Think St. Moritz is only for the ski season? Stylist’s Hollie Richardson discovered that the Swiss mountains are just as exhilarating without the snow. This is especially true when the accommodation you’re staying in was the hotel of choice for Jackie and John F. Kennedy…
The hills are alive with the sounds of cow bells ringing, boat sails flapping and bottles of Bollinger popping. Only in Switzerland’s grand jewel, St. Moritz, are you privy to such a mountainous medley. The alpine resort is renowned for being a snowy playground for the rich and famous during the winter season, thanks to a dramatic landscape that has twice hosted the Winter Olympics. But St. Moritz is often overlooked in the off-peak summer months, despite there still being an exhilarating choice of mountain sports on offer and luxurious accommodation available at lower price points.
This isn’t your usual fly-and-flop summer break. It’s a holiday that encourages you to keep active by breathing in the pristine mountain air, using your body and engaging with locals. And, after working up an appetite each day, indulgent evenings of Swiss dining perfectly provide the well-deserved relaxation part. With five-star hotels like Suvretta House on hand to provide you with the right balance of activity and rest, you’re sure to leave a holiday in St. Moritz feeling stronger - just like I did.
Getting to St. Moritz from London
Flying to Zurich from London only takes around an hour, but the rest of the four-hour journey involves three train changes to get to St. Moritz. This might sound dreary, but watching the lakes, quaint villages and rolling hills flicker by through the windows is a relaxing Swiss welcome. In fact, the third train runs on the Rhaetian Railway UNESCO World Heritage site, making its way through helical tunnels and over viaducts as it climbs the Albula Valley towards St. Moritz.
Or, of course, you can always get there in 30 minutes from Zurich by taking a private jet, just like many of the regulars.
Suvretta House hotel in St. Moritz
Located in the upper Engandine on the Chasellas plateau in the serene Suvretta area, an adorable coach car waits to take guests to Suvretta House. Arriving at the region’s “Grand Dame of the Mountains”, the five-star hotel looks like something out of a Wes Anderson film, with its warm and welcoming characters.
Although I didn’t stay in the Presidential Suite - which Jackie and John F. Kennedy called home during their stay — I felt like alpine royalty in my deluxe junior suite. It included a huge wardrobe and changing area, a bathroom with a roomy tub and shower, a seriously plush couch and seating, and a desk to sit at while looking out over the mountains.
The hotel was opened by Anton Sebastian Bon in 1912 for guests who wanted to escape the ostentatious glitz and glam of the surrounding areas. Aiming to refresh spaces which haven’t been changed for over 20 years — yet retain the Art Deco period charm and authentic features — a recent refurbishment plan incorporates warming parquet flooring, hand crafted rugs, embroidered cushions, bespoke furniture, homely wallpapers, elegant colours and luxurious fabrics. Just admire the elegant elevators — complete with red leather seating and low lighting — to appreciate the hotel’s old school roots.
The hotel also boasts a large gym (which puts on various fitness classes throughout the day), a hairdressing salon, a sauna suite, a children’s club and private chair lift access to the mountains.
Summer activities in St. Mortiz
After fuelling up at the best hotel breakfast buffet of my life (with four types of honey), the first activity of my trip was hiking with a local guide. With more than 580km of hiking trails on the hotel’s doorstep, ranging from leisurely panoramic walks to more demanding mountain climbing tours, packing a pair of hiking shoes is an absolute must. If ever you needed an incentive to keep on going, the Trutz is a mountain restaurant waiting at the top with a sun terrace and plenty of much-needed white carbs to gorge on.
St. Moritz’s blue lakes are so clean and crystal clear that you can drink straight from them, apparently. But sailing is a far more exciting way of making the most of them. I went out with an instructor on Lake Mortiz and, although I fearfully clinged onto the side for a solid half hour, it was an exhilarating ride. The area is known for its legendary Majola wind, which sometimes reaches between three to six on the Beaufort Scale - providing perfect sailing conditions for beginners and the more experienced alike.
As a cyclist who battles the roads of central London on a daily basis, I enjoyed this activity the most. We mountain-biked around the lakes and through hills to the bohemian area of Sils im Engadin, overtaking horse-drawn carriages and stopping for a sugary tea along the way. Don’t worry about tackling uphill routes - e-bikes are on hand to give an extra turbo boost.
Tennis and swimming
Stay on site at the Suvretta and enjoy the panoramic views surrounding the hotel while playing a game of tennis or swimming some laps in the pool.
Restaurants and dining at Suvretta House
As a vegetarian, I was sceptical of how many meat-free options would appear on the fine-dining menus. Thankfully, the Swiss are also very into their cheese (not great news for vegans). At Chasellas Mountain Lodge, I enjoyed the creamiest risotto followed by a memorable creme brule that was personally recommended by the chef. One thing I learned is that dessert is so much more than just another course in St. Moritz. In fact, dessert at the Stube Restaurant the following night involved a pre-dessert iced mojito, a chocolate mousse from the silver trolley selection and an after-dinner selection of chocolates. On my last night, dining at The Grand Restaurant felt like joining Rose Dewitt Bukater and her first-class companions for dinner onboard the Titanic. It’s pure splendour and sophistication - a dining moment to treasure.
Anton’s Bar also provides a relaxing space for a cocktail and some nibbles. Named after the hotelier who founded Survretta House, it holds live music performances which guests are welcome to either dance the night away to or watch while sitting back with a drink in hand.
Shopping and spa treatments in St. Mortiz
Because this is a holiday that requires you to work muscles, a spa treatment should go on every itinerary. I certainly did not need to be asked twice. The “reinvigorating” full-body massage I had was one of the most generous acts of self-care I have been lucky enough to do. And, the designer boutiques in the hotel and in St. Mortiz town are another indulgent way of thanking yourself for a healthy and happy holiday. Even if you need to stick to window shopping, just like I did, it’s always nice to surround yourself with fine things.
I didn’t waste a single minute in St. Mortiz. Even when I wasn’t out and about making the most of the mountains, I didn’t once feel guilty about using the recovery time to fill up on the finest ingredients or relax by reading a book of Joan Didion essays with bottle of Bollinger in a salt-soaked bath. Everything felt well-deserved. St. Mortiz revived me from the zombie-like state that London can so easily and often leave me in.
The hills are alive, and so am I.
Summer rates at Suvretta House start from 410 CHF (currently approx. £347) in a Double Room Standard Mountain, per night, on a half board basis. For more information, visit www.suvrettahouse.com.
Images: Getty and Suvretta House