoy a winter holiday as much as a Swiss summer. The British returned and lingered from Christmas through Easter, and thus was born winter tourism more than 150 years ago.
Situated more than a mile above sea level, St. Moritz benefits from an unspoiled landscape comprising the wide Alpine valley bisected by crystalline lakes. For more than a century, the region has captivated writers and artists with its breathtaking beauty and more than 320 days of sunshine annually.
Notable for some of Europe's most challenging ski areas, including the Free Fall slope, with a gradient of 100% and an acceleration rate of nearly 90 mph in less than six seconds, St. Moritz will host the 2017 Alpine World Ski Championship with its tagline, "Live the future."
Festival's international flavor
This year's St. Moritz Gourmet Festival featured nine Japanese chefs for a culinary extravaganza with the theme of "Yokoso Nippon." Read More
St. Moritz has also become a gastronomic destination acclaimed for its Michelin-starred chefs and restaurants and the annual St. Moritz Gourmet Festival. The region's blend of cultures — Romansch, Italian and Swiss-German — results in a superlative level of service and hospitality that might be termed "Alpine dolce vita," which is reflected in the hotels and restaurants throughout the town. As a guest of Switzerland Tourism, I was hosted by Badrutt's Palace Hotel, Kulm Hotel and Grand Hotel Kronenhof, all of which are listed as five-star superior accommodations by the Swiss Hotel Association.
Badrutt's Palace Hotel
Every breakfast should commence with the mellifluous tones of a harpist like the one that greets guests at Le Restaurant during the winter season at Badrutt's Palace Hotel, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, Swiss Deluxe Hotels and Swiss Historic Hotels.
Opened in 1896, the Gothic-style palace with its landmark green tower has hosted a remarkable roster of luminaries throughout its history, including Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn. The hotel's 157 guestrooms and suites retain the character and charm of the property. Antique furnishings and chintz and floral patterns evoke the Alpine homeyness of a well-heeled matron. From the lakeside balconies, it's all about the view: the shimmering beauty of Lake St. Moritz against an Alpine backdrop.
For decades, the hotel's Le Grand Hall, a ballroom-size lobby blanketed in Douglas fir and chockablock with antiques and art, has served as both the catwalk and the living room of St. Moritz for locals and the guests who bask in the room's regal splendor for high tea or cocktails.
Dining options at Badrutt's include Nobu Matsuhisa's eponymous restaurant, housed in the former tennis hall with a glass dome that offers views of the iconic hotel tower. The rustic farmhouse Chesa Veglia, which dates to 1658, has been a favorite hideaway since its reincarnation as a gourmet haven by Badrutt's in 1936.
Badrutt's guests receive complimentary ski and hiking passes with shuttle service to and from the hotel's own in-house ski service center to more than 200 miles of slopes and 125 miles of cross-country trails.
Complete with an indoor Alpine garden, the hotel's Palace Wellness center offers an expansive indoor/outdoor swimming pool alongside a whirlpool, saunas, steam rooms, an ice room, a mist room and a hot tub.
A junior suite at the Kulm Hotel, which dates to 1856 and was the host for the 1928 and 1948 Olympic Winter Games.
The history of St. Moritz is inextricably bound to the Kulm Hotel, the town's original luxury hotel, which dates to 1856 and served as host of the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics.
The hotel's extensive grounds and parkland include the famous head-first toboggan track known as the Cresta Run, as well as the Alps' original nine-hole golf course, built in 1891; three tennis courts; and two ice rinks.
Apart from the venerable Grand Restaurant where guests can have breakfast at a sumptuous buffet, the dining options include the K, with 16 GaultMillau points, and the Sunny Bar, where the pilots of the Cresta Run congregate. The Altitude Bar offers cocktails and canapes, while the lobby lounge serves afternoon tea daily.
With spectacular vistas onto Lake St. Moritz and the slopes of Corviglia, the hotel's 172 rooms and suites are furnished in a blend of grand hotel and modern Alpine style. A recent $7.2 million room renovation project was overseen by French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, whose refined interiors are marked by luxury and light. Swiss pine carved ceilings, a hallmark of the Engadin, are complemented by lacquered wall units and black stone, alongside toiletries by Asprey and fresh flowers.
A center for relaxation and regeneration, the Kulm Spa promotes detoxification with open-air pools, a saltwater grotto, stone cavern steam baths and a footpath by Kneipp.
The lobby of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, built in 1848 and located in Pontresina, six miles from St. Moritz.
Grand Hotel Kronenhof
Rising from the landscape like a glorious white wedding confection, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof is the grande dame of Pontresina, a charming hamlet located six miles from St. Moritz.
Built in 1848, the Kronenhof resembles a winter palace complete with sumptuous salons, ornate stucco ornamentation and renowned frescoes, all complemented by Swiss stone pine paneling. Guests who partake of afternoon tea in the lobby marvel at the views of the Roseg Glacier.
Befitting its role as the sister hotel to the Kulm, the Kronenhof (which completed a $40 million renovation in 2007) welcomes its guests with impeccable hospitality, exemplified by the 2015 winner of the Swiss Maitre d'Hotel of the Year.
The hotel's Grand Restaurant specializes in French and Engadin classics, while connoisseurs who yearn for canard a la presse (pressed duck) can dine at the elegant Kronenstubli. Situated by the water, Le Pavillon serves fondue and cocktails as well as daily oysters and Champagne at the Moet Ice Lounge.
The hotel's 112 rooms and suites feature oversize windows for the Alpine panorama of the Val Roseg and Corviglia ski resorts. During gluna plaina, which means full moon in Romansch, skiers take to the slopes to glide in the silvery moonlight. Apart from skiing, guests can indulge in sailing, windsurfing, hiking and biking or the Snow Golf Cup, which is played with brightly colored balls on a snow-white course.
Surrounded by forests of larch and Swiss pine, the Kronenhof Spa with its infinity pool, saltwater grotto, Finnish and bio saunas and log fire, makes a perfect base camp during the hotel's annual, weeklong Holistic Life Retreat.