Peak perfection in Switzerland

By Rachel Fletcher, June 6, 2008
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We sample a very special brand of pampering in St Moritz

 

Switzerland sparkles. Literally, in its snowy mountains, glaciers and lakes, and figuratively, in its cleanliness, all-round efficiency, vast potential for outdoor activities and fine chocolate. And if the Alpine heights are the jewel in Switzerland’s crown, another polished gem nestles in the Upper Engadine region, just two kilometers outside the elegant St Moritz — Suvretta House, five-star hotel with ski school, pool, outdoor whirlpool, full-service spa, gym, beauty and hair salons, tennis courts, golf driving range, children’s club, cocktail bar and enough options for outdoor activities to satisfy the most energetic holidaymaker, winter or summer.


Peak condition: Suvretta House in summer

 

Reaching the exclusive resort town of St Moritz is simple. Trains from Zurich’s main station are — as you would expect in Switzerland — reliable, clean, quiet and smooth. The famous Glacier Express offers spectacular views of forest streams, valleys and glaciers on the three-and-a-half hour journey. Alternatively, you can fly to Zurich or Milan, hire a car and do the journey in three hours.

However you travel, open the windows wide — the fresh Alpine air is a joy. As for this most glamorous and glitzy of towns, anywhere that has hosted Alfred Hitchcock, Greta Garbo, and Brigitte Bardot, and more recently the Prince of Wales, Claudia Schiffer and George Clooney, speaks for itself. Elegant streets lined with cafés boasting outdoor tables and ultra-smart shops make it the perfect place to watch the world go by. Hanselmann, the famous chocolatier, isn’t cheap but the hot chocolate is so thick and yummy, with a dish of whipped cream on the side, it is worth every Swiss franc.

To make a visit simple, a shuttle bus runs between the town and Suvretta House. The hotel, it almost goes without saying, is vast and luxurious, a perfect blend of Belle-Epoque grandness and 21st-century modernity. It is open from December to April for the winter-sport experience, and from June to September for the less well-known joys of summer amid the lakes and mountains.

In winter, the snowy Engadine encompasses the hotel, providing hundreds of kilometres of downhill runs, and 160 qualified instructors working Suvretta’s Snowsports School to ensure you are up to scratch on the pistes, on skis or snowboard. Adult novices should ignore the humiliation of being passed by groups of small children zooming expertly down the nursery slopes. Instead, focus on your own instructor, who will offer help and encouragement to learn an entirely new way of moving (and falling down). For the seriously nervous, there is an extra small nursery slope and even the ski clothing available for hire is designer, so you may fall flat but you’ll look glamorous doing so.

If skiing isn’t for you, you can walk on one of the almost endless number of routes from Suvretta over the surrounding mountains, through endless sparkling snow. Ice-skating — with or without professional instructors — curling, horseracing on a frozen lake and bob-sleighing are other options. In summer, as well as hiking through flower-strewn meadows and over mountains, there is windsurfing, sailing, horse-riding, tennis, golf, canoeing, gliding and mountain-biking, among other options.

If walking or skiing — or indeed, any of the other pursuits — has given you an appetite, Suvretta has three restaurants on adjacent mountain, all with outdoor terraces where you can bask in the fresh air and sunshine. Chamanna, which is largely used by skiers, is open only in the winter season and offers delicious, calorific fare which can be eaten guiltlessly by skiers. At the top Trutz — accessible via the Suvretta chairlift — offers formal lunches and light snacks, while Chasellas — possibly the most charming — has a rustic-themed interior, friendly staff and is open all day and evening, winter and summer. Suvretta caters well for families, offering a supervised kindergarten and a Teddy Club, with a special children’s menu available from 6 to 7.30pm In the evening, of course, you could hit bars, restaurants and nightclubs of St Moritz. But with dinner included in Suvretta House’s half-board tariff you probably won’t want to. Dinner, overseen by Chef Bernd Ackerman, is served in the elegant, wood-panelled Suvretta Grand Restaurant, with lake and mountain views, a formal dress code (and permitted fish and vegetarian options invariably featuring on the superb menu).

Alternatively, there is the less formal Suvretta-Stube which also offers good fish and veggie choices. There is also Anton’s Bar, named after hotel founder Anton Bon, which has nightly live music, smooth service and delicious canapés. Then again, instead of a pre-dinner cocktail, you could slip into a swimming costume and submerge yourself in the bubbling outdoor whirlpool bath and gaze at a dramatic Alpine sunset. Hardly a more perfect way to end the day. Unless George Clooney arrived to share the Jacuzzi…

Travel facts

Suvretta House (www.suvrettahouse.ch/en; 0041 818 363636), Via Chasellas 1, St Moritz, has rooms from 355 SF (£172) per person, per night, half-board. Special two-night summer packages from 515 SF (£249) per person, includes two gourmet dinners, one lunch in the Trutz mountain restaurant, unlimited use of facilities. Glacier Express (www.glacierexpress.ch; 0041 27 927 77 77)

    Last updated: 3:15pm, September 10 2008