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St Moritz — where to stay, ski and party


o down to the cellar of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina and you will see material proof of St Moritz’s key role in the history of skiing. The charming mediaeval village in the Graubaden region, just a few, Bernina Pass ski miles away from St Moritz’s Gucci and Chanel-clad shlosstentation, is quiet, smart and positively rude with mountain air health.

It’s also been doing winter sports for over 100 years; tourists started coming here in the 1850s to take in the restorative, grand cru air and wander the cute and windy streets with their distinctive “sgraffito” plastered houses, the Kronenhof’s opening in 1848 providing an idyllic playground for mitteleuropa’s belle epoque in the 1900s.

British skiers would follow, coming here season after season, storing their skis and poles in the wine cellar, leaving hand-written labels tied to their bindings, all ready for next year. Sadly, many of those original, tweedy downhill demons didn’t make it back from the first world war trenches for a last run, but their beautifully crafted wooden equipment — stacks and stacks of locally crafted skis and poles, still tagged and waiting — remain as testament to the old soldiers’ sacrifice, Alpine derring-do and touristic loyalty.

The Weinkeller, unmodernised and made blissfully atmospheric by its vast, upturned wooden vats and the myriad chandeliers (all salvaged from the Kronenhof’s recent renovation) hanging from the vaulted ceilings, now serves as a delightful party venue and wine bar — you’ll want to stay there all night. Raise a glass of the local Chardonnay “Sanct Valentin” to the brave boys in their plus-fours, then knock down some pins in the adjacent wooden bowling alley.

And upstairs? Wowsa. After its 2021, multi-million Swiss francs makeover, the Kronenhof’s neo-Baroque, olde worlde / Wes Anderson grandeur is still there but things are more, jet-set opulent now, the interiors of the cocktail bar — all marble cabochons, light coloured leather and macassar ebony counters — picked out in that fabulous emerald green that Kiera Knightly wore to devastating effect in Atonement. Wander through the long corridors to discover a wood-panelled fumoir and snooker room and a mountain facing, open-fired lounge — the Chimney Room — furnished with original 1950s Charles and Ray Eames lounge chairs. We drank gin and tonics the size of goldfish bowls, rising the next day, at a very civilised hour, to take to the Firn slopes of the Engadine’s Diavolezza ski area and the longest glacier run in Switzerland.

The fumoir at the Grand Hotel Kronehof

/ Grand Hotel Kronehof

Because of its height – the famous Piz Bernina is 4,049 metres above sea level — you can ski in the Diavolezza for six months of the year. The mountain opens in October and won’t close until the snow has gone, sometime in May. Take a hike over the Pers and Morteratsch glacier, and you’ll discover a mountainside jacuzzi in the most spectacular location. Skiing here is glorious, fast and breathtakingly challenging — it is worth knowing that the name La Diavolezza translates as “She Devil”.

Down the valley in St Moritz, skiing and people-watching are the two most exhilarating ways to spend an afternoon. Stay at the Kulm Hotel — more utterly delightful Grand Budapest-style fabu-shloss-ness — and you get the full “House of Gucci” experience. The Kulm’s original owners, the Badrutt family were the first hoteliers to posit the idea of a winter season, offering its maverick 1864 guests from Britain a money-back guarantee if they didn’t have fun in the snow. “Come back and spend Christmas in St Moritz. It’s sunnier and less rainy than London,” Badrutt suggested. “If you don’t like it, I’ll pay your travel costs. If you do, you can stay as long as you like.” Four English guests took up the challenge and stayed in St Moritz from December and stayed until Easter.

The family also established the famous (and resiliently male-only) St Moritz Cresta Run, whose rather wonderful club-house — a sort of Hard Rock Cafe for wintering toffs — is still cavorting in the Kulm hotel’s basement. Cresta Run memorabilia is everywhere; photographs trophies, race bibs and ephemera. There are toboggans hanging off the ceiling and dangling ropes that suggest some sort of bar room challenge might occur from time to time. One famous Cresta runner and St. Moritz Tobogganing Club regular was American fighter pilot Billy Fiske killed in the Battle of Britain. Billy went on to be a founder of the Aspen ski resort in Colorado but was better known round here for his drunken leaps onto St Moritz’s many chandeliers.

Kulm Hotel, St Moritz

/ Kulm Hotel – St Moritz

Now owned by the Niarchos family — Stella McCartney, Orlando Bloom, Kate Hudson and Princess Beatrice all stayed at the Kulm when Dasha Zhukova married Stavros Niarchos III back in 2020 — the Kulm is a maximalists’ dream and its the lobby’s Roman pillars are upholstered in chintz. Old Euro aristo types in Tyrolean knitwear, Septuagenarian German tycoons in the latest Moncler, and elegant, new money sorts from China and the UEA, all pausing for tea by the spa’s panorama facing pool.

After a ski and a long lunch and reviving back blast at the spa’s outdoor water jets, I went for a walk and took in the sights. The impossibly chic Hanselmann chocolate shop first, then Via Serlas with its Bond Street levels of designer gear. Louis Vuitton, Versace, Cartier, Dior, Loro Piano, Miu Miu, Hermes, Bulgari all have stores here (it’s much easier to buy a Birkin bag in St Moritz than to purchase a carton of milk) — but for bonafide Engadin style, drop in to the Lamm Cashmere House on Via Maistra which has been keeping locals warm and cosy since 1935. There is an art gallery owned by modeliser and dealer Vito Schnabel on the same street.

Down the street is the Cresta Run itself and “Mr St Moritz” Rolf Sach’s spectacular home, formerly a ski clubhouse built for the 1928 Winter Games. Then it’s a short, slippery walk to the Cresta run’s own, oddly seaside-ish, finish line-adjacent adjudication centre — all very “Accidentally Wes Anderson” but strictly members only.

The imposing entrance to Kulm Hotel

/ Kulm Hotel – St Moritz

The Eispavillon in Kulm Park, part of the Kulm hotel, more relaxed and welcoming to outsiders, was built more than 100 years ago for the Olympic Winter Games (held in St Moritz in both 1928 and 1948) and was recently updated for the 2017 World Ski Championships, by English architect (and St Moritz resident) Lord Norman Foster. The pavilion is now woody, curvy, sexy and wonderful, its Altitude Bar’s cocktails gold medal standard and ideal for an apres ski session with your new friends the Niarchoses and the Schnabels. But don’t forget, in St Moritz it’s Mwah, mwah, MWAH – three kisses, meine Lieblinge.

How to get there

SWISS ( fly from London Heathrow and London City to Zurich; from there, take the train all the way to the Engadine (

The Kulm Hotel St. Moritz (, in winter, doubles start from CHF1245 (approx. £1,080) for two people sharing on a half-board basis.

Grand Hotel Kronenhof (, doubles start from CHF665 (approx. £590) for two people sharing on a half-board basis.

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