The mountain ski resort of St Moritz in Switzerland has long been the glitziest of Alpine destinations, known for its scenic slopes, ultra-luxe hotels and prestigious polo tournament. A playground for the rich and fabulous, the iconic ski destination has played host to everyone from Jackie Kennedy and the Swedish Royal Family to Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer. With the Snow Polo World Cup taking place from 28 January 2022, there’s never been a better time to visit. Here’s our guide to the glittering Alpine jewel of St Moritz in Switzerland.
“Undoubtedly St Moritz is the most chic resort in the world,” reported Vogue back in 1928, when the Swiss mountain town played host to the first ever winter Olympics. It’s a reputation that has endured. Heralded as the birthplace of Alpine snow sports, St Moritz is the most storied ski resort in Europe, sitting astride a fairy tale frozen lake, encircled by the snow-capped Engadin mountains. It is, in essence, an ultra-luxe winter playground. Immaculately clad skiers come here not only for the excellent skiing, but also the world-renowned Cresta Run, a natural toboggan track on which sleds can typically hit a death-defying 85mph.
They also come for another spectacular event – the Snow Polo World Cup, an annual tournament, which sees 25,000 spectators descend on the frozen Lake St Moritz to witness one of the most glamorous events in polo’s sporting calendar. While the first polo tournament on snow took place here in 1985 in a blizzard, snow polo has since been adopted around the world. And yet the St Moritz tournament remains the most prestigious, fetching the highest prize money and attracting the most elite players.
In the lead up to the competition, an endless stream of private jets descends onto St Moritz’s runway, bringing wealthy weekenders in for the matches. Amongst them are the ponies, who are flown in a few days early to adjust to the altitude (St Moritz is 1,820 metres above sea level), along with their perennially bronzed riders.
The event ensures St Moritz retains its stylish crown. Indeed, a quick glance around the VIP confirms it – an abundance of Chanel and Moncler ski gear swirls amidst a sea of Champagne. When I visited in January last year (and the world had yet to be shaken by a global pandemic) it was a lesson in decadence. And, while the Polo World Cup is going ahead this season, like most international events, it’s likely to be a more subdued affair.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still plenty of flair to be found each winter in this stylish resort, especially for those staying at Suvretta House, the five-star hillside hotel and grande dame of St Moritz’s accommodation. I pulled up at its doors in a racing-green vintage Ford van that was sent to collect me from the station (I’d taken the train from Zurich airport) – a vehicle with a distinctly Wes Anderson vibe that sets the tone for the hotel.
Built in 1911 by pioneering hotelier Anton Sebastian Bon, Suvretta House is a love letter to old-school glamour. With its whimsical turrets and sunny outdoor terrace complete with fluffy sheepskin on the chairs, the hotel feels like a refined country club that grandparents would bring their family to as a treat – cosy enough to feel welcoming, yet undoubtedly an extravagance. Downstairs is cavernous yet comfortable, with polished oak panelling and huge armchairs, from which you get a perfect vantage point out through the triple-height windows swathed in heavy velvet curtains on to the majestic mountains beyond.
I take up residence in just such a spot for afternoon tea next to a Balenciaga-clad mother and her adult son. The two of them are marvelling at the haul their personal shopper has procured for them at St Moritz’s boutiques – a mixture of Bond Street brands, designer athleisure emporiums and carefully curated concept stores. “You got me at Koenig chocolates!” swoons the mother. “We didn’t have time to get any last year!”
Like many of the guests, these two are regulars and are greeted by white-gloved staff like family. It’s easy to see why you’d return. As well as the flawless service, the expansive spa is exceptional. Holistic treatments in The Swiss CellSpa Experience use Cellcosmet and Ilā, covering off everything from vitality massages to anti-ageing facials. Afterwards, wallow in the 25-metre pool or outdoor hot tub with 360-degreeviews of alpine landscape. My hour-long Kundalini Back Treatment was a gentle, nurturing massage designed to activate my chakras and realign my body’s rhythm and balance. It’s as soothing mentally as it is physically after a full day’s skiing.
With a spa this luxuriously expansive, you could easily justify a stay at Suvretta for a weekend dedicated to pampering alone. But since the hotel is practically ski-in, ski out (a lift takes you directly to the slopes), and even offers its own private nursery slope for beginners, you’d be hard pressed to resist the call of the mountain. What’s more, Suvretta also has its own extensive private ski hire shop, packed not only with an impressive range of kit, but also an army of infinitely patient instructors and guides to help you navigate the slopes.
As for St Moritz itself, the 350 kilometres of pistes are perfect for beginners and intermediates, with plenty of wide, enticing slopes for cruising around from sunny terrace to terrace. The highlight of these is the slick, glass structure of Audi’s Quattro Bar, which sits in a conveniently alluring spot next to Corviglia station. After all, St Moritz is equally as geared towards leisurely lunchers as it is to hardcore powder bunnies.
The Quattro Bar is where we end up at the end of our snow-based sightseeing tour, courtesy of our Suvretta guide, Zuppi. As well as navigating the resort’s slopes, we take in the breath-taking views down to the lake, and we also ski past St Moritz’s most expensive house – a seven-floor mansion featuring 35ft floor-to-ceiling windows, a subterranean pool lit by Swarovski crystal lights and a spa, said to be worth an eye-watering £134m.
While it would be easy to write off the resort as a bit flashy and full of itself, the overriding feeling is one of elegant, bygone glamour. After all, historic Suvretta has welcomed the likes of Evita Perón, Jackie and John F. Kennedy and the Shah of Persia through its doors. This vibe is perfectly captured at the Grand Restaurant – the hotel’s main dining space with its soft lighting, grandiose carved oak columns and elaborate ceiling. Here, it’s quintessential silver service all the way, with penguin-suited waiters pushing around rickety cheese-trolleys laden with fulsome fromage. The crowd here are older, enticed equally by the classic French fine dining experience (men are required to wear a suit and tie) as by the food itself. On the menu you’ll find caviar rock lobster salads and truffle risotto – the kind of dishes that hold their own in a resort where one in ten of the restaurants has a world-class rating.
Downstairs, Suvretta Stube is a different story. It’s the place to come for traditional fondue and raclette, served in a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere. Here diners dress down and eat up, as serving after serving of cheese appears. It’s the kind of fare that lends itself to gluttony, making the seat in the old-fashioned elevator up to the rooms even more welcome. Suites here are palatial, complete with sumptuous interiors and picture-postcard panoramas. Mine looks out across the fir canopy towards the snow-capped peaks. No wonder then that the hotel’s name means ‘house above the woods’– Suvretta’s elevated location is matched only by its equally elevated sense of style.
The 2022 Snow Polo World Cup will take place 28 – 30 January 2022