UK / Europe

Off piste but still up the creek

250220081011 - Lunchmag

OK I’m not going to lie to you. I drink a fair bit. Which is how I got into a spot of bother in St Moritz.

Nothing to do with the hotel I’m reviewing mind, which is fantastic by the way and I spent many, many happy hours ensconced in the Piano Bar telling yarns about my skiing prowess, each tale taller than the last. Wait a minute: you two swap places.

No how it happened was this.

I like to ski in places below the tree line. Australia is especially great for that.

To duck behind a gum tree at an opportune time and ski away, leaving nothing but a hole in the snow is one of the supreme pleasures of being in God’s chintzy outdoors in the first place.

Sadly on this particular hungover morn I was miles up, having caught a vernicular up to the tippy tippy top on the Swiss Alps.

After a while hydraulic pressure caught up with me, and, there being no trees in the vicinity I decided to ski under the rope and over a small ridge, off-piste as it were.

As I was minding my own business doing what men have been doing for thousands of years, there was an ominous crack. The snow beneath me gave way and I fell about 2m into a creek bed.

There I was, in an ice cave, up to my waist in frozen running water my 176cm Rossignol carvers crunching on jagged subterranean rocks.

Needless to say, when I finally dug myself out I needed a beer like no tongue can tell.

A sauna at the Crystal after a day’s skiing in soaked gear is the best cure for incipient frostbite that I know.

The Crystal is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World brand, is in the heart of town and a very short walk to all the best hangouts.

Or you can do as I did, and after drying off, giving my hair a going over with a bug rake and some minor detailing, head to the piano bar.

I go to the Crystal for its five-star service at a four star-price, and I keep coming back for the food, friendly staff and authentic ski-lodge feel.

My first day on the slopes and two cable car rides gets me to over 3000m to the top of Piz Corvatsch. From there, there are plenty of choices on a mountain that frankly flatters my skiing abilities. I ski down a red run on the mighty Corvatsch glacier.

The first thing I notice is how much easier the turns are in my light powder Rossignols (this is before the rock crunching incident).

Either all the work I did in the sweating place (gymnasium ) paid off, or there have been some changes to skiing technology.

Maybe it’s the altitude, but all too soon it’s time to find a bar, a beer and a bowl of steaming fondue. I ski to a restaurant near Corvatsch Mittelstation and order an icy cold litre of Swiss Calanda beer to take the edge off my thirst. And a bottle of Primitivo Italian red to go with the fondue. I insist on some cured meats and a hot dog or two to dip into the fondue – like I’m going to sit there and eat bread and cheese without meat.

Some more skiing on some of the finest runs in Europe (always strangely drawn back to the restaurant at Corvatsch for more refreshments) and it’s time to make my tired but sated way back to the Crystal for a shower, sauna, spa, rubdown and a lie down, and another shower and dinner in Crystal’s own restaurant.

Herr Marc Kilchenmann, Crystal’s general manager, urges me to order the line-caught sea bass. The restaurant has a different theme every night, and tonight it’s Italian. Executive chef Paolo Platin personally rubs the sea bass with lemon thyme. It’s baked, and so am I by this time, and served with asparagus and potatoes (the fish I mean, not me).

Italy is just to the south, and the hotel buys all its Mediterranean foods there.

I wash the sea bass down with a 2005 Venica sauvignon blanc, which is dry but fruity enough to take on the sea bass. Then it’s off to the hotel’s bar, where an Italian singer on the piano is happy to take my requests.

I share stories of my exploits on the slopes with my fellow guests, each tale more hair-raising than the last.

The Crystal has the friendliest staff you can find in St Moritz and the best location. They are also happy to organise transfers from the station if you choose to come on the train up from Chur.
My room has plenty of exposed timber, again for that ski lodge feel, a monster timber bed, heated towel rails and a huge balcony, with a view over the village, the slopes above, and it’s where I rest my beer (the forecast is for -5C tonight). There is also a dressing room in my room and a huge bath you could do laps in.

Barry Walker

Crystal St Moritz


Via Traunter Plazzas 1

7500 St. Moritz – SwitzerlandPhone : +41 – 81 836 26 26

Email: [email protected]

Share this article