A Swiss Winter’s Tale
The Alpine towns of Arosa and St. Moritz deliver world-class skiing and dining, with a mountain of difference between them. Which resort is right for you?
You know you’ve arrived in St. Moritz when the hotel car meeting you at the train station is a jet-black Bentley Mulsanne. Long the winter playland of the jet set, celebrities, and even James Bond, St. Moritz consists of five ski areas: Lagalb, Diavolezza, Corvatsch, Furtschellas, and Corviglia, which offer a total of 56 lifts serving 220 miles of skiable terrain (plus another 140 miles of cross-country trails).
For the hard-core downhillers, take the train or a ski bus to Diavolezza and Lagalb. Ascending to just under 10,000 feet, Diavolezza has two challenging intermediate trails and a long, ungroomed, mostly intermediate run along the glacier that takes 45 minutes to complete. It is advisable to hire a guide for the off-piste areas. At Lagalb, be prepared to ski the steepest slope in the Alps. Beginners, intermediate skiers, and families can ski Corviglia’s groomed beginner trails, while enjoying easy access from the large base area. On-mountain dining experiences include Pizzeria Chadafö (the signature wood-fired calzone is made with tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto, parmigiana, and fresh oregano; be sure to make a reservation before you hit the slopes). Or, schuss over to Bergrestaurant Chamanna off the Munt da San Murezzan lift for local specialties, including rösti (a cross between a potato pancake and hash browns), wursts, fresh pretzels, and an extensive beer list.
Corvatsch, the area’s highest mountain, has a 2.6-mile night run, a snow park, and plenty of off-piste skiing. For an unusual on-mountain dining experience, try Kuhstall; it converts from a cow barn in the summer to a homestyle restaurant during ski season. Ustaria Rabgiusa, between Corvatsch and Furtschellas, serves a specialty called piadina (Italian flatbread filled with meats, cheeses, and other delicacies).
Off-mountain in late January, St. Moritz hosts the Snow Polo World Cup (snowpolo-stmoritz.com). In addition to being the only high-goal snow polo tournament, the event was the first-ever snow polo tournament and remains as much about the food and social scene as the competition. In town, Casino St. Moritz (casinostmoritz.ch) offers blackjack, poker, roulette, and slot machines. Take your winnings to the high-end shops, including Bucherer, Louis Vuitton, Moncler, Prada, Hermès, and Jimmy Choo. Läderach has been named one of Switzerland’s top chocolate shops.
At the end of the day, that black Bentley will take you back to the Carlton Hotel (carlton-stmoritz.ch). Originally built in 1913, and completely modernized in 2007 by designer Carlo Rampazzi, the Carlton has 60 lake-facing, butler-serviced suites, including a penthouse apartment. Enjoy a cocktail at the Carlton Bar while sitting by the fireplace and sampling small bites from the kitchen. The three-story spa includes a sauna, indoor/outdoor heated pool, cold plunge, individual treatment rooms, and products by The Organic Pharmacy. Restaurant Romanoff serves a lavish breakfast buffet, along with local specialties for dinner.
At Da Vittorio, recently awarded a second Michelin star, brothers Enrico and Roberto Cerea use local products to create Italian specialties, with excellent service and wine pairings for each course. The paccheri alla Vittorio is prepared tableside with fresh pasta.
A 3.5-hour train ride away in Arosa, skiers and snowboarders come upon a down-to-earth locals’ scene. Within the Canton of the Grisons (Switzerland’s largest state), St. Moritz and Davos shine like diamonds, garnering significant international attention. In Arosa, more of a hidden gem to foreigners, the terrain rides a bit easier and the beauty of the small Schanfigg valley in the shadow of the 8,704-foot Aroser Weisshorn abounds.
The skiable terrain measures nearly 3,000 vertical feet and 62 miles, comprising 70 trails, all supported by 13 lifts, including T-Bars. In addition to the terrain park and half-pipe, the Urdenbahn tram at the top of the Hornli lifts connects Arosa with Lenzerheide, adding another 70 miles of ski trails—all skiable with one lift pass. Both Arosa and Lenzerheide have mostly intermediate trails, a few truly steep expert pitches, and a good selection of beginner runs. For better snow and more of a challenge, hire a guide for a morning or a day to explore the extensive off-piste terrain.
Take a break at Carmenna Hut, accessible along the intermediate run down from the Plattenhorn chair, for typical Swiss cuisine, such as bratwurst with rösti, along with a varied wine list. Grab one of the sun loungers for a post-lunch nap, or just sit and marvel at the majestic view. For après-ski, head to the bottom of the Tschuggen West T-Bar, where you’ll find KuhBar, Saustall, Raclette Stube, and Tschuggen Stubli. Grab a local brew from KuhBar and listen to music ranging from ’70s rock to the latest EDM, or sit at one of Saustall’s picnic benches for pretzels, wursts, fries, and local charcuterie. Be sure to catch the view as the sun goes down.
For ski-in/ski-out convenience via a 12-passenger funicular, check into the Tschuggen Grand Hotel Arosa (tschuggen.ch). With panoramic views of the mountains, most of the rooms include a sun terrace. At the Tschuggen Bergoase, the hotel’s four-story spa and wellness center, find an indoor/outdoor pool with whirlpool seats, a children’s splash pool, sun terraces, indoor lounges, a mountain sauna with a snow terrace, individual treatment rooms, and a dedicated space for meditation. At night, the spa’s sail-like skylights are lit from within in a variety of colors for an ever-changing piece of mountain artwork.
The Tschuggen’s restaurant The Basement is a cross between a local pub and a hopping après-ski bar, complete with a bowling alley, great burgers, and local specialties like curry wurst, fondue, and cheesecake. At the Grand Restaurant, on the main floor of the hotel, dinner includes classic Swiss specialties, such as chateaubriand, salmon medallions, and guinea fowl terrine. Pre-dinner, order a cocktail at the Tschuggen Bar, with live music or DJs at night. There’s also La Brezza, chef Marco Campanella’s Arosa outpost of his Michelin-starred restaurant, that focuses on more classic dishes, such as tuna tartar with sardines and tender filet mignon.