St. Moritz, the birthplace of Alpine winter holidays in 1864 and twice host of the Winter Olympics is, today, known more for its glitz and five star glamour than for its epic skiing. But there are 350 kilometres of pistes with a state-of-the-art infrastructure in the surrounding area.
The Corviglia, boasts the steepest start slope in Switzerland with the Piz Nair Wall's 100 per cent vertiginous drop. Alternative action includes spectacular horse racing, polo and kiting on the frozen lake, the sphincter-testing Cresta run plus, of course, extreme shopping in designer boutiques. But it's not just the rich, royal or famous who enjoy St Moritz. Here's an insider's guide what kicks in St Moritz including off-piste, hearty food and night life, from a resident who's lived, worked and snowboarded in the valley for over 20 years, Danny C Accola.
Q. How long have you lived/worked in St Moritz?
Back in 1993, right after I got my diploma, I wanted to reward myself and spend an entire winter season on the slopes. Spring came and I thought summer might be worth staying to see. All these years later, I’m still here and happy about it.
Q. Why St Moritz?
It’s not about St.Moritz, it’s about the valley.
Q. So why do you think we should come to ski/snowboard?
Three mountains (Diavolezza, Corvigilia and Corvatsch/Furtschellas) within 20 minutes; sunny, dry climate (ergo real powder); high altitude; long seasons; endless possibilities; state of the art infrastructure; and a unique mountaintop dining spectrum.
Freeski World Cup at Corvatsch Freestyle Park. Swiss-image-ch/Alessandro Belluscio
Q. Do you have to belong to the Glossy Tribe and wear Chanel, Bogner or Prada skiwear to fit in?
Haha, I am fully aware that this (sadly) represents the image of St.Moritz but, believe me, there’s more to it than champagne, caviar, glitter and glam, which has not much to do with our valley . And the few fools who still think it’s chic to parade through town with their fat lips, cup-sized dogs and furcoats don’t bother us too much.
Q. So what are you wearing to ride, the winter?
Burton AK Outerwear and KRU Down Jackets and Liners.
Q. Guess you know the resort like the back of your hand? What’s your favourite run?
My favourite runs vary from early season to spring weather but the one I fell in love with when I started riding - and still love - is Olympia (Corviglia).
Q. How is it for off-piste? Backcountry?
To get some descent off piste runs you’d have to get up early but should you manage to get up and out it’s great fun. As we all know, backcountry is the cherry on top, but please don’t just go on your own. Best if you hook up with the pros at Bergsteigerschule Pontresina; they love freeriding as much as you do and they let you ride within your limits and likes. It’s worth the penny!
Freeskier making tracks in the Corvatsch area. Swiss-image-ch/Romano Salis
Q. Where is the most awesome view?
On the Corviglia side, I would say the Paradiso Hutte can’t be beaten for the view but (sadly) very pricey. So, Restaurant Trutz has (almost) the same view and is rougher around the edges. On Corvatsch, I would say, go to the Fuorcla Surlej Hut but not only for the view, try the fried eggs. On Diavolezza, it’s the station on top where you can sit in front of the Bernina Range. This is simply breathtaking.
The view from the Paradiso Hutte
Q. What board do you ride?
Depends on the conditions: Burton Barracuda 165 or a Burton Custom X 164W
Q. What else should we do while in St Moritz?
Ha, the possibilities are endless! Let’s start with some comfort:. Eat fondue at the Pichalain at Nira Alpina (Silvaplana). Have dinner at Chesa Marchetta in Sils. Party one night at La Baracca in St.Moritz. Try the Aelpler Makronen at the Pitschna Scena in Pontresina. Sing along live guitar rock at the Stübli in St.Moritz. For downdays walk from Sils to Isola over the frozen lakes, relax at the Mineral Bath in Samedan, go iceskating on the frozen lake in Surlej, sledding from Preda to Bergün, take a snow-shoe hike.
Engardin Cross Country Ski Marathon. Swiss-image.ch/Michael Buholzes
Q. Have you done the Cresta Run?
I did. It gives you the bigger adrenaline kick than EVERY roller coaster on this planet.
Q. Where will we find you when you’re not working (or sleeping)?
I never sleep. Thanks to the projects I am currently invloved with, I get to travel a lot. This year, I’ve been a couple times to Munich, Berlin, Barcelona, Milano, Florence, countless times to London, Bejing, Singapore, Shanghai, Guilin, Caribbean, New York, Miami, Mauritius, Tokyo, Bangkok and Cambodia. And the year isn’t over.
Q. Where’s the best food on the mountain? Not the most expensive. Just the best! What should we order?
Ha, I love hearty food! I am having a long term affair with the Carpaccio Assado at La Baracca in St Moritz; I adore the Insalata di Polpo at Cascade (ask to make it my way); be sure not to miss the Raclette at the Alpina Hut on Corviglia; and book the Pichalain at Nira Alpina for a Fondue Night with your friends. And bring your date to Dal Mulin in St.Moritz and order whatever they tell you to.
Hotel Schweizehof, St Moritz
Q. Where’s the best nightlife?
I love to go to the Stübli at the Hotel Schweizerhof. It’s usually heavily crowded, rough and very smoky (yes, smoking is still legal in some places) and definitely nothing for squeamish protagonists. It’s only rock n’ roll (but I like it)
Q. When is a good time to come?
March. Longer days, less guests and relaxed.
Q. So where do you go for the rest of the year – or on holiday?
I will go back to Mauritius for a project I am involved with, most likely to the Caribbean or Mexico (holiday), Copenhagen and London. And back to Asia for research and bam the year will be over.
When not riding on the hill, Danny C Accola works with global and local brands, designing and implementing market strategy from his Confused Communications office in St.Moritz.