My parents had Swiss friends who had a vacation house near St. Moritz. They would visit from time to time. Alas, they never brought along their kids. My impression was that St. Moritz was an expensive place, built around rich people and celebrities. Not the kind of place we tend to enjoy; we don’t want to get that dressed up.
But the circuit of panoramic trains passes through St. Moritz. Our travel agent had initially included an overnight stop there, between the Bernina Pass and Glacier Express trains. Just as we had been about to finalize the itinerary with the travel agent, we calculated that we could add one more day to our train vacation. The travel agent suggested that we add that day in St. Moritz. She said that we might be there for the fall colors. Alas, no fall colors; but a splendid mountain day above the village of St. Moritz.
Early October is definitely the shoulder season. The grand resorts of St. Moritz were all closed. Little signs on their gates said that they would reopen for the winter season at the end of November / beginning of December. The shopping streets, lined with the predictable Chanel, Prada, Hermès, Gucci and on and on, were almost deserted. Anyone who is someone just wouldn’t be in St. Moritz in October. But we (who are someones, yes?) were.
Our hotel, family-owned for a few generations, was homey and attractive, and the staff were very nice and helpful. When we asked for advice about how to enjoy our full day in the region, they presented us with local transit passes. All the funicular trains, gondola cable cars, and local buses were free to us. We encountered this perk in other Swiss destinations. What a generous and welcoming custom to make exploring the region friction-free.
Our hotel helper recommended a two-mountain day. Morning up to Piz Nair, directly above the village. Afternoon up to Muottas Muragl, to the north.
The accessibility of these mountain tops was so easy. We walked just a few blocks through the town to the base of the funicular train up to a way-station on the way to Piz Nair (3,057 m / 10,030 ft altitude). At the Corviglia ski station, we transferred to the gondola cable car to the top.
We learned from Wikipedia that this mountain hosted the alpine skiing events for the 1948 Winter Olympics in neighboring St. Moritz. It also hosted the World Championships in 1934, 1974, 2003 and 2017.
Only at the very top did any snow greet us. As well as absolutely stunning views of alpine peaks all around us, and the lakes in the valley below.
We were so happy that we weren’t in a hurry. We could stroll around, take way too many photos, and just drink in these mountain and sky views. When we arrived, in late morning, it was sunny but a little cloudy too. As the day progressed and the sun migrated, the clouds departed. The air was cool but the sun was warm.
The cablecar station includes a restaurant with an open terrace. We sat in the sun there for a while, just being with the views. That led to a beer, which led to a lunch of sausage and rösti (like crispy hash browns). And these splendid alpine views.
Eventually, we tore ourselves away. As we returned to the cable car, we discovered yet another stunning vantage. (Note the wall of solar panels: excellent!)
Back down the mountain and to the village. Across from the funicular station, we caught the bus to the base of Muottas Muragl — which we had seen from Piz Nair.
A bit of history:
Over a century ago, the funicular railway Muottas Muragl rattled its way up the perilously steep mountainside for the first time. It had to overcome a distance of 2,201 metres and a gradient of 56% before it reached the summit at 2,456 metres above sea level. The journey quite literally took the passengers’ breath away – not least due to the spectacular panoramic scenery. Thanks to courageous pioneers, to this day we have been able to ascend to this “Seat of the Gods” without sweat on our brow or blisters on our feet and to enjoy la dolce vista.
Another delightful ascent, through forests up to the realm of the snowy peaks.
We walked along a few trails just above the hotel.
As the sun set over the valley in front of us…
…the moon rose.
After the sun set, the air turned sharply colder. We warmed ourselves with a cocktail. But after it had grown very dark, we descended the mountain on the funicular.
At the base, we waited in the dark for quite a while for our town bus back into St. Moritz. It felt like we were all alone along a deserted highway. We stood under the stars, telling each other stories from the books we were reading.
(By the way, in 1928 the snow rabbit had its first appearance, as the official mascot for the Olympic Winter Games which were held in St.Moritz. It was replaced by a sun symbol in the 1930s. But we like it more.)