Little Black Book

It’s More Than Just “Ritz” in St. Moritz

by Paul Jebara
Kulm Photo courtesy of Kulm Hotel.

Fathom contributor and slalom ski bunny Paul Jebara compares peaks and pistes in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

ST. MORITZ— When I had any questions about St. Moritz’s stature as Switzerland’s (Europe’s? The world’s?) most glamorous ski playground prior to my trip, I only had to remind myself that “ritz” was in the name. Could it really one-up Aspen’s ultra-luxe shopping? Out-raucous the après scene of Megève? Exceed the refinement of Courmayeur? I would soon discover the answer was yes to all — and more. With this all-seasons hit list from the poshest peaks of Engadin to its more modest expressions, you will leave a piste of your heart in St. Moritz.

Do You Fondue?

Kulm Country Club
Starchitect Sir Norman Foster recently debuted his renovation of the legendary club and restaurant, as well as an extension of the Olympic Ice Pavilion. The update is chic for sure, but there’s no shortage of beloved winter sports relics that nod to the club’s status as a hub for winter sports, notably the figure skating headquarters during two past Winter Olympic Games. 

La Baracca
“Family-style” is how it’s all served at La Baracca, an unassuming restaurant identifiable only by red-framed windows and a single sign overhead. It’s a perennial favorite for representing St Moritz’s humbler, down-home personality (pile on the polenta!) with revolving guest cooks from the Engadin region and beyond. This is the Swiss version of a roadside diner.

Ecco St. Moritz
Finesse reigns supreme at Ecco St. Moritz, one of the region’s premier dining destinations sited on the shores of Lake Maggiore at the plush Hotel Giardino. The restaurant is a sensory juggernaut with opulent white-and-gold interiors and creative, locally-inspired dishes appearing from chef Rolf Fliegauf’s Michelin-starred kitchen. Choose from a 4-, 5-, or 6-course tasting menu that highlights only the most indulgent ingredients, like marinated foie gras, poached Gillardeau oysters, and even “imperial” pigeon.

Conditorei Hanselmann
Whether you have a commanding sweet tooth or not, digging into a slice of a local walnut tart is an Engadin right of passage. Every purveyor has their own recipe — some with denser crust, some with sweeter fillings, some with larger walnut chunks — but Conditorei Hanselmann has been making their highly coveted version since 1894. The cafe also serves a superb, hearty breakfast to sustain you on the slopes.

Explore Off-Piste

Muottas Muragl Funicular
This retro funicular has been rattling its way up the southern side of Blais da Muottas since 1907, making it the oldest mountain railway in the region, constructed purely for tourism. Reaching 8,000 feet at its peak — a 20-minute ride — you can imagine just how spectacular the views are, especially from the panoramic restaurant terrace.

Lake St. Moritz
On a warm afternoon, hit the lake for a jog around its perimeter or visit the St. Moritz Sailing Club to rent boats, paddle boards, and canoes. Just be sure to keep your balance, as the water is frigid all year long. When the lake freezes in the winter, St. Moritz hosts the annual Snow Polo World Cup with horses racing right on the surface.

Nighttime Skiing at Corvatsch
Leave it to St. Moritz to turn up the cool factor with Friday nights at Corvatsch (a five-minute drive outside of town), lighting up their runs with floodlights so you can ski under the stars. There’s also an option to book the whole mountain for up to ten guests, complete with a DJ for the right soundtrack.

Art at Stalla Madulein
Founders Gian Tumasch Appenzeller and Chasper Linard Schmidlin converted a 500-year-old barn into a gallery featuring contemporary (and sometimes controversial) works from renowned artists such as Jani Leinonen and Not Vital.

Where to Après Ski, and Après After That

Sunny Bar
Sunny is one of those bars that was born to be an institution, and today doubles as the oldest sports bar in the Alps and the ultimate après hot spot. While still the gathering place for the legendary death-defying Cresta toboggan riders, it has also evolved into a fine dining eatery where Peruvian chef Claudia Canessa infuses hard-to-find South American flavors into the Engadin.

Devil’s Place
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest whiskey bar in the world sits in Waldhaus am See hotel, right on the lake. Look forward to over 2,500 varieties that heavily emphasize Scottish single malts.

Dracula Club
This invitation-only club was created by Gunter Sachs 1974 and has been the spot to see and be seen ever since. The one time you might be able to experience it yourself is during the annual summertime Festival Da Jazz, when it's open to the public with a robust calendar of performances. 

Where to Stay

Kulm Hotel
When Kulm Hotel was built in 1855, it soon became a stomping ground for English visitors, but, ironically, only in the summertime. That would all change after owner Johannes Badrutt propositioned the summertime loyalists to consider a visit during the colder months — and if they could somehow resist the Engadin’s winter charms, he’d refund their stay. The result? Badrutt never had to take out his wallet. Today, the Grand Dame of St. Moritz accommodation boasts recently revamped guest rooms by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon — including a therapeutic pillow menu with over a dozen options and fragrant Swiss Pine walk-in closet.

Grand Hotel Kronenhof
The quaint town of Pontresina can be reached in just ten minutes from the glitz of the ‘ritz, but feels worlds away. If you prefer a quainter setting that’s just as polished, discover the old world opulence of the Engadin at Grand Hotel Kronenhof. Like its sister property above, designer Pierre-Yves Rochon has begun flipping guest rooms with more clean lines, bright colors, and reflective surfaces, but it’s otherwise a Belle Epoque time capsule with extravagant halls and nostalgically formal restaurants. In between ski runs or mountain hikes, pos -up in the indoor pool and marvel at the scenery beyond the towering, ravine-facing wall of glass.

Keep Exploring The Swiss Alps

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No Snow, No Problem: Off-Season Guide to Verbier