Kangaroo and Champagne? Get Yours in St. Moritz
Welcome to the most glamorous, posh, exclusive and expensive winter resort town in the world.
If you belong to the jet-set millionaire clique then you’ve probably already been to St. Moritz–or at least heard a lot about it from your jet-set friends. If not, I can tell you that, in a nutshell, St. Moritz is the most glamorous, posh, exclusive, and expensive winter resort town in the world. The history of winter tourism and deluxe hotels in St. Moritz can be traced to the opening of the Kulm Hotel in 1856. It was Johannes Badrutt, the proprietor of the Kulm –the first luxury hotel in St. Moritz– who started convincing his wealthy friends and guests, who loved St. Moritz in the summer, to make the journey in the winter too.
As the summer season wound to a close in 1864, Badrutt was singing the praises of the sunny and dry winter weather in St. Moritz to his remaining guests. He invited them back to his hotel that winter, so they could experience it for themselves, promising that if they still weren’t convinced, he’d cover their travel expenses. His independently wealthy patrons loved the Alps in the winter so much so that they stayed all season — and brought winter sports from around the world with them. As the first ever Alpine winter tourists, they helped to define a whole new experience: the white winter holiday. From then on, St. Moritz has cemented its position on the private jet set’s winter holiday circuit.
We left our PJ at home (jk) and drove to St. Moritz, nestled on the sunny side of the Swiss Alps, from Lugano, in southern Switzerland. It was a stunningly beautiful drive, along narrow and windy roads that took us through villages that look like they haven’t changed in a century, and up the sides of mountains. If you fly into Zurich, the easiest way to get here is via train (it takes three and a half hours), since once you’re here everything is walking distance. If you do decide to drive, make sure that the weather is mild, since arriving into St. Moritz in snowy weather can be challenging–to say the least.
My first trip to St. Moritz was over a decade ago and we arrived on a typical snowy winter night, saddled with a fog of snow so thick that it prevented us from seeing further than a meter in front of the car (just to make the trip a bit more interesting). The mountain road you take to St. Moritz is unusually windy and terrifying narrow–not a single mile of it is straight (or easy to drive on, for that matter). If you manage to climb up safely with the right car and tires, the reward is well worth it the next morning.
If you can manage to get there, expect to pay four times as much as you would anywhere else – and that’s if you don’t go shopping!
Imagine waking up in Switzerland surrounded by a splendid circus of purely white mountains and three frozen lakes… The sensation of being at the top of the world starts reaching you, and it won’t stop throughout your stay. St. Moritz is not the average ski resort town, as you will quickly understand. The rules here are the same as the ones on Rodeo Drive, 5th Avenue or Via Montenapoleone in Milan. Most of the buildings are fairly modern and the streets look more like the top shopping streets found in the fashion capitals of the world than a typically charming Swiss village.
A major difference between St. Moritz and any other town in the world is that there are no middle-class people on the streets here. Every person you pass is wearing only the very most expensive designer clothing and jewelry — and showing it all off to the best of their ability. Not one person in St. Moritz looks like they have any less than an eight-digit yearly income (or yearly inheritance!); they’ll need it to be able to afford the incredibly steep prices they’ll be paying in the hotels and restaurants. Think $50 for a personal-sized pizza and $45 veggie burgers. Yeah. It’s like that. The most common events in St. Moritz are ski competitions (and there are plenty of those) and jet-set champagne parties with celebrities for the opening of the latest Prada shop (where prices are at least 20% higher than in New York)!
In fact, it’s always been like that. Ever since its inception as a luxury ski resort town, it’s been a must-visit year-round destination for the wealthy. Even way back in 1878, despite its remote location, the wealthy owner of the Kulm Hotel made sure that his Grand Restaurant became the first place in Switzerland to have electric lights. Not long after, St. Moritz became home to the first ski school and the first electric tram in Switzerland.
Despite being innovative at the time, the town, and especially the Kulm, prides itself on being traditional. Some say it’s stuck in the past, while others love that they can come back year after year knowing precisely what to expect. In fact, many of the Kulm’s most faithful patrons have been loyal guests every winter for the past 50 years. A perfect example is the method in which the Kulm makes up their beds. At first, I thought our bed hadn’t been made up at all, but after speaking with management I learned that the traditional way to make a bed is to have two separate small beds (with separate sheets and separate duvets) pushed together, so that the couple could separate them at will. If you like cuddling, make sure to ask them, in advance, to make the bed up American-style.
The rooms at the Kulm vary greatly in style. Where I found the some of the rooms to have a dated feel, many of their guests would disagree. I absolutely loved the feel of our newly-renovated suite. The soft plaid and herringbone textiles and unfinished wood felt cosy and luxurious, and I’d gladly make that my new Swiss home if it wouldn’t drain my bank account at an alarming rate.
Walking around for the first time in the village is great if you are an international jet-set shopper; a competition is on 24 hours a day–but it’s not a sports one. It’s only open for women actually. It is the fur coat competition. Try to imagine a place where people only wear the most beautiful and rare fur coats and hats… and nobody really cares about animal rights. This is the unfortunate reality of St Moritz.
The selection in the shops is only the best of the best (or, rather, the most expensive). Only the most expensive items are for sale here… No average watches or necklaces in the windows, no wool sweaters — only cashmere, of course, Darhhhing… No average anything!
The official symbol of St. Moritz is a pink pig with a penny in it’s mouth… Pretty fitting if you ask me!
Even the restaurant menus are stunning. There’s not much for an animal-loving vegan like myself, but for the truly hedonistic there’s a plethora of exotic options, including a wide array of flesh from animals such as kangaroo, crocodile, ostrich, deer and even horse meat (prepared in a variety of ways).
An afternoon of stuffing yourself with kangaroo meat and champagne not your flavor? Try skiing or golfing. While the slopes are something of a fashion show, and most runs may be on the easy side for experienced skiers (ie. “bunny slopes”), the scenery is spectacular and the lifts, food and grooming won’t disappoint. In the summer, golfing is a popular sport and the views from the courses, especially the Kulm’s golf course, are stunning.
If you don’t ski, there are plenty of other things to do. You can socialize at the non-stop outdoor party by the heated outdoor bar in front of the Hauser restaurant. You can pay through the nose for a new wardrobe, or just browse alongside men with their wives (or mistresses!) in their fur coats and long leather gloves. Or, if you have relaxation in mind, St. Moritz is home to over 25 beauty institutes and day spas – plus, each hotel has their own spa. However, there’s only one small bookstore in St. Moritz (and half of it is an overpriced souvenir shop). So don’t forget your copy of The Beautiful and the Damned–because you can’t buy it here!
The pool and spa at Kulm Hotel is absolutely to die for. With a wall of windows, and a large heated outdoor pool area, you can swim with mountains as a backdrop. It is truly extraordinary! When you’re done lounging in your Missoni or Chanel swimsuit whilst sipping champagne, grab a cocktail in the lobby bar and gaze through the large lobby windows, where you can watch people playing polo on the frozen lake.
At night, the only place to go is the appropriately named ‘The Kings’ night club at Badrutt’s Palace. This is where all the jet-setter’s go to party it up until the wee hours in the morning (no, not 2 am–try 6 am). It is quite possibly the chicest (or at least the most expensive) nightclub in the world!
While St. Moritz started out as a summer playground for the wealthy set in London, nowadays the biggest population of ‘visitors’ here would have to be the Italians. Italians here seem to really enjoy life; eating, drinking, partying and girl-chasing are among their favorite hobbies. They invite each other to their mountain chateaus for huge buffet dinners. Amazing pasta, wine and cigars, elegant men and surprisingly overdressed women (in platform heels that make you wonder how they manage to get around in the snow without falling twenty times) abound. Everybody is smiling and pleasant, especially when you are from abroad, as Italians love ‘international people’. It is a known rule here that if you want to throw a successful party you can’t only have Italian friends attend – you need as many ‘international people’ as possible. So chic!
With this much luxury in one place, you really don’t have to worry about things to do and ways to be pampered. That is, after all, what St. Moritz was built on.