If you’ve come to St Moritz for a first winter holiday, you couldn’t make a better start. There are great opportunities to learn to ski, but it is important for first timers to consider transport options before choosing St Moritz as this maybe a slight hindrance to your holiday. The beginners slopes are good and there’s several excellent ski schools, the argument against is that the resort lacks the convenience of many modern purpose-built ski areas and, unless you are being chauffeured from one of the five star hotels with your private personal instructor, you can expect to have to do quite a lot of clomping about the hilly streets and on and off the funicular to reach the nursery runs.
Some of the smaller neighbouring villages like Celerina do have convenient nursery slopes by the village but that’s a bus ride away if you’re staying in St Moritz.
Intermediates have a wonderful range of slopes on either side of them in St Moritz, plus the opportunity for full or part day excursions to other ski areas on the Engadin Pass.
The main slopes are in Corviglia immediately above the resort and reached by funicular from St Moritz Dorf. This has 160km (100 miles) of runs in its own right, served by 22 lifts.
If you’re up early you’ll enjoy the "white carpet," the first descent of the day at 8am, down a deserted freshly groomed piste (the Marguns gondola and Chantarella funicular open at 7.45am). As it’s not fashionable to be up so early, the pistes are normally empty at this time. Later on if you want to relax on the slopes head for the 3 km (1.9 mile) chill-out piste, the Paradiso.
Across the valley Corvatsch is almost as big with 120km (75 miles) of piste served by 17 lifts. A big attraction here is the 9 km (5.6 mile) long “Königsabfahrt” (King Run) from Corvatsch via Lake Hahnen back to St Moritz, or the longest floodlit night piste in Switzerland.
The third most famous area in the region is the more distant Diavolezza, a half hour’s journey away. This is glacier country with some challenging pistes, and the slopes are usually open in to June it’s so snow sure. One challenge is the 45-minute, 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) long descent to Morteratsch, Switzerland's longest prepared glacier descent. The 11 runs here are served by five lifts.
Given the size of the Engadin, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of challenging slopes dotted around each sector. At Corviglia there’s the World Cup downhill race course to experience from the start point at Piz Nair at the top of the area, 3,057 m (10,030 ft) above sea level.
At Diavolezza expert skiers will want to try the Lagalb descent, dubbed ‘the queen of the mountains’ and generally regarded as the most challenging run in the whole of the Engadin. Branching off from here is also one of the most beautiful ski tour routes, leading over the south flank to La Rösa in the Puschlav.
This is also a great freeriding area in the virgin powder snow, with guided tours the most enjoyable and only safe way to be there. These tours are led by expert guides carrying top avalanche safety equipment and run by Go Vertical (+41 (0)81 834 57 58; http://www.govertical.ch/en/).
Indeed off piste is the way to go right across the region for many serious skiers, with lots of long established descents to try in all sectors.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
Unlike some top resorts across the Atlantic where snowboarding was (probably) born, St Moritz adopted the sport from its very early days. The resort and wider Engadin region offers both abundant free riding terrain and several terrain parks to enjoy.
The Corviglia Snow Park with 30 features is the main terrain park, located at the Corviglia summit. There are lines suited to different ability levels but the pro lines are so good they’re used as official venues on the major snowboard and freeski tours. The options for lesser mortals include a 400m (1,312 ft) easy line, a medium line with a double kicker combo, a nine metre (30ft) down rail, and a 10m (33 ft) jump box and a C-box. A second park, on Corvastsch, has more kickers, rails, a quarterpipe and much more.
One insider tip is to take a day out in nearby Maloja (included on the Engadin pass) if there’s been fresh snow, as it is known for its untouched powder by the local crowd. There’s also a small third terrain park in Zuoz that is worth a look.
St Moritz and the Engadin Valley have some of the best cross-country ski tracks in the Alps. Indeed for the first 50 years or so during the initial hey-days of St Moritz after winter tourism began here, cross country equipment was the only kind of skis people wore before Alpine downhill skiing arrived. Today Nordic fans can glide along 200 km (124 miles) of snow-sure cross-country trails, across frozen lakes and wide open plains, past pretty villages and through snow-laden forests – all at a relatively snowsure altitude which means the runs are usually open all winter long.
Forty-two of these kilometres are the most famous cross country trails in the country, forming the marathon track between Maloja and S-chanf. But those who prefer to take things easy should opt for the Direttissima route across the three lakes, or enjoy one of the Engadin’s longest gliding zones in Zuoz.
Among many specialised tracks are special routes where dogs are allowed and a floodlit loop in St Moritz itself. The 2.5km long Morteratsch glacier trail provides stunning views of glacial ice en route and while almost all the terrain is suited to both classic and skating styles, one trail is reserved for purist “classic” fans – the 6 km long stretch to the Fex Valley.
To use the trails you should purchase a special trail pass available from tourist offices, cross country ski schools and other points around the network of trails. Income from pass sales is used to help maintain the extensive tracks.
If you’re in resort during the second weekend in March you can witness, or perhaps even take part in, the annual Engadin Ski Marathon, the second biggest cross country race in the world attracting 12,000 participants.
St Moritz Average Snow And Weather Conditions
It is remarkable that, although so many of the world’s original ski resorts that began a century or more ago are located down at around 1,000m above sea level and are therefore now suffering a little from climate change, St Moritz started the winter sports holiday industry off up at 1800m, and remains one of Europe’s highest, and therefore most snow sure, resorts.
With the ski slopes located between 1,800 and 3,303 metres (5,906−10,837 ft) above sea level, snow is guaranteed at resort level all season long. Formerly a summer ski destination, the season still usually continues in to June on the Diavolezza glacier on the Engadin lift pass. Add to this its reputation as one of the Alps sunnier resorts, and you get a fairly safe ski holiday bet.