Stay the night: Kulm hotel, St Moritz

The venerable hotel is the birthplace of snow-sports tourism. Stay here and you could ride the Cresta Run, says Simone Kane

My dreams were shattered when my mobile phone woke me at 6.40am.

The voice at the other end of the line told me that the Olympia Bob Run would be closed to the public for the duration of my two-day stay. Yet I had travelled to St Moritz to try the new Need for Speed packages from the historic Kulm Hotel – birthplace of snow-sports tourism.

For the first time, the hotel is offering winter breaks that include riding the legendary Cresta Run (men only), and bob-taxi training courses, or a single bob-taxi ride (for men and women) on the Olympia run.

I should have been hitting speeds of up to 135km/h (84mph) in a piloted bobsleigh, taking the famous Horseshoe bend in a vertical position. But, thanks to the warm weather, the world's only handmade ice run was melting and had to be preserved for the European Championships due to start within days. Only the experts were being allowed on to practise.

My Olympic hopes dashed, I surrendered to the luxurious surroundings of the Kulm. Founder Johannes Badrutt certainly picked his spot back in 1856, establishing his original hotel in the stunning Alpine landscape of the Upper Engadine valley. A £46m, 10-year renovation programme has preserved much of this grand hotel's 19th-century elegance – the Belle Epoque plasterworks, and Badrutt's original office – while also bringing the property's amenities up to date.

In the Great Hall and lobby, guests chatter in easy chairs in opulent Wilhelminian surroundings. And, what might initially seem like over-the-top, chintzy decor is revealed, on closer examination, to be beautiful hand-stencilled untreated silk, stretched over – not stuck to – the walls. The warm combination of yellows and reds and rich, tactile furnishings, the soaring columns and giant chandeliers is beguiling.

I sat back and enjoyed afternoon tea, drinking in the views, and my disappointment, like the ice, melted away.

The rooms

The 173 rooms are divided into 13 categories – from standard and superior to deluxe and junior suite and right up to the presidential suite. The decor moves through subtle colour schemes, depending on which part of the hotel you're in. But local pine is used appropriately and, in some areas, bedroom doors display magnificent Italian craftsmanship in the inlaid wood designs. Many rooms are interlocking, catering to families. And all have some kind of stunning view – my deluxe was laid out like a salon, with chairs and table, floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony overlooking the lake and imposing massif. And a huge, comfy bed. (I loved the pillow menu, which allowed me to choose different densities and even herbal infusions.) The marble and chrome bathrooms feature showers, some with baths, and the spirits are lifted by the L'Occitane toiletries.

The food and drink

There are five dining options. Choose between gourmet restaurant, The K, and the Grand, where Hans Nussbaumer's menus combine classic international influences with local Engadine cuisine. (This is where the superb daily breakfast buffet is laid out.) The Pizzeria has delicious homemade pasta and other Italian dishes, while the Sunny Bar – meeting place of the Cresta Run club – serves Japanese specialities. Down the road, Chesa al Parc has a lovely sun terrace overlooking the hotel's ice rink. Guests can take half-board allowances to nearby sister property, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, in pretty Pontresina, to sample its fine-dining menu.

The extras

The Panorama Spa and Health Club offers the full range of treatments and facilities. There's a generously sized pool, saunas and gym. Treatments use Decléor, Carita and the certified organic Feuerstein Essentials Switzerland.

The access

There is one room adapted for guests with mobility problems. Children can take advantage of the free Marmotta Club, which organises a range of fun activities, from pizza-making to sledding. There's even a free laundry service for children under 12 years. Dogs are welcome.

The bill

Prices start at £362, half-board, for a standard double based on two sharing and including taxes (minimum three-night weekend in winter). Need for Speed prices start at £642 per person for the Bob Taxi Ride package (Sunday to Thursday), which includes two nights' half board, a bob-taxi ride and sea-salt hydrotherapy bath. Simone Kane travelled to St Moritz courtesy of Swiss International Air Lines (0845 601 0956; swiss.com/uk), which has return flights from £89. Switzerland Travel Centre (0800 100 200 30; swisstravel system.co.uk) sells a round-trip Swiss Transfer Ticket for £79.

The address

Kulm Hotel, CH-7500 St Moritz (00 41 81 836 8000; kulmhotel-stmoritz.ch).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition