St Moritz: Skiers' paradise

Written by Sudipta Dev | Mumbai | Updated: May 3 2014, 02:10am hrs
TravelNestled in the picturesque Engadin Valley, St Moritz is a great draw for skiing enthusiasts from all over the world who throng here during the winter months.
Nestled in the picturesque Engadin Valley, St Moritz (that is still called a village) is a great draw for skiing enthusiasts from all over the world who throng here during the winter months. In summers when the frozen lake thaws and the valley wears a complete different verdant look, it is no less scenic and activities like golf, water sports, mountain biking and hiking are popular among the swish international set who congregate there.

Celebrating 150 years of white tourism in 2014-15, St Moritz has many interesting facts associated with its its long history of tourism - from installation of the first electric light in Switzerland in 1878 at the Kulm Hotel by hotel pioneer Johannes Badrutt to the first electric train in Switzerland to setting up of the first tourist office in the country. In the ancient times it was believed that the waters in the area had medicinal properties and attracted pilgrims through the centuries. The original official language of the region was Romansh, today people speak Italian and German. There is another factor that holds a place of pride for the citizens of St Moritz it is the highest clear energy destination in Switzerland.

A walk around St Moritz will reveal beautiful graffito art on many of its buildings, including heritage structures. There is also a Leaning Tower of St Moritz, which dates back to the 12th century, while Lord Norman Foster's futuristic Chesa Futura is a modern landmark. The destination is also a shopper's paradise for upscale travellers who can find stores of all top international brands within a short walking distance in Via Serlas. From Chanel to Gucci, Prada to Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Roberto Cavalli the choice is endless. Interestingly, the locals themselves go to the nearby town of Chur to buy things for their everyday requirements as there are only designer stores in their area.

The village itself has a population of 5200 people, while a few thousand more come here during the high season (December to March) to work in the hotels and establishments that are only open during the winters. Most of the hotels in the valley are closed in May and November. Only seven-eight hotels operate throughout the whole year, including the youth hostel. The five five star properties are open during the winter months attracting the international jet setting crowd. Snow sports enthusiasts can buy a ski pass for just as little as CHF 25 per day/ per person if they book a hotel room for two nights or more. It also includes free travel on public transport in the Upper Engadin. There are also packages for cross-country skiers and those staying in holiday apartments.

Diavolezza, Corvatsch and Corviglia are the three primary skiing locations for skiing and snowboarding. The aerial cable car will take you 3000 metres above sea level to the restaurant at the top of Diavolezza. You can enjoy your lunch in the winter sunshine out on the terrace surrounded by breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. There are options for vegetarians, along with an Indian thali menu, which is popular with most visitors. The Diavolezza mountain lodge can accommodate a few guests in its dormitories as well as two/four bedroom options. In summer months visitors go hiking from Diavolezza summit station to Morteratsch Glaciers or walk from Diavolezza to Sass Queder to enjoy a gourmet meal at Europes highest barbecue site. The Corvatsch mountain top station is at an altitude of 3,303 metres and offers awe-inspiring vistas of the mountains. Snow Night on the Corvatsch is a special occasion every Friday for skiers and snowboaders who can have a time of their life partying till 2 am. The major annual events in St Moritz include White Turf St Moritz International Horse Races, Cricket on Ice and Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup.

The Engadin valley is dotted with many picturesque villages. Samedan, on the north east of St Moritz is the capital of Upper Engadin and has an airport, which of course caters to only chartered and private aircraft landings. There are also golf courses in Samedan. Zouz is undoubtedly the prettiest village in Upper Engadin, with its quaint houses and heritage buildings. It is also the location for an international IB school Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz, which has students from many countries, including Indians. This village has some of the last structures of traditional Engadin architecture, which gives an insight into the lifestyle of the farming community in the region. Chaplutta S Bastiaun and Chasa Pult are important landmarks of national significance in Zouz.

The nearby Swiss National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, with a number of centenary day celebrations. The national park can be of particular interest to Indian travellers, as it is open throughout the whole year. Visitors can go on hiking trails and if they are lucky they can also sight some of the denizens of the forest.

Reaching St Moritz: Turkish Airlines flight via Istanbul reaches Zurich in the morning. From Zurich main station St Moritz is three and a half hours train journey, including a change of train at Chur.