Winter is here, and the world’s illuminati, glitterati and party-rati are agglomerating in mountain resorts, from Aspen to St Moritz, to see the year out, talk about next year’s business over magnums of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and, oh, also do some skiing between breakfast and long lunch.
Nowhere has such an aggregation of grand hotels as the Upper Engadine valley in Switzerland, home to St Moritz and a string of other villages studded around lakes, forests and various ski mountains.
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The discerning luxury traveller, looking for both solace and exclusivity, might be drawn away from the town of St Moritz and its Masseto-sipping revelers, and towards Pontresina, a village ten minutes’ drive away in an adjoining valley, and specifically to the Kronenhof, its most luxurious hotel (and sister to St Moritz’s own celebrated Kulm).
Why go now?
Late December and early January are when a significant section of Europe’s aristocracy decamp to the area; snow is plentiful right now, and you’re bound to know people to drop in on.
Draw up the courtyard, at the lower end of a long high street studded with sixteenth and seventeenth century buildings, and you feel you have arrived at one of Europe’s grand old hotels. Doormen and receptionists have that perfect (and hard to find) blend of courtesy, genuine enthusiasm, and professionalism, without the over-formality of some hotels in the area that always makes you feel like you’re wearing the wrong shoes.
Walk through the reception area and you are in a vast, beautiful, series of high-ceilinged grand reception rooms, all with picture windows out over the forest and valley below; to one side is the Val Roseg and the high glaciers of the Bernina peaks.
Our suite was lushly but refreshingly decorated in eggshells and taupes; drawing the curtains revealed the same stunning view down over snow-laden pine and larch trees, across to the mountainside beyond, and the edge of St Moritz in view by the mountain’s right hand ridge. There was a spacious balcony for those chilled-out late night Cognacs.
A quick trot down a couple of marble staircases takes you to the Kronenhof’s piece de resistance, a vast spa and pool area carved into the mountainside at the bottom of the hotel. The huge pool, with windows all round, has a mesmerising panorama across the Engadine valley, to the mountains separating this beautiful and isolated region from the rest of Switzerland. From the spa pools, indoor and outdoor in the snow-covered garden, you can see the Corviglia ski mountain above St Moritz with crystal clarity; we liked melting into the spa pools and looking at the mountain we had been skiing on.
The Kronenhof’s restaurant, the Kronenstubli, is based in the original owner’s house above what were the hotel’s stables in centuries gone by. There is also a grand dining room where very thorough Swiss breakfasts (including just about every herb, nut and seed going) and lavish dinners are served, and a beautifully laid out children’s dining room, a miniature version of the same, next door.
After dinner, stroll along the town’s ancient high street, taking in the views – it’s on a ledge above the valley floor – and steeling yourself for the next day’s skiing. As classy as it gets, without the crowds.
Winter rates: From CHF565 for two sharing a double on a half-board basis (approx. €500/ $600/£450)
To book your stay visit: kronenhof.com