After three previous days skiing mountains that are to varying degrees unknown to people from outside Switzerland (or who don't ski in Central Switzerland), I drove up and over Julier Pass from Bivio into St. Moritz: from Hooterville to Park Avenue.
Two different people, a work colleague and a fellow ski-forum contributor, had been there separately in late January and raved about it with very few qualifiers: huge, varied, high elevation, excellent lift infrastructure, uncrowded slopes, sunny... on and on it went. The main reason I never even considered going there was the obvious one: cost. I figured that mere mortals couldn't afford it unless as part of a group package, which isn't my cup of tea.
While you *can* spend your entire life savings to ski here for a week, within two minutes of e-sleuthing, I found lodging that was completely reasonable along with an even bigger surprise -- when you purchase lift tickets at your hotel front desk, the price is an astounding $37/day. At first, I thought it was a misprint, but apparently the entire town has been doing this for a few years. Thus, between lift tickets, lodging (breakfast included), and access to the region's extensive bus and train network, my cost was approximately $130/day.
I awoke Monday morning to this view outside my window, looking out over Corviglia: on several levels basically St. Moritz's Breckenridge (map).
Unfortunately, while on the tram from the valley, a storm front with heavy snow and 30 mph wind gusts moved in. Visibility quickly went from challenging to a virtual whiteout by 11 am. After killing almost two hours in a mid-mountain restaurant, I skied the rest of the afternoon on the new snow; however, the continuing flat light and low cloud banks hid the gorgeous surrounding scenery. Thus, no need to post pix. So it goes in Alps above-treeline ski areas -- sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you.
Tuesday was payback as it went bluebird with perfect mid-winter temps, the ideal day to hit what most people consider St. Moritz's premier area: Corvatsch. As always, the map is very condensed horizontally and doesn't convey the expanse:
I took a scenic half-hour bus ride past Silvaplaner Lake to the far looker's right, the Furtschellas sector, where you ride a tram to mid-mountain, then a HSQ further up:
At the top of that chair, you immediately see Dolomite-esque rock outcroppings along the ridgeline:
I spent an hour here warming up on 1,600-vert runs:
There are two lakes on view from this sector, Silvaplaner:
I moved skier's right to the Curtinella sector where I found a number of short but sweet powder lines with 6-8 inches from the previous day's storm in between the rocks. You had to choose your aspects to avoid wind-affected snow:
At 11:30, I stopped for an early lunch at the Rabguisa hut:
From Curtinella, there's a really nice groomer to the middle of the ski area and the scenic Hossa Hut:
Here in the Murtel sector were a pile of great offpiste lines, tracked and untracked. Both skied equally well due to the low temps:
After doing four laps on that chair, I took the summit tram:
"Just Heavenly" (it sounds more poetic in German):
This advert cracked me up with the woman enjoying these new ergonomic socks while her fellow model looks on stoically:
Conditions were fantastic: everything is direct-north facing and at this altitude, snow preservation is excellent.
Fuorcia Surlej hut:
Nut pie and coffee overlooking the only south-facing slope in the entire resort -- and the untracked skied superbly despite the blazing sun/lapped it three times:
At 3:30, I decided to head down to the village via the 2,800-vert valley run. Turn right here:
Reaching the treeline:
And you emerge right in the middle of town with a short skate past the Hotel Kempinski (the closest I'll probably get to staying there) and my bus stop followed by a three-minute ride to the hotel:
I hate using the term "Top Ten Day" because it's so overused, but this entire day was one long perfect moment.
I like it. In my Riley piece last year I said something like "when a perfect moment lasts all day."
Someone asked me yesterday if I was making money doing NYSB. I said no, and that that was not the goal. The goal is to make myself happy, and he said well, it's obvious to me that you know how to do that. You too my man.
Awesome James, good on ya.
"You just need to go at that shit wide open, hang on, and own it." —Camp
My daughter travelled from Zermatt to St. Moritz and spent a night there last spring. Sure, it’s St. Moritz, there are pricey hotels and shops......but we found her a perfectly reasonable hotel right in the middle of town and she had a great time. She was just sightseeing, not skiing.
maybe share where you found that hotel? That’s an amazing deal.
I always use booking.com for Europe -- and I only made my reservations five days before leaving (I almost went to an entirely different region). Unless you're traveling during a peak period for a specific region or resort, you can book lodging at literally the last minute without being gouged. Another cheapskate tip for St. Moritz: my hotel was right near the town's youth hostel, which looked very pleasant and modern, and the people staying there were hardly "youth" -- they were mostly middle-aged and appeared pretty well-off.
the goal is to make myself happy
Yeah, that's why I don't get involved with those East vs. West threads or try to convince others that they should follow my SOP, which is now almost completely destination skiing, usually across the ocean. By our age, people are pretty well formed and know what works for them.
To pad out the report: I left St. Moritz for the three-hour drive to Zurich just before a major storm was supposed to arrive so here are some pix on my way outta Dodge:
The bottom of Julier Pass, only two miles from the middle of town:
Driving past Corvatsch:
Heading up to the pass:
On the way down, you can see Bivio, where I was four days earlier, in the distance:
A shame that I didn't ski Bivio under a clear sky; I would've had a much better experience. As mentioned before, visibility is a bigger part of the Alps enjoyment equation than it is on this side of the pond because of North America's very high tree line. Storm skiing usually doesn't deter us; in fact, we search it out. Non-hardcore European skiers are more likely to wait until the sun returns.
Orthopedic sport surgeons don't have to go far to find good visual material for their advertisements ("all's well that ends well"). Remember this one ("better off with a helmet") from a few years ago?
Given the big role that cows play in their culture, I liked this as well: "Our cows are really strong and regularly figure out a way to make it through the winter. Swiss milk and dairy products: really strong."