Legend has it that here, in the snowy cradle of the Swiss Alps, a hotelier by the name of Johannes Badrutt bet a few departing British summer guests that even in the winter months they would enjoy Switzerland’s St. Moritz — or he’d cover their travel expenses, he promised. The Brits accepted the wager, returning around Christmastime. They loved it and didn’t leave until after Easter. Upon heading home, they couldn’t stop raving about their unforgettable holiday at the Kulm Hotel. And thus began a long-standing winter tradition.
Located in the heart of the famous resort village, the Kulm has been standing guard over St. Moritz for more than 150 years. The property has been the historical anchor of the scene and even hosted the original Winter Olympic Games back in 1928.
The hamlet is small and difficult to get to, which is part of its allure. The trek from the United States involves a flight to Zurich followed by a meandering, three-hour train ride aboard the Glacier Express. Travelers can enjoy panoramic views as they wind their way through mountainscapes, deep gorges and spiral tunnels while passing fairy-tale Alp villages. When the train finally grinds to a halt at the Rhaetian Railway station, a Kulm valet greets guests, assists with luggage and delivers visitors to the elegant property.
The Kulm’s 173 guest rooms of varying sizes are outfitted with sunny colors, premium materials and local handicrafts. Guests can choose their vista: the village of St. Moritz, Lake St. Moritz or the imposing Piz Nair mountain.
The property’s five restaurants range from the upscale Grand Restaurant, where guests can enjoy gourmet fare, to modern eatery the K, with its menu inspired by classical French cooking. The trattoria-style Pizzeria serves up house-made, wood-fired pizzas and delectable pastas. A short jaunt from the hotel, the Bob Restaurant sits at the starting gate of the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic bobsled run, offering light lunches in a sports-imbued environment. And finally the rustic Chesa al Parc is beloved for its large terrace as well as its Swiss and Italian specialties.
Bars on property include the legendary Sunny Bar frequented by members of international high society. The Altitude Bar offers cocktails in an elegant setting with piano music playing in the background. Guests also have privileged entry to the famed Dracula Club, a local institution.
Featuring panoramic views of Lake St. Moritz and the Engadine Valley, the spa is home to a heated outdoor pool, indoor pool, Jacuzzi pool and 13 treatment rooms. Other hotel offerings include a nine-hole golf course and three outdoor tennis courts. Come summer, the valley is the setting for a wide range of activities, including hiking, mountain biking, sailing, windsurfing and other adventure sports.
Just six miles from St. Moritz sits sister property Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina. The Oscar-winning film The Grand Budapest Hotel must have drawn inspiration from this remarkable Old World jewel. Offering a stunning interior against a mountain backdrop, it shines blush pink come evening. Whereas the Kulm is ideal for jetsetters, Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina is the perfect destination for royalty, business leaders, and those seeking privacy and relaxation.
Set in the heart of the old town, the hotel is an outstanding example of 19th century Alpine design. Timeless elegance is the theme, with whimsical stucco ornaments and original ceiling frescoes juxtaposing historic Swiss pine paneling. A recent renovation resulted in 112 modern guest rooms and suites outfitted with birch furniture, cherry-stained paneling and abstract prints.
There are several dining venues, including the can’t-miss Grand Restaurant, which sets the standard for culinary excellence with its Swiss staples and international dishes.
The award-winning Kronenstübli offers a glimpse into the past, featuring original Engadine furniture and Swiss pine paneling. And the three-level Veltliner wine cellar displays a collection of original wine barrels, traditional bobsleds and wooden skis of yesteryear.
The world-class Kronenhof Spa is one of the top wellness centers in the Alps. Guests can immerse themselves in a soothing combination of water, scent and sound. Spa amenities include a massive infinity pool with a countercurrent system, a pool with water jets, a relaxing flotation room with underwater music, a saltwater grotto, saunas, steam rooms, Kneipp footbaths, a solarium, a fitness room for yoga classes, and a fully equipped gym.
Winter aficionados can take advantage of the 57 ski hills, miles of groomed slopes, natural ice rink, and endless cross-country ski and hiking trails. For romantics, there are horse-drawn sleigh rides or skiing in the moonlight.
Renowned for its serene ambiance, Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina is a masterpiece of a property from a bygone era.
When in St. Moritz
La Marmite // 41-81-833-63-55
For more than 20 years, celebrities and gourmets alike have flocked to this fine establishment known for its legendary truffles, caviar specialties and contemporary Alpine cuisine. Owner/chef Reto Mathis and his servers walk around slicing truffle onto pizza and pasta by the ounce. Situated at the base of the Piz Nair cable car, the eatery is frequented by skiers donning Bogner and Chanel who take the tram for lunch. Weather permitting, guests can dine outside near the famed Yacht Club on fur-clad chairs with beaver lap blankets.
Quattro Bar // 41-81-833-63-55
Popular among athletes, this Corviglia hot spot features an astonishing design and panoramic views of the Swiss Alps. It is open year-round and is ready to get residents and visitors in the mood for the 2017 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Cresta Run // cresta-run.com
When British tourists of yore were looking for ways to amuse themselves, they created an icy chute from the natural slope to the neighboring hamlet of Celerina. Today, the Cresta Run is operated by the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club, whose members still rocket down on skeleton toboggans at speeds nearing 80 mph, often in historical garb. Spectators cheer them on from the vintage clubhouse.
Olympia Bob Run // olympia-bobrun.ch
The Olympia Bob Run from St. Moritz to Celerina is the world’s oldest bobsled run and the only natural ice track that continues to host international races. The adventurous can experience the thrill for themselves on a guest ride. Safely seated between the pilot and brakeman, novices enjoy speeds up to 85 mph and forces up to 4g.