The rich­ness of a St Moritz sum­mer

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KATY BALLS

Here’s a tip: when trav­el­ling to St Moritz, it’s best not to men­tion the name of your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion to the air­port porters, driv­ers or wait­ers who you en­counter on your jour­ney there. Such a slip, as I dis­cov­ered, will only lead to dis­ap­point­ment when you come to leave a tip (how­ever gen­er­ous the amount may be).

Once the star of Switzer­land’s win­ter tourism, St Moritz is the orig­i­nal alpine re­sort, of­fer­ing ski hol­i­days to the su­per-rich since 1864. But in re­cent decades the town’s sparkle has be­gun to fade, as it now has to com­pete with the likes of Klosters and Gs­taad for the cus­tom of roy­als, oli­garchs and glit­terati in the mar­ket for a cham­pag­ne­fu­elled snow break.

It has to be said that there aren’t many signs of hard­ship on show in the town, which boasts more designer shops per square me­tre than fon­due restau­rants. In win­ter, the pricey restau­rant chain Nobu opens a branch to ply vis­i­tors with black cod, while jet­set­ters work the ho­tel club cir­cuit by night. How­ever, if you can han­dle a week with­out th­ese lux­u­ries (and, granted, also mi­nus the snow), the mer­its of an off-sea­son stay dur­ing the sum­mer, when the town is half-de­serted, are plen­ti­ful — not least of all for a view of the moun­tains that isn’t ob­structed by a sea of designer-clad Rus­sians.

Get­ting there from Zurich, the pre­ferred mode of trans­port for the very rich is pri­vate he­li­copter. Less ex­alted trav­ellers have the op­tion of ar­riv­ing by Euro­pean rail. My train of­fered some­thing a sky ride couldn’t — an im­promptu con­cert from a throng of Swiss na­tion­als en route to a yo­delling fes­ti­val, dressed in tra­di­tional dirndls. A bit of early ap­plause on my part was greeted with gen­tle scold­ing from their choir­mas­ter; ap­par­ently the song of the moun­tains is sa­cred.

The last leg of the jour­ney, from Chur to St Moritz, nav­i­gates the moun­tains via a nar­row gauge carved through the rock. We munched on cheese baguettes as we were pulled up­wards. On ar­rival, we were greeted by the strong smell of pine trees, and the sight of rolling moun­tains paired with the sap­phire-blue Lake St Moritz. In win­ter, the lake be­comes an ice rink, but in low sea­son it is used for sail­ing. Those with less of a pen­chant for wa­ter can rent a bike and ex­plore the sur­round­ing tracks. Perched next to the lake lies one of the town’s old­est ho­tels, Badrutt’s Palace. It was here that Al­fred and Alma Hitch­cock hon­ey­mooned, and the grand build­ing is a re­minder of Euro­pean ho­tels of old. As you wan­der through the cor­ri­dors, you no­tice that there is a chair out­side ev­ery bed­room door. Why? For guests’ body­guards to sit watch on while their em­ploy­ers sleep, of course.

With my hum­ble en­tourage of one, I de­parted the palace and es­caped into the moun­tains. The chair­lifts op­er­ate through­out the year, and the off-sea­son pass is a bar­gain. Many ho­tels even of­fer it free with your stay. Spend a day ex­plor­ing the look­outs or vis­it­ing the Bre­gaglia Val­ley and see if you can re­sist try­ing out a yo­del of your very own. Trav­ellers who can tear them­selves away from the luxury of the town will find St Moritz’s real wealth is to be found up here in the clouds. • myswitzer­land.com

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