From royal polo matches on the frozen lake to abundant five star hotels and Russian money flying directly into the local airstrip, St. Moritz’s posh credentials are impeccable. But there’s good and varied skiing too, with the advantage that many resort visitors will be intent on celeb-spotting or making the most of plush facilities, leaving the excellent snow to the keen skiers.
It's no wonder St. Moritz is so widely known: unique experiences such as the Cresta Run, the Engadin cross-country ski marathon and polo-on-snow have been joined in recent years by spectacular kite-boarding across the acres of frozen lakes on the valley floor. The resort claims to have been the birthplace in 1864 of the 'white winter holiday' and has the oldest Tourism Board in Switzerland; it's also the only place in the country to have hosted the Olympic Winter Games, in 1928 and 1948. More recently, bringing the region's skiing up to date, the Alpine Ski World Championships took place in St. Moritz in 2003, as they did in 1934, 1948 and 1974.
The three main ski areas of St Moritz are separate but big enough to stand alone. If you're happy to ride the punctual buses or drive between areas, you will enjoy the distinctly different slopes of each domain - the extensive, rolling, well-groomed Corviglia pistes; the drama of the high Corvatsch peak followed by big vertical; and the huge descent across the glacier and the steepest slopes of the Diavolleza. There's even heli-skiing of a kind that utterly defines the resort: you fly to the top of the hill and ski down the piste, thus avoiding the need to ride those tiresome lifts with the hoi polloi…
In town, it's a puzzle to first time visitors exactly what the fuss is about. Set on the lakeside and rising up the steep slopes towards the ski domain, the centre of St. Moritz has no obvious special qualities. It's neither outrageously picturesque, nor exuding nightlife potential; the most striking feature is the number of luxury shops selling things you'll never need on a ski holiday or anywhere else. Most of the action, if you can call it that, takes place behind the doors of the massive five star hotels, leaving others out in the cold. A more relaxed and friendly area to stay is in the spa region of the resort, right on the shore of the lake, where hotels such as the Laudinella cater well to a mid-range clientele, though once again everything is provided under one substantial roof, so you might seldom go out but to ski.