Snow report: St Moritz is where it all began – but it's not where it has to end
Sunday 21 February 2010
St Moritz is where winter sports holidays began in 1864, and the world famous resort has dominated its south-eastern corner of Switzerland ever since.
But there are a dozen other villages, somewhat overshadowed by their illustrious neighbour, that are well worth consideration. The recently re-formed regional tourist organisation emphasises that fact through its name, written in don't-miss-me capitals: ENGADIN St Moritz (engadin.stmoritz.ch)
The Engadin Ski pass, modestly marketed as the "greatest snowsports region of Switzerland", pulls together 350km (217 miles) of ski slopes on a single lift ticket, much of it as easy to reach from one of the smaller villages as from St Moritz itself.
Sils Maria is my insider tip for those wanting easier access to the ski areas of Corvatsch above St Moritz. A cable car lifts you straight in to the area more efficiently than from many points in the resort itself. The only minor disadvantage for travellers arriving in Sils is that it doesn't have its own railway station.
If instant ski lift access isn't a priority, tranquil Bever, 10 minutes' drive from St Moritz, has none of the pretentions of the famous resort. Cross country trails pass right by the doors of the 16th-century Chesa Silas hotel (00 41 81 8511616; chesa-silas.ch).
The peaceful, compact village of Zuoz, offers a happy compromise for skiers, with the choice of its own small ski centre, or the larger ski areas of Corviglia or Corvatsch a short shuttle ride away. This was the region's leading settlement for centuries before St Moritz rose to power on the back of "white gold". Such was the importance of Zuoz that in 1499 residents decided to burn it down rather than surrender it to the advancing Austrian empire.
The rebuilt village grew around a central 16th-century piazza, which gives it a pleasant heart to this day. The Crusch Alva (00 41 81 854 1319; cruschalva.ch), German for White Cross, was one of the first buildings erected in the centre of the village after the fire and is today a cosy, cottagey hotel – a great base from which to explore the hallowed pistes of ENGADIN (shout it) and St Moritz.
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