For all its association with royalty, Klosters is surprisingly dull. But then George V liked to holiday in Bognor Regis. The monarchs don’t really do glamour. One glimpse of Hotel Walserhof brings that home. Perched on the edge of town, Prince Charles’s schloss-from-schloss looks like Colditz with fretwork balconies.
So far, there have been no sightings of royals this year, unless you count the well-dusted portraits in the Walserhof’s lobby. I much preferred our hotel, the Vereina, which is newer and more comfortable, except for the little typed signs everywhere: “Please don’t play the piano”; “Please don’t put anything on the window ledge”; “Please push – don’t pull”.
You wonder what Prince Harry, who drinks here, so they say, gets up to before hitting Casa Antica, the one nightclub in town. Apart from shopping for overpriced wooden toys or hanging round outside the over-lit Co-op, there really isn’t much to do in the actual town of Klosters apart from drinking far too much, pounding the piano and brazenly pulling those things you’ve been told to push.
This is the first ski season since Klosters joined forces with Davos down the road to form a larger resort. It’s a wise move, allowing skiers to get information on the newly interconnecting runs and to book centrally rather than via two separate offices. It also makes the joint resort a more attractive proposition. Klosters on its own is fine if all you want to do is come down the slopes, kick off your boots and groan. The off-piste skiing is said to be very good on the mighty Gotschnagrat, but in the valley it’s tediously quiet during the day.
Which is why on our fourth day I told my wife, Kate, I was going to take the local train into Davos. My feet were rebelling against being strapped into ski boots and I wanted a change of scene. After seeing her off on a cable car named “Prince of Wales” in honour of his absent Highness, I waited for the little red train that would rumble me down to Davos.
Though the place is famous now because of the World Economic Forum, Davos has been on the European circuit since the 1860s when its micro-climate became the place to take your ailing lungs. Robert Louis Stevenson attempted to ease his tuberculosis in Davos. Conan Doyle came here in 1899 and wrote an article in praise of skiing. Thomas Mann visited in 1912 after his wife was consigned to the care of Dr Jessen’s Waldsanatorium. He later turned the experience into the opening of his Nobel-prize-winning novel, Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain).
I watched the snow as we trundled down through Laret and Wolfgang and round the frozen Davoser See before getting off at Davos Dorf and clumping my swollen feet around the town. Davos is much more densely developed than Klosters with apartment blocks five storeys high. Every bit of flat land seems to be built on except for the large ice rink, which is closely bordered by hotels and hemmed in by snow-topped trees. Very little remains of the 19th-century spa town. I did find a town hall that used to be 16th century but it had managed to disguise the fact beneath a 20th-century concrete makeover.
Then, just off the Promenade, I came across the Kirchner Museum. I’d heard of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a German Expressionist, but I didn’t know he’d settled in Davos in 1917 or that this very 1990s museum (all glass and oak parquet) contains the largest collection of his paintings in the world. The exhibition is full of rainbow-coloured landscapes of Davos along with the canvases of dancing girls and those world-weary nudes that everyone painted in the 1920s. The museum is open most days during winter, and there is also a coffee shop. I browsed a catalogue with guilty pleasure. Three days’ skiing and already I was hankering for art galleries.
Heading up through the town I found the funicular with its carriages decorated in red and white Coca-Cola livery. As we inched our way up the Parsennbahn, skiers flew past in a riot of red and blue while snowboarders sprawled in the snow. I found I didn’t envy them at all as I leafed through my Kirchner postcards. At the top I changed to a smaller funicular that chugged me to the 2,844m summit of the Weissfluhgipfel. Here Kate was waiting at the door to a small restaurant, pink-cheeked and exhilarated having spent the morning zigzagging down red runs to get here ahead of me.
“What kept you?”
“Coffee and culture,” I admitted.
For a while we talked like members of two different tribes. Kate wanted to take me through the piste map in detail while I wanted to talk about Expressionism. But food and beer thawed us out and we began to take an interest in each other’s morning. Afterwards we went together to look at the view across the blue peaks of the Graubünden, and it was just as lovely for those of us who had taken the train from Davos as those who had skied over from Klosters.
How to get there
Crystal Finest (0871 231 5670; crystalfinest.co.uk) offers a week’s bed and breakfast in Davos-Klosters from £849 per person including flights and transfers.
Davos-Klosters tourist information: davos.ch