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St. Moritz, Switzerland

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Travel
By Rob Story
posted: 09/24/2003

St. Moritz Switzerland
Elevation: 10,836 feet
Vertical drop: 4,931 feet
Size: 220 miles of runs
Snowfall: 138 inches
Getting There: Fly to Zurich (Swiss International Air Lines, swiss.com) and take a train (rail.ch/sts) to St. Moritz, a three- to four-hour trip.
Info: 41-(0)81-837-3399, stmoritz.ch

Beta: As the site of Switzerland's first ski school and birthplace of the parallel turn, St. Moritz oozes alpine heritage. Ever since hosting the second Olympic Winter Games in the Roaring '20s, though, the resort has become better known for its upper-crust swank. In this lake-studded valley in eastern Switzerland, 40 percent of the winter visitors don't even ski. Instead they tempt gout at La Marmite restaurant, which sells more caviar and truffles than any establishment in the country. Common sightings: paparazzi, $400,000 Mercedes Maybach sedans, and streets teaming with mink-dead mink. ¶

St. Moritz's three main skiing sectors (Corviglia, Corvatsch-Furtschellas, and Diavolezza-Lagalb) stretch out across a 10-mile-long valley with 55 lifts threading terrain largely above-timberline. The sun-kissed, south-facing runs on the Corviglia massif ripple with weightlessness-inducing drops that recall the best cruisers of Vail, St. Moritz's sister city. Those same slopes also induce speed-one reason Corviglia hosted the Alpine World Championships last season. The cold, shaded lines on the other side of the valley belong to Corvatsch-Furtschellas, a block of jagged peaks creased with steep chutes, nooks, and bowls. And not a single mink, dead or alive.

Powder Day
From the Corviglia lift Las Trais Fluors, float down the ribs flanking the black-diamond piste till they're tracked. Then venture skier's left to the peak's broad shoulder, where 35-degree faces give way to steeper rollovers. Keep an eye on the Piz Nair tram-the highest and sometimes last to open. Catch it right and you can wrap around the Piz Nair summit block either left or right, plundering dozens of advanced pitches.

3 Days Later
Since the beautiful people mainly ski Corviglia, hit the steeper Corvatsch side, located at the southwest end of the valley. The high ratio of off-piste to piste means traverses and short sidesteps lead to ample naiv lamma ("soft snow"). Ski off the Murtèl-Corvatsch tram, where almost all the traverse lines access 1,500-foot drops. Stay far skier's right around the Fuorcla Surlej hut for thrilling, though not life-threatening, chutes and cliff bands.

The Riding
Consistent fall lines on both sides of the valley mean few flat cat-tracks. Corvatsch offers plentiful freeriding and a modest freestyle park off the Margun lift. Corviglia, meanwhile, boasts two of the longest natural halfpipes one could ever pendulum through: one dropping from the Piz Nair lift to the Suvretta valley; the other dropping skier's left of Las Trais Fluors.

Backcountry Access
Being Swiss, St. Moritz maintains no boundary ropes and won't stop you from venturing willy-nilly into the Alps. A backcountry highlight: skiing glaciers from Diavolezza, a smaller lift system southeast of town that accepts the St. Moritz lift pass. From the 9,754-foot terminus of the Diavolezza tram, wind over and around crevasses down to the village of Morteratsch-a renowned classic that's considered the Vallée Blanche of St. Moritz. Although the route down is obvious, you can hire a guide from the St. Moritz Experience (41-(0)81-833-7714, stmoritz- experience.ch).

Local's Take "Come back in winter. If you don't like it, I'll pay your travel costs from London and back. If you do, you can stay here as long as you wish." -St. Moritz hotel pioneer Johannes Badrutt to some British visitors in 1864; the Brits did come and stayed till Easter, making St. Moritz the first winter resort in the Alps.

Weather
Situated on the south side of the Alps, St. Moritz welcomes fruitful storms from the Mediterranean. Skies cleear so quickly after snowfalls that the sun shines 322 days per year. Consider visiting in early December, when snow has coated the glaciers and early-season rates apply.

Don't Miss
The Engadin Cross-Country Ski Marathon (held annually since 1969 on the second Sunday in March) is one of the largest sporting events anywhere, with 13,000 participants, many of whom don't last all 42 km.

Essential GearGoggles with untinted lenses-say, Briko's Icarus ($110; briko.com). Clear lenses optimize your night skiing, which is a big deal at St. Moritz. Diavolezza keeps its unlighted slopes open till 10 p.m. during full moons, and Corvatsch hosts a rowdy "Snow Night" every Friday marked by on-slope DJs, mulled wine, and tipsy turns until 2 a.m.

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