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Special feature: Badrutt’s Palace, St. Moritz, Switzerland

From the moment you arrive at Badrutt’s Palace, you know you have come to somewhere special. After flying into Zurich last March and taking the train into ever more mountainous and snowy terrain, we were personally met at the station in St. Moritz – the birthplace of winter tourism in the Alps – and transferred by Rolls Royce to the hotel – a smooth and effortless transfer after a full day’s travel. The hotel is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Swiss Deluxe Hotels and Swiss Historic Hotels. It has 157 rooms, including 38 suites, and enjoy an impressive 75% repeat level of business from its guests, hailing mostly from 7 markets (Switzerland, Italy, Germany, UK, US, Middle East & Russia). We were warmly welcomed after our long journey and promptly shown to our rooms (207 and 208) overlooking St. Moritz lake.  Unlike many luxury hotels that would charge for extras, all rooms at Badrutt’s enjoy complimentary minbar, WiFi and movies. It was dark outside so we would have to wait until morning to admire the fabulous balcony view of the snow-covered, frozen lake and the surrounding mountains.  Just prior to our visit, this had been the stage for the St. Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow and the international White Turf horse race event. It was also a little late for us to be dining out with young children so we opted for room service before retiring to bed and preparing ourselves for the next day ahead – our first day of a luxury skiing family holiday. We are beginners when it comes to skiing but keen to introduce our two boys to the sport in the knowledge that it’s best to learn from a young age. And whilst St. Moritz perhaps isn’t renowned for its beginner slopes, it still proved to be a great place for us to learn. We got up promptly in order to be fitted with boots and skis (the Palace has its own ski store and fitting room) and then headed to Le Restaurant where breakfast is served each morning to the accompaniment of a live harpist.  This grand room doubles up as French haute cuisine restaurant in the evenings and can seat up to 300 people for special events and celebrations. After breakfast, we returned to the hotel ski store and met our instructors from Skischule St. Moritz (the oldest ski school in Switzerland) who kindly assisted us in getting to the slopes of Corviglia. Individual – rather than group – tuition is very much the order of the day in this area and, since adults and children tend to learn in a different way, we had one instructor for Mum and Dad, and one for our two boys. We learnt some of the basics over two days on the nursery slopes at Salastrains and, although we had separate instructors, we were able to oversee how our children were getting on, as they were learning (much more quickly!) close by. After getting to grips with the snow plough, we were soon doing (relatively) controlled turns.  Mum and Dad had done a tiny bit of skiing before – though very little, to be fair – whilst our two boys had done nothing more than an hour’s lesson on a dry ski slope back home.  But, despite our inexperience, we were able to successfully complete a blue run by the end of the first day. Back at the hotel, we took advantage of the hotel’s spa facilities – known as Palace Wellness – opened in the bedrock 6 floors below the hotel’s ground floor. This consists of a Treatment Centre with 10 treatment rooms (including two luxury spa suites), a Fitness Centre, a private sun terrace, outdoor tennis courts in the summer that doubles as an ice rink in the winter, the Kids’ Club Palazzino and an indoor swimming pool. The Palace Wellness also has an outdoor pool which we’d already noticed from our balcony. I know this is the kind of thing that often has environmentalists up in arms but it should be noted that Badrutt’s installed a pioneering heat pump back in December 2006, extracting water from the lake at 6°C and pumping it back down at 4°C, reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint by an impressive 1,200 tonnes per annum. This system also provides all the energy requirements for the school next door. In the evening – after sampling the St. Moritzino signature cocktail (consisting of vodka, Cointreau, almond syrup and lemon juice, and invented in 1978) at the Renaissance Bar in the Davidoff Lounge – we dined at Chesa Veglia, a beautiful building dating back to 1658 and one of the oldest farmhouses in St. Moritz. It houses the Pizzeria Heuboden (Italian pizzas and pasta), Grill Chadafö (French cuisine) and Patrizier Stuben (Swiss and international dishes). We went to the pizzeria where our boys were able to go into the kitchen and get involved in making their own pizzas. I had a prawn salad followed by their famous truffle pizza – very rich as you might expect, but equally delicious! Other dining options at Badrutt’s include Le Restaurant (mentioned above, serving international and French cuisine), NOBU (open in the winter and offering Japanese ingredient fused with Peruvian influences), Le Bistro (with a contemporary twist on French cuisine) and, most recently, La Diala, providing light Mediterranean salads and sandwiches in the Palace Wellness. Next day, having spent some time on the nursery slopes in the morning, we ventured up to Corviglia (2,468m) where we had lunch. Despite the altitude, here you’ll find a Champagne bar as well as one of the highest gourmet restuarants in Europe, La Marmite. There is also al fresco dining available at the sheltered terrace restaurant, Terrazza, spoiling skiers (and non-skiers who have just got ski passes so they can go for a lavish lunch with a view!) with truffle and caviar specialities. After lunch and a little more skiing, we ventured back to the Palace for one last dip in the pool.  Our stay had been a brief one, but definitely memorable.  Badrutt’s is a sophisticated and beautiful hotel in breath-taking scenery, with a grandeur and history to match.  It’s little wonder that the hotel, St. Moritz and the Engadin region as a whole has long since been a favourite with royalty, celebrities (the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock are among the hotel’s past guests) and the global elite. And, to help us remember our visit (as if we needed help), a parting gift went down very well with the little mouths in our party! Free ski pass with Badrutt’s Palace Hotel Please note that all guests, both in summer or winter, staying for two consecutive nights or more will receive a free ticket for all mountain railways, cable cars and public transport in St. Moritz for the duration of their stay. Dates for the winter season are 1st December 2012 to 1st April 2013. For the daily rates for 2012/2013, click here.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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