How to experience the heights of St Moritz without putting on a set of skisMetro.co.uk
A winter holiday destination can’t get more glamorous than the spectacular Swiss mountain resort of St Moritz.
The Alpine town, which hugs the shores of its shimmering eponymous frozen lake, has attracted celebs, royals and glitterati for over 150 years.
And you don’t need to ski to enjoy it.
In fact, millions of Brits are heading to the mountains each year, without a ski pass in sight.
Instead, they are indulging in fantastic food, luxurious spas and hotels, and sleigh rides through the snow, while taking time to soak in the glorious alpine views.
If talk of “pow pow” and “fresh tracks” leaves you cold, then you might be sold on a non-skiing winter holiday.
Framed by snow-capped mountains towering up to 13,000ft, St Moritz sits in the Engadin valley in southern Switzerland, close to the frontier with Italy.
It’s a south-facing sun trap that averages a glorious 320 days of a sunshine a year.
Majestic palace hotels and designer shops stand alongside cute taverns, cafes and patisseries, and, set back among the pines, you’ll find the homes of some of the most famous families in the world.
It’s hosted the Winter Olympics twice, and is considered the birthplace of winter tourism.
Back in the day, everyone from Charlie Chaplin and Brigitte Bardot to the Duke of Edinburgh and Elizabeth Taylor stayed here.
Many arrive in St Moritz by private jet, but if you fancy saving a few thousand, then book a ticket on the enchanting Little Red Train instead.
This three-and-a-half hour journey through the mountains and into a fairy-tale winter wonderland snakes and twists through forests heavy with snow, and over turquoise rivers and towering viaducts.
So beautiful is the route, and so spectacular its engineering, that in 2008 it became one of only a few train journeys to come under UNESCO heritage protection.
The ride begins in Zurich, and spending a night in this beautiful and underrated city will mean you can set off early the next morning.
The excellently situated, and very comfortable, Hotel Schweizerhof, directly opposite the station, is an ideal base.
On arrival in St Moritz, we were met by a chauffeur-driven Bentley for a three-minute snowy drive up the hill to our hotel for the weekend, The Carlton; there is an abundance of chauffeur-driven cars creeping along these snow-covered roads, each representing one of the many luxury hotels.
Dashing through the snow
St Moritz has spectacular scenery and just because you’re not skiing doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors – and how better than with your very own outdoor butler.
In true St Moritz fashion, The Carlton offers the services of Urs, a dashing local expert of the outdoors – think Bear Grylls with a touch of George Clooney.
He took us on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the deep-green forests, under branches laden with snow; across the brilliant white pistes; past awe-inspiring viewpoints and by some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
Sitting under a heavy fur blanket with just the gentle chime of the horses’ bells and the odd whoosh of a skier passing by, I couldn’t imagine a better way to take in the beauty and tranquility of these exquisite alpine surroundings.
The frozen lake
Many visitors to St Moritz come simply to witness the sporting spectacles that take place on its frozen lake.
February marks the start of possibly the most extraordinary festival in the horse-racing calendar – White Turf, a key date since 1907.
On each Sunday of the month, thoroughbred horses from throughout Europe will race across the ice, thundering along the track in a series of adrenaline-fuelled events.
The Snow Polo World Cup takes place from 26-28 January, and this year the lake hosts the St Moritz Ice Cricket on February 8-9; cricket stars such as Michael Hussey and Monty Panesar are set to compete on the unique pitch.
Food at the highest level
St Moritz is regarded as a culinary hot spot, with about 300 restaurants – six with Michelin stars.
The Carlton’s Da Vittorio holds a Michelin star and is renowned for its Italian-influenced cuisine.
Restaurant Enoteca, within the Kempinski Hotel, also offers excellent Italian fare, in a more casual ambience.
Conditorei Hanselmann is a great cafe for a hearty snack or patisserie; try the Engadine walnut tart, a regional speciality topped with cream and caramel.
A visit to St Moritz isn’t complete without stopping at the historic Badrutt’s Palace in the centre of town.
Go for the people-watching and the best hot chocolate you’ll ever experience.
After a long journey, what better way to unwind than in a sunlit spa, brightened by the shimmering snow surrounding it.
At the Carlton, it’s possible to take in the mountains from the indoor-outdoor pool, heated to a steamy 35°C, as bubble jets and hydro-massage showers pummel away your tension.
Adrenaline junkies can certainly get their thrills away from the piste with a guest ride on St Moritz’s bobsleigh run, the last remaining natural course in the world.
Dubbed the “St Moritz taxi” the four-man bob covers one mile in 75 seconds, hurtling at 80mph with up to 4.5 G centrifugal force. Not for the faint-hearted.
Originally featured on Metro.co.uk – http://metro.co.uk/2018/01/16/sun-snow-nature-and-luxury-how-to-experience-the-heights-of-st-moritz-without-putting-on-a-set-of-skis-7230545/