Why should you choose St Moritz ski resort?
St Moritz, perhaps more than any other European ski resort, is associated with jet set glamour and a luxury winter lifestyle. From the games of snow polo on the frozen lake to the award-winning mountain restaurants, the town in the Engadine region plays up to its reputation as a hang-out for well-off winter sports fans.
Yet the skiing around St Moritz is more extensive and varied than the playboy image might lead visitors to imagine and it is possible to have a great winter stay here without breaking the bank.
In fact the possibilities for winter sports activities in this area has led to the ski resort hosting the Winter Olympic games on two occasions (in 1928 and 1948).
One of the keys to enjoying a reasonable break at St Moritz is to explore the accommodation options in the nearby village options along the rail and ski bus links to the over-priced main town. But, of course, if you want the full experience, there is nothing like staying in one of the numerous five-star hotels at the heart of the ski resort.
Where is St Moritz?
The town of St Moritz is located in the upper Engadin valley in the south-eastern corner of Switzerland. The ski resort altitude is 1800 metres above sea level and it is situated close to two main mountain passes across the nearby Italian border. The river passing St Moritz and through the Engadin valley is actually the upper part of the Inn river, which flows into the Austrian Tyrol and past Innsbruck before joining the Danube and heading towards the Black Sea.
Where is the closest airport to St Moritz?
Although it has its own small Engadine airport nearby, which is used only for private flights, the closest international airports for commercial passenger flights are located over the border in Italy. Innsbruck and Zurich are also decent options for those arriving by plane.
|Airport||Distance to St Moritz|
|Bergamo Airport||152 kilometres|
|Milan Malpensa Airport||187 kilometres|
|Innsbruck Airport||187 kilometres|
|Zurich Airport||213 kilometres|
Getting to St Moritz by train
The rail journey to St Moritz is one of the easiest arrival options, given the relative isolation and height of the mountain town. Services run to the south to Tirano in Italy for the Bernina Express, which connects into the main Italian rail system, and to the north to Chur, which is the main Swiss railway junction in this part of the country.
The famous Glacier Express journey through the Swiss mountains connects the ski resorts of St Moritz and Zermatt several times a day.
Driving to St Moritz
The only route through to St Moritz which does not involve driving over a mountain pass in winter is from the east along the valley of the Inn river and arriving from Austria or a relatively isolated part of northern Italy.
The lowest of the mountain pass alternatives is the route over the Maloja pass at just over 1800 metres in altitude, a good option for people arriving from the airport at Milan in northern Italy.
The higher Bernina pass at more than 2300 metres in altitude provides access from Tirano in northern Italy and is a possible option for those arriving via the airports at Bergamo and Brescia, as well as points to the south in Italy. The route also passes two of the smaller St Moritz ski areas on the way to the town.
Arriving from the north by car is from the Swiss town of Chur south over the Julier pass, at just under 2300 metres in altitude, which then descends to Silvaplana near St Moritz.
It goes without saying that anyone driving to St Moritz should ensure that their car has full winter equipment.
Where to stay in St Moritz
St Moritz is renowned for being a ski resort for those who enjoy the better things in life and, unsurprisingly, some of the historic leading hotels are at the top of the satisfaction ratings. Here are three of the better-known five-star hotels in the ski resort:
The five-star Hotel Carlton is one of the historic hotels in the ski resort, built back in 1913 and featuring suites and rooms with a view over the lake, as well as a spa area spread over three floors.
The five star superior Kulm Hotel can trace its history back to 1856 as one of the pioneers of Swiss mountain tourism. The hotel offers accommodation in rooms and suites, along with an extensive spa and fitness area and five restaurants.
The Badrutt’s Palace Hotel is a five-star establishment at the heart of the ski resort, offering 155 rooms and suites, along with 13 on-site bars and restaurants, an indoor pool and fitness area.
Map of St Moritz accommodation
Visitors who are not looking for the ultimate in luxury ski breaks might like to take a look at the options (which even include a youth hotel!) on the St Moritz map below. Enter dates of stay to see availability and zoom in to see more options using the ‘+’ sign at the bottom right of the map. Hover over the prices to see more details and click to find out more information about the establishment.
St Moritz ski areas
Corviglia ski area
The Corviglia ski area is the most accessible to the accommodation in St Moritz itself and can be reached from lifts in St Moritz Bad, St Moritz Dorf and Celerina.
Probably the most accessible for skiers arriving from outside the area or for those staying in the hamlets around and travelling into the central St Moritz area by car or bus is the access from St Moritz Bad.
For here the Signal cable car rises just above the treeline and then the subsequent Alp Giop chairlift deposits the skier nearly 1000m above the town into the bowls which form the heart of the area. One of the features of this side of the Corviglia is the number of runs suitable for different levels of ability and skiers have the choice of blues, reds and a black to head back to the base of the chair.
Off to the western edge of the ski area, the Randolins chairlift runs above a number of cruiser red runs, wtih the elegant El Paradiso bar/restaurant near the base offering superb views over to the Corvatsch area on the other side of the valley. From the Munt da San Murezzan junction at the top of those chairs there are more long red runs down in the direction of St Moritz Dorf or the alternative of taking the blue across to the lift junction to the east at the Corviglia.
Here is where the train arrives from St Moritz Dorf, the connecting chairlift from the Marguns area over to the east, and a few short draglifts for beginners. Many skiers will however be eyeing the Piz Nair cable car which rises from the Corviglia to a height of over 3000m.
After admiring the views from the top there is relatively short red run off the back of the Piz Nair to the Lej de la Pêsch chairlift up to the Fuorcla Grischa ridge. Here there is a choice: a relatively straightforward black run to the base of the Fuorcla Grischa chairlift or the longer red route through the Val Schlattain to the base of the Glüna chairlift.
Either way, the skier is now in the easterly part of the Corviglia area above Marguns. The run down from Marguns to Celerina is an interesting red which can be tricky if conditions get poor.
However the main attraction on this side is the varied selection of runs for strong intermediate and advanced skiers. The three longer chairlifts – the Plateau Nair, the Glüna and Las Trais Fluors – provide access to a mixture of long red and some not too intimidating black runs.
From Marguns the Corviglia ridge can be reached via the short chairlift. Once back on the ridge the descent to St Moritz Dorf and Chantarella can be made via the black Olympia run (when open) or the easier option of the blue Muntanella piste beside the funicular railway.
Alternatively traverse across on the blue Standard route to access the lifts above St Moritz Bad and the run down to the bottom of the Signal.
Corvatsch ski area
The Corvatsch section of the St Moritz ski area is further out of town, but many locals will tell you that it provides better skiing than the more accessible Corviglia area. One reason for that is its exposure – on the southern side of the valley, most of its slopes are away from the direct force of the sun and the snow quality is therefore generally better.
There are really two parts to the skiing on the Corvatsch: the Corvatsch area proper and the linked Furtschellas area at the other end of Lake Silvaplana. Both can be reached via the regular local ski bus service which connects the different St Moritz areas.
A cable car accesses the Corvatsch area from the hamlet of Surlej, reached via a bridge between Lake Silvaplana and Lake Champfer. The lift rises to a middle station where there is an option to carry on up the mountain to the Corvatsch top station at over 3300m.
From the top there are fabulous views across to the neighbouring mountains and glaciers and an easy red run down the ridge line through into the main ski area. It should be noted that the higher part of this run is on a glacier and therefore signs marking the limits of the runs should be respected.
An option to the right takes a path through to the Fuorcla Surlej restaurant where there is a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery, while the run to the left takes a more direct route back into the main ski area. Either option leads to Mandra or Murtel drag lifts, which take the skier back to the mid-station connections.
At the base of the Murtel drag there is also the option of the Giand’ Alva chairlift. There is a red back down under the chair, but part of the attraction of this chair is the black Hahnensee run down into St Moritz Bad. This is a lovely scenic run in good conditions – it can however turn tricky with stony or icy sections. Best to check with a local (or a few locals) as to the state of the run in the last few days. The Corvatsch area can be accessed again from the bottom of the Hahnensee run via the ski bus service from a stop on the other side of the road.
Back up in the main Corvatsch area again, the part of the ski area to the right of the cable car is typical St Moritz skiing – long cruising red runs carving through a landscape above the tree line. Remember the cable car has started from a base station at an altitude of 1870m!
A few runs from the mid-station to the bottom of the Alp Surlej chair or through the trees all the way down to the valley cable car station will have the thighs burning.
The bottom station of the Curtinella drag, passed on the way, is the access route into the Furtschellas section of the ski area. With this lift and the subsequent Cristins drag, the mid station of the Furtschellas cable car can be reached via a blue run. Again if conditions are good, then the run down through the trees to the edge of the lake and the bottom of the cable car is a beautiful cruise with scenic views of the frozen lakes below.
Above the mid-station of the Furtschellas cable car there are a couple of shorter draglifts and then the main Furtschellas chairlift. This services the mixture of blue, red and black runs leading back down through the wide-open spaces to the mid-station again. It also provides access to the Rabgiusa run for those heading back over to the Corvatsch side of the area.
Diavolezza & Lagalb ski areas
The Diavolezza and Lagalb skiing is situated close to the Italian border on the road past the resort of Pontresina and up to the Bernina pass.
The two areas are connected by a regular circular bus route and linked to the rest of the St Moritz ski region by the usual ski bus and by the Swiss train service (there are stations at both of the ski areas).
The new cable car rises to an altitude of just under 3000m and from the top there is a spectacular vista of the hanging glaciers below Piz Palü and Piz Bernina. One of the runs which the Diavolezza is famous for is the 10km off-piste ski route off the back of the Diavolezza and down the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers. This should only be undertaken in good conditions – it can be closed because of avalanche danger – and carefully navigated with no excursions away from the main trail.
Those who prefer to stick to the main ski area will find the Glacier chairlift at the top offers a short red run. But the main attractions here are the variety of red and black routes down to the base station nearly 900m lower. There is a link, in good conditions, from the Diavolezza area through to the drag-lift which connects the Bernina-Lagalb train station to the base station of the cable car at the other area.
The Lagalb is pretty much more of the same. Instead of the view of glaciers at the top, there is a stunning vista over the pass and down into Italy and the southern mountain ranges.
Here there is only the one cable car – rising from 2107m to 2893m – and the runs are pretty much all visible during the ride up the mountain. Again, this is essentially steepish red/moderate black country with two or three alternate routes down to the base station. Return to the Diavolezza is by bus (or train) only.