November/December  2005 



In summer, St. Moritz is beautiful; in winter, the legendary Swiss resort becomes a magical place, a picture-postcard vision frosted with ice and dusted with snow.

Back in the late 19th century, however, wealthy tourists wouldn’t dream of vacationing in the mountains after the summer season ended. That changed in 1864, when hotelier Johannes Badrutt made a bet with four British summer guests who disbelieved his claim that winter in the Upper Engadine was beautiful. Bardrutt invited the skeptics to return at Christmas time and stay as long as they liked as his guests. If he was wrong about the beauty of St. Moritz in winter, he would pay their travel expenses.

stmoritz-1The four guests returned, bringing along friends and family—and found a place where the sun shone brightly on the snow and where it was possible to go outside wearing light clothing. The happy company stayed until Easter (after volunteering to pay their own expenses), returned home and told everyone they knew about the wonders of St. Moritz during the “white season.” Soon the resort became a popular winter gathering place not only for the rich, but also the famous, including the royals of Europe and Hollywood.

The healing mineral springs of St. Moritz had been known for centuries; in 1519, Pope Leo X promised absolution for every Christian who came to the spa of St. Moritz. But it was Badrutt who led the way in launching the winter season and attracting the kind of visitors who could afford to holiday anywhere in the world.

Today St. Moritz has a number of grand hotels that offer discreet luxury, impeccable service, fine food and first-rate spa services. In summer, it’s possible to enjoy many outdoor sports activities: windsurfing, sailing, tennis, riding, golf, river rafting on the Inn, hiking, mountain biking and more. In winter, there is superb skiing (both Alpine and cross-country), as well as snowboarding, curling, sleigh-riding, ice-skating, toboggan and bobsled rides, winter golf, horse races and greyhound races.

I visited (briefly, alas)  three of St. Moritz’s splendid historic hotels, where single rooms start at about $300 and doubles, about $500 (rates include lavish breakfast buffets). However, packages and specials are offered at various times of the year, so it’s always wise to check the hotel websites. Note that these hotels close in the fall and re-open early or mid-December for the start of the winter season.

stmoritz-badruttJohan Badrutt’s hotel is now Badrutt’s Palace, a Rosewood resort and a member of Leading Hotels of the World. Situated amid breathtakingly beautiful and unspoiled scenery, yet still in the center of St. Moritz, the hotel indeed resembles the palace of a great nobleman. There are 165 guest rooms and 30 suites with stunning views of the Swiss Alps. Though celebrities are no novelty in St. Moritz, Badrutt’s has probably had more than its share: the late shah of Iran, Aristotle Onassis, Greta Garbo and Rita Hayworth; more recently, Hugh Grant, George Clooney and  Rupert Everett. Badrutt’s famous and dapper bartender, Mario (who resembles Claude Rains) has spent 40 years serving the rich and famous—and if he has a moment, he’ll share an anecdote or two.

The property has seven restaurants (special diet and low-calorie dishes are available for guests on a meal plan), including a Nobu (established by the famous Japanese chef, Nobu Matsuhisa), four bars and two members-only clubs, the Club Privé and the Corviglia Ski Club.

Most of the resorts here have some sort of children’s play area; Badrutt’s has a triplex hangout, where the children of affluent parents can watch movies, take cooking or baking classes or engage in theme activities (Harry Potter, etc.).

Adults can play, too, in one of the inviting pools or relax in a whirlpool, a steam bath or the solarium.

The Daniela Steiner spa, which opened in December 2000, is managed by Barbara Webhofer; it’s a pristine and relaxing oasis where soft music and candlelight set the stage for the first-rate work that follows. The thoughtful menu includes face and body care, as well as nail and hair removal services (with beeswax).

I tried the Luxury Facial (190 Swiss Francs for one hour), which included a super hydration mask, a toning and balancing mask and a massage with cold spoons (for energizing). My second treatment was a Classic Body Massage (150 Swiss Francs for 55 minutes) with aroma essence and sunflower oil. The technique was basic Swedish, which is a favorite of mine; this massage included deep work as needed, on my shoulders and back. The result: total relaxation.

In addition to the regular menu, the spa offers custom packages.

Badrutt's Palace Hotel
800-223-6800 in the U.S.

stmoritz-kulmThe 180-room five-star Kulm Hotel grew from the small Pension Fuller, purchased in 1856 by Johannes Badrutt (yes, the same Badrutt mentioned above) and now comprises three buildings which house three restaurants with international cuisine, as well as the Canopy Bar and the Sunny Bar.

The grand hotel’s first claim to fame was that it installed the first electric light in Switzerland (in 1878). Since then the Kulm has had many reasons to be proud: its guests have included royals from Europe and Asia, lords and ladies, assorted presidents and various princes of industry. The Kulm was the center of the Olympic winter games in 1928 and 1948.

In recent years, substantial investments have been made to renovate and improve the hotel. One of the property’s unique features is the private ice skating rink, located at the Kulm Park entrance. Guests may skate there or take lessons.

The facilities at the 15,000-square-foot Panorama Spa and Health Club have stunning views of mountain and lake scenery. In winter, the windows surrounding the 25-meter swimming pool and whirlpool overlook a veritable snowy wonderland. There’s also a salt-water grotto, steam room, fitness center and caldarium (similar to a sauna but with more humidity and less heat). A private sauna can be rented by guests for their exclusive use.

Most of the spa’s treatment rooms have natural daylight. Among the featured options are thalasso therapies and various massage modalities; La Stone Therapy is a popular option.

The Carita Beauty Farm is also located here, with a menu that includes facial treatments, manicures and pedicures, makeup and other services. Carita products are used for facials, while the 100% natural Decléor products are used for both face and body treatments.
At Carita, I had an exceptional Classic Facial (110 Swiss Francs), which started with a sunflower seed exfoliation. Though my esthetician Christina massaged the product into my skin, there was no irritation. She also massaged in the hydrating and firming mask for deeper penetration. While that was doing its job, Christine worked my neglected hands and feet; she offered to give me a hair and scalp massage as well, but since I had an appointment to keep, I reluctantly had to pass.

The Fitness program, known as Champ Health&Fitness ABC® is headed by Ronnie Leitgeb, who has been captain of Austria’s Davis Cup team and coach and manager to tennis champions Thomas Muster and Andrea Gaudenzi. Guests are offered a program of sports activities to promote their personal health in the ABC areas (Agility, Balance, Creativity). In addition, general fitness classes are also offered.

Kulm Hotel
Telephone: +41 (0)81 836 80 00

stmoritz-dammerungThe Kempinski Grand Hôtel des Bains is a classic turn of the century 5-star property with 184 rooms and suites. Originally built in 1864 as the first hotel in St. Moritz at the source of the "Mauritius Springs," it was completely renovated in 2002. Though it retains its classic elegance, it now has all the “mod cons” that today’s discerning travelers require.

The rooms, all of which have mountain views, are done with modern Art Deco style furnishings; some have balconies. Bathrooms have tubs and showers, ground heating and towel heating. There is high speed Internet access as well as cable television.

The facilities at the Kempinski include 3 award-winning restaurants: Les Saisons (with 14 Gault Millau Points) for international cuisine; the Italian Gourmet restaurant Ca d'Oro (with 15 Gault Millau Points) and the Enoteca, the hotel's lifestyle restaurant and bar. The Kempinski Bar and Lobby for snacks and cocktails often has live music entertainment. Like the other properties, the hotels has a children’s facility, the "Kids Club," which offers supervised activities for children 3 months and older.

Among the recent additions/renovations is a sumptuous indoor pool and a spa that includes several saunas, a steam room, a Kneip area, an aroma grotto (with twinkling stars), relaxation rooms, a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment and a beauty salon.

The spa, which is complimentary for guests, also offers memberships to non-guests. It has a treatment menu that’s extensive and multi-layered--because several top skin and body care lines are used: Ligne St. Barth, Maria Galland, Alpienne and Soglio. Each line has its own set of specialty treatments. For example, facials use Maria Galland products or those by Ligne St. Barth; the same is true of body peeling and other body treatments.

stmoritz-kemp-gymI sampled the Sea Salt Peeling with natural oils (110 Swiss Francs for 30 minutes) followed by the 25-minute Swedish massage (75 Swiss Francs). My therapist was particularly sensitive to my sensitive areas, exfoliating gently in some spots and briskly in others. The same was true for the massage. No matter how often I get a good Swedish massage, I can always use a little deeper work in the neck and shoulder area, and that is exactly what I received. When I adjourned to the relaxation area, my skin was very soft, with just a lingering hint of the oil—and I could easily have succumbed to the urge to sleep.

In addition to treatments for men, there are some interesting packages. The Spa Menu Pure Relaxation (380 Swiss Francs) takes place over two days; day one begins with a recreation bath with a wellness cocktail followed by an alumina pack with a peeling and a relaxing massage to tighten the connective tissues; day two includes a traditional Hawaiian full body massage (Lomi Lomi Nui) and a tropical wellness cocktail. The Effect Beauty Package (430 Swiss francs) also takes place over two days; day one includes a classic facial with a Thalasso or Cocon masque, an eye-to-mouth modelage and an arm treatment; day two includes a Maria Galland Modelage and eyelash and brow tinting.

Kempinski Grand Hôtel des Bains St. Moritz
Tel: +41 81 838 38 38

At this writing $1 equals 1.26 Swiss francs.




© 2004-2006 Worldwide Spa Review Magazine