Snowy mountain village of St Mortiz

The Alpine village of St. Moritz offers more than just an exclusive social scene; the winter sports are first rate too, say Darius Sanai

With snow already falling in the Swiss Alps, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai looks forward to another first-class ski season in St Mortiz

The first Alpine snowfall of the season has already happened – there is up to 30cm of fresh powder across Switzerland, particularly in the south of the country, due to a weather system recently pushing up from Italy. So naturally our thoughts are turning to St Moritz. Think St Moritz, and you probably think lavish New Year’s Eve parties, long evenings drinking Masseto in friends’ houses, and early evening aperitifs at Pavarotti’s.

It’s easy to overlook the winter sports when you’re so familiar with the social element – and St Moritz has such an engrossing social, cultural and artistic life that you’d be forgiven for never having snapped on a pair of Rossignols while there. Forgiven, but mistaken.

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So here’s a snapshot of what you could, and should, be doing as soon as the lifts open in a few days: it’s our perfect day in St Moritz. We started our day on the slopes at Piz Nair, the top station on the Corviglia mountain, one of three big ski mountains in the area, and the one directly above the village.

It was snowing lightly when we entered the funicular station in St Moritz; we travelled through a layer of thick cloud, fearing a whiteout day, and then, suddenly, we emerged upwards into a blue and white high mountain peaky wonderland.

Cable car on the way up a snowy mountain side

The Signal cable car is the first stage of the journey towards Piz Nair, the peak at the top of Corviglia, the most celebrated of the many ski mountains around St Moritz

At Piz Nair I shuffled over to a snow shelf to look at the view properly. In every direction, triangular peaks were poking out of a soft, uniform blanket of cloud below us. There was no end to the sea of peaks: St Moritz is famous for its “champagne air”, supposedly the purest in the Alps, as it is so well surrounded by high peaks on every side.

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The mountain has a superb selection of mainly red runs, suited to good intermediates; we particularly liked the long run all the way from Piz Nair down to Celerina, below St Moritz, which ran through two valleys and finally descended through the trees, with fantastic views of the Piz Bernina mountains, higher than 4000m, opposite. The clouds melted away during the morning, with more panoramas revealing themselves.

fine dining in an alpine restaurant

The White Marmot restaurant with panoramic views of the mountains

And then – lunch. Lunch on the slopes in St Moritz is almost a religion: you are judged by where you go, and where you sit, so here’s some advice: book a table, as soon as you know when you’re going, at White Marmot. This is the restaurant at the Corviglia mountain station, three quarters of the way up the slopes and directly above the town itself. You can easily access White Marmot without skis, by taking the funicular train up, and many people do. Huge picture windows give you an unremitting panorama, and the decor – bare wooden tables fully dressed with huge Riedel wine glasses, 20th century modern design elements, colourful throws, magnums of Dom Perignon sitting on ice – makes White Marmot look like there’s a party going on even before the party has started. The cuisine is beautiful too, varying from Swiss mountain specialities with a contemporary twist to modern Italian haute cuisine.

Luxury alpine hotel within a forest

The Suvretta House is a palace hotel overlooking forests and lakes, with its own ski lift

After lunch, we took a final lift up to Piz Nair to take in the view of what seemed like all of Switzerland again, and headed down, via a series of lifts, to Suvretta House. One of St Moritz’s classic luxury palace hotels, it sits amid a forest on its own ski slope, with its own ski lift. Having skied to the door, we sat in its grand drawing room, looking out over the forest and the valley, sipping on local Pinot Noir, and preparing for the second feast of the day, at Suvretta House’s celebrated Stube restaurant.

The Stube has an informal atmosphere, plenty of Alpine pine, and serves a perfected selection of Swiss, Asian and contemporary American specialities. The chicken wrap is to die for. And all you have to do after dinner is wander up to your room, with a view over the forests and frozen lakes, and prepare for a reprise the next day. Book for early December, and you’ll have fresh snow this year and no crowds.

For more information visit: engadin.ch
Book your stay: suvrettahouse.ch