April 24, 2019

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36 Hours in St. Moritz

36 Hours in St. Moritz
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For a jolt of a joy ride, walk through the lovely spruce-lined knolls of Kulm park, past the iconic 1928 Olympic Stadium restored by artist Rolf Sachs as his private home, to the starting point of the fabled St. Moritz-Celerina bob run. Intrepid visitors can book a high-speed trip, equipped with little more than a sleigh and a helmet to hurdle down the ice of what’s billed as the world’s only naturally occurring bob trail. Bobsleds carry four passengers; up to two may be novices. The hefty 269-Swiss-franc ticket includes a celebratory pin and certificate and a glass of bubbly to take the edge off. Observing is free, and electrifying.

For snacks and hot chocolate, stop by the Kulm Country Club, a storied chalet recently remodeled by Norman Foster, a part-time St. Moritz resident who also designed the timber-shingled blob that is the Chesa Futura private residence (the most arrestingly contemporary architecture in town). The club overlooks the plein-air ice-skating rink in the Olympic Park, which offers skate rentals for 22 Swiss francs. It’s filled with contemporary furnishings and vintage relics of local sports: Wooden bobsleds line the ceiling, old ski poles mark the doors and black-and-white photos of St. Moritz’s Olympic competitions festoon the walls.

St. Moritz and the Engadin Valley that encompasses it have a long history of attracting artists and intellectuals — Friedrich Nietzsche, Alberto Giacometti, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse and Giovanni Segantini, among them. In recent years, that cultural legacy has flowered anew, with the openings of contemporary art venues like the Muzeum Susch, the Stalla Madulain, the artist Not Vital’s castle-turned-gallery and the art-filled Hotel Castell, all in the surrounding valley. A stroll around the town itself offers its own enlightening treats. Stop by the Segantini Museum before it closes in March for renovations to view the artist’s works, including his significant “Life, Nature and Death” triptych. In a sign of St. Moritz’s burgeoning importance in the art world, Hauser & Wirth opened with a Louise Bourgeois show in a three-story Via Serlas space in December.

There are several three- and four-star hotels that possess a fair amount of comfort and decorum, and cost a fraction of luxury lodgings. Built in 1875, the Hotel Reine Victoria retains some of the tasseled curtain and gilded charm of its Belle Époque origins; its relatively bargain-priced rooms start at 175 Swiss francs and include entrance to the neighboring Ovaverva bathhouse.

Airbnb can provide some relief off-peak, but on average, a one-bedroom apartment is still pricey, costing from 225 to 1,200 Swiss francs a night, with prices surging drastically during holiday weeks.

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