When it comes to planning a ski-moon to remember, you need to take your average ski holiday up a notch or two. Think rst-class train travel with panoramic Unesco world heritage site views over a crowded coach transfer, a smart hotel with Michelin-starred restaurant over a self-catering chalet and the opportunity to do a unique winter activity outside of simply skiing. I did all of this, and more, on a recent trip to St Moritz, which, as the birthplace of winter sports (winter tourism was invented in this Swiss resort over 150 years ago), certainly knows how to turn a holiday into an unforgettable honeymoon.
Credit: Christof Sonderegger
There’s everything from curling and ice-skating to “white turf” horse-racing and the Cresta Run bobsleigh to make St Moritz a magical place for a ski-moon by day, but the moment that really made this resort stand out for me was after the sun had set and I found myself back at the top of the slopes pointing my skis downhill. On Friday nights, a 2.6-mile stretch of piste on Corvatsch is lit up from top to bottom for dare-devil skiers who fancy a bit of après-ski skiing. It’s pretty cold as we make our way into the gondola at 8pm, full of excited-looking skiers gazing down at the glowing lights snaking down the mountain like a lava flow, but all thoughts of the below-freezing temperature disappear at the top when we see a perfectly groomed red run stretching out for miles ahead. It’s almost deserted, but if you really want to ensure you have the mountain to yourself, you can pay for that privilege – a snip at just CHF5000 – almost £4,000 (compared to the general rate of CHF27, or £20)!
What makes our night-skiing all the more exciting is that we’re here with Othmar, the resident (and Switzerland’s only) outdoor butler at The Carlton Hotel, where we are staying in luxurious style. Othmar is on hand to make sure our every alfresco whim is catered for, from a romantic horse and carriage ride with picnic and glühwein, to guiding us to the mountain’s best lunch spots (El Paradiso’s fondue is highly recommended). As we launch down the mountain in the semi-darkness, he starts yodelling like a madman, making us all laugh and expelling any thoughts of being scared. There’s no skiing quite like it. The night-frosted snow creaks beneath our skis and sparkles like diamonds, while the shadows cast by the trees give the whole slope an enchanted feel. There’s a bar half-way down, Hossa Bar, full of merry night-skiers getting some Dutch Courage for the steepest part of the slope or simply pacing themselves to keep going until the very end (2am!), but we y past. After all, we’ve got drinks and dinner waiting for us at The Carlton Hotel.
Just a five-minute drive in the hotel’s private shuttle and we’re back in the smart boot and ski room under the main entrance, still exhilarated by our awesome experience on the mountain. Our wet boots are put on warming racks to ensure we have toasty toes for the morning’s skiing. There’s none of the usual faff that comes with skiing here, it’s all taken care of – your skis are whisked away and magically reappear in the morning when the shuttle (or chauffeured Bentley, if you prefer) takes you back to the cable car. And should you make the smallest grunt of displeasure at trying to force your feet into your boots, then a member of the team is there in a flash to gently ease your boots on for you.
The hotel was refurbished by eccentric interior designer Carlo Rampazzi in 2007 as a 60 lake-facing suite-only concept. There’s no feeling of being inside a sauna, which often happens with the over-zealous wood-panelling in many ski hotels. Suites here are entire apartments with high ceilings, decked out in opulent, and, at times, Willy Wonka-esque style. My entire suite is candy pink with bold gold details, but against the backdrop of brilliant white views through the huge windows it really works. The hotel’s crowning glory is the Carlton Penthouse, a 386-square metre apartment with 360-degree views of the lake and Alps. The penthouse was the owner’s home and when he passed away he took the code to the locked safe to the grave. Guests are invited to try and solve the mystery – how very The Da Vinci Code – it’s worth a try, the contents may just cover the penthouse’s nightly rate!
When you’re not enjoying St Moritz’s many outdoor activities and designer boutiques, there’s plenty to keep you busy in the hotel itself. After the night-skiing, I spend a much-needed morning in the vast spa, giving my piste-and-ski-boot sore legs a rest by gliding around the swimming pool and lounging in the hydrotherapy pool, which has an outside section so you can bask in the resort’s 322 days of sun, surrounded by snow while submerged in deliciously warm water. I also give my body a reboot with a signature spa treatment. At this altitude and after days of sunny skies, it’s exactly what my dehydrated skin needs, and I come out feeling refreshed for more skiing.
All this winter exercise means I can go to town (without feeling too guilty) on some rather special dining experiences. The Carlton Hotel has three eateries: Restaurant Romanoff for Swiss fine dining; Da Vittorio, the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant; and Carlton Bar & Lobby with Terrace, which is ideal for a long cocktail-filled lunch in the warming sun. Every course we enjoy in each of the restaurants is exquisite, but the éclair with salted peanuts and chocolate and peanut ice cream at Restaurant Romanoff is the most delicious dish I’ve ever tasted, and I still haven’t worked out how the clever chefs at Da Vittorio managed to turn the humble apple tarte tatin into a Michelin-star masterpiece.
From the once-in-a-lifetime night-skiing to the seriously romantic horse and carriage ride, skiing in St Moritz, and coming back each night to The Carlton Hotel, has been unlike any other ski holiday I’ve had. It definitely deserves the title of ultimate ski-moon.
Seven nights’ B&B incl. return economy Swiss flights and a daily CHF100 (approx. £67) food and beverage credit per adult, which can be used in all the hotel outlets, except Da Vittorio restaurant, from £2,764pp*, oxfordski.com. The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on consecutive days throughout the rail, bus and boat network, from £171 in second class, swisstravelsystem.co.uk
*Based on departure in mid-March 2019.