There are few things more boujee than Decembering in St. Moritz, Switzerland’s enchanting winter wonderland in the high Alps; the glamorous resort town swells in winter amid perfect powder, luxurious chocolates and a blizzard of Bentleys. But what happens when the snow melts away all that magnificence?
A lot, it turns out. The Alpine Engadin Valley, in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, follows the Inn, the only river in Switzerland that empties into the Black Sea. The 80-mile-long trench sits encased by the Eastern Alps, a landscape that superlatives do no justice, and the entire region offers a cavalcade of stupendous outdoor recreation. Powder and trust funds need not apply.
Sometimes it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. The train ride between Tirano, Italy and Chur, Switzerland, frames storybook scenery that seemingly leaps from the pages of Swiss folklore; so much so that the passage between Tirano and St Moritz has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Bernina Express chugs along otherworldly-turquoise lakes fed by viewable glaciers, Eastern Alpine peaks (Piz Bernina, Alp Grüm) and charming village depots while navigating 196 bridges and 55 tunnels across the highest railway in the Alps. A few miles north of the Italian border, the train spirals along the Instagram-ready spiral Brusio Viaduct – one of the most spectacular things you’ll ever see a choo-choo do!
First of all, if you’ve never had the pleasure of hitting the turbo button on an eBike, mountain or otherwise, you’re in for a real treat – the bike blasts off like a dragster as you rest easy in the knowledge that no uphill can outdo your battery-operated two-wheel firepower. Around the ridiculous mountain scenery above St. Moritz and around the Engadin Valley – a landscape that played host to the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics – that comes in real handy. Bike Center St. Moritz at Ovavera will get you rolling (with a guide, if needed) into the surrounding stone-pine forests, whose mild, resin-scented air recalibrates the meaning of fresh. A scenic mountain bike ride takes on exaggerated proportions here in all seasons, but in summer, the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic Bob Run, the oldest bobsleigh track in the world, is available as a one mile or so double track mountain biking trail, too, best tackled uphill with the aforementioned turbo power!
The finest meal in St. Moritz awaits at its grandest hotel, the celebrated Badrutt’s Palace, where both the creations of Calabrian Executive Chef Maxime Luvara (Kamut linguini with clams and crustaceans, pan-seared veal filet and herbs Viennese crust) battle head-to-head with a standout wine program, ridiculously picturesque lake and mountain views and a history of drama that unravels drama like a gripping telenovela. Since 1896, the hotel has been welcoming pedigreed glitterati the likes of which span Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock and John Lennon back in the day to George Clooney and Abu Dhabi royalty in more recent times. The lavish and outlandish stories that have gone down between its swanky halls make for a riveting tale that has proven fodder for more than one book. If you can’t stay here, a meal is a must.
The fascinating Mili Weber Museum is a bit of a cultural enigma in otherwise showy St. Moritz. The home, dating to 1917, was built in typical Engadin and Walser architectural styles (narrow, funnel windows and oriels, interlinked with the upper wooden floors) and was home to Mili Weber, whose illustrated paintings and sketches blanket the home. Walls, ceilings, built-in craft cupboards, headboards, drawers – no potential canvas was spared Weber’s colorful, fantastical work, turning a humble home in the forest into an Alpine fairytale. Her main subject was flower children brought to life in vibrant watercolor across a wealth of narrative paintings that have turned the premises into a dramatic funhouse-dollhouse storytelling hybrid. It’s wildly at odds with the status quo in St Moritz.
Offering World Championship and Olympic ski runs, St. Moritz’s Corviglia ski area sits above the village and is the largest ski area in the Engadin. The Chantarella-Corviglia funicular railway whisks folks up most of the way along the eastern slopes of Piz Nair; and an aerial tramway brings it home just a few feet below 10,026 feet summit. Expectedly, on a clear summer day, the view across the Albula Alps is astonishing. At the top, there are mountain biking, running and hiking trails, too, so plenty of summer diversions. But Corviglia isn’t all. Another spectacular ride leaves from Punt Muragl, 2.8 miles northeast of St. Moritz, where the Muottas Muragl funicular railway ascends to the spectacular Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl at 8057 feet above sea level. From here, a drink is in order – that cold Chopfab Helles lager goes down a lot more refreshingly in summer!
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