Photos by Giovanni Levi Photography
For the 22/23 northern hemisphere winter season, I’m moved to St. Moritz, epicenter of the Engandin valley, a long high Alpine region in the eastern Swiss Alps, and a portion of the canton of Graubünden at the southeasternmost part of Switzerland.
My main goal was to ski in the Swiss Alps for the first time, and work as a ski instructor in one of the best ski schools in the world: the Schweizer Skischule St. Moritz (Swiss Ski School St. Moritz), or more commonly known as “The Red Legends”. This is the largest and oldest ski school in Switzerland. With a staff of approximately 350 ski instructors, it is a leading institution on its own.
St. Moritz, perhaps more than any other European ski resort, is associated with jet-set glamour and a luxury winter lifestyle. The train provides the most scenic & comfortable mode of travel to the area. But if you wish, you can come by private jet, and land on the highest altitude airport in Europe (the Samedan airport) with an elevation of 1,707 m / 5,600 ft.
Carving at the Muntanella black run, next to the funicular train rail in St. Moritz Corviglia’s resort.
St Moritz’s three separate ski areas of Corviglia, Corvatsch & Diavolezza-Lagalb offer different skiing experiences. All three are connected by bus and/or train, but sadly not through lifts. Corviglia is a piste skiers paradise directly above St. Moritz city. Accessed by four different points in the valley, it is a 155km sunny south-facing slopes heaven. Just in front of Corviglia, there is Corvatsch, a north-facing behemoth up to 3,303m & includes 120km of piste and a glacier in its terrain. It is more shaded and colder, and thus has excellent snow quality (particularly in springtime). It also has more terrain diversity than Corviglia. Diavolezza and Lagalb are 15 min away form St. Moriz. They are smaller resorts, but also less crowded, and a pleasure to ski them with the early morning sunrise.
Regarding snowfall that season was actually the worst in the last 20 years, as the locals have said to me. However, thanks to the extensive artificial snow system present in St. Moritz Resorts, the slopes were always covered and skiable.
As a side note, the climate change we are experiencing these days is undoubtedly something to worry about and to take immediate action. It is very interesting what the people of Protect Our Winters are doing. POW is a 501 nonprofit organization that focuses on law reform for environmental issues and civic engagement campaigns such as sharing news from climate scientists. The organization’s headquarters are located in Boulder, Colorado, United States. You can check them out (and support them) here.
One of the interesting findings for me was that the average skier (and/or guest of the ski school) in St. Moritz is kind of a higher level, compared to other ski resorts in the world. This is partially explained because of the lack of really intermediate terrain in St. Moritz. The blue slopes are actually steeper and more difficult than the blue squares found in the US ski resorts. For more information about ski slopes’ difficulty ratings check this blog post.
Carving the early morning corduroy at St. Moritz Corviglia’s. Note the small waves in the snow spray, coming from the ski tip and generated by the cutting of the freshly prepared corduroy snow surface. Isn’t skiing a real beauty?
There are almost no ski-in-ski-out hotels in St. Moritz, and you need to walk with your boots on to access most of the bottom lifts (funicular, gondolas, and trams) that take you to the middle part of the mountains where the majority of the skiing starts. Nevertheless, there are several 5-star hotels with great service that of course include private shuttles to those first lifts available for their guests at any time. From my perspective, the best hotels are definitely the Badrutt’s Palace, the Carlton and the Kulm. In exactly that order.
Ski School lessons
Even though St. Moritz has several different ski schools to choose from, the best ski school is (by far) the Swiss Ski School St. Moritz (AKA the Red Legends). This is actually the oldest and largest ski school in Switzerland. Yes, the very first one. It employs more than 350 professionally trained snowsports instructors from more than 14 nations, each of whom is on hand to ensure you enjoy your personal skiing, snowboarding or cross-country skiing experience to its full extent. It has stood for high-quality instruction in St. Moritz, Celerina, and Samedan since 1929. The professionalism and guest-oriented focus they offer are unbeatable. If you want the best of the best, look no more…
As advice, try to go for an early booking, because their instructors (though as many as they are) are very in demand, and get booked up very quickly, particularly for the high-season weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and the mid-February.
Also, I had the chance to be part of one of their two demo teams, and to train and compete in synchronized skiing events and national championships (like the Swiss Snow Happening) representing the school for that season. I must say it was a real honor for me and a very fulfilling experience to be able to train and learn from my amazing teammates, who are definitely at the pinnacle of the sport. Skiing is kind of an individual sport or activity in the strict aspect. One of the most beautiful things about synchronized skiing is that it turns this sport into a team sport. “Happiness only real when shared”…
Demo team training in an early morning on the St. Moritz Marguns’ black run…
When to go
If you are able to choose, I would’t recommend to go on Christmas and New Year’s, because it gets very crowded. The runs get completely covered up with people and that makes skiing tougher and more dangerous. The rest of the season is just perfect to go any time, but I would recommend January (after the first week), as the best time to go. Few people and great snow conditions. But beaware of the weather, it can get really cold and sometimes pretty windy on that month as well. Having said that, I must say that the best skiers ski any condition…
The views from the Engading Valley are just breathtaking. Something to enjoy at least once in your life.
Skiing in Switzerland is a must for any person who claims him or herself to be a serious skier. St. Moritz combines snowsport tradition, luxury lifestyle, and great skiing. Do you want to give it a try? I think you definitely should…
See you at the slopes!