Location: St Moritz
Me watching documentaries, and learning about what the world has to offer, is dangerous. At least for my bank account. It was around December time when the BBC aired their Christmas Special of ‘Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby’, featuring the stunning Kulm Hotel. I had written in a previous post (click here) about how I never felt the need to go skiing, but after seeing this documentary and learning more about this wonderful hotel, I figured it’s now or never. I went on to run a quick search for good deals, and sure enough I stumbled across their ‘Ski Special’, which offered two nights at the Kulm on a half board basis, ski passes for two days and use of the ice skating rink. I was sold.
Next thing I know we had booked flights to Zurich and were on our way to our first ski adventure. St Moritz is a little bit out of the way. The best places to fly to are either Milan or Zurich, and then you can go on to make your way to St Moritz either by car or train. We flew into Zurich and rented a car, and the drive took about 3 hours overall. I believe it takes roughly the same amount of time from Milan. There is also the option of the train, which I hear is equally picturesque! And if you are wealthy beyond measure, you can fly your private jet into Engadine airport, which caters solely to private planes.
The drive was incredible. Once you get close to St Moritz, you’ll need to continue driving up the mountains which are covered in snow – everywhere was white and I felt like I was in a James Bond movie. In fact we had a compilation of 007 soundtracks playing in the background! After about three hours of driving through what felt like heaven, we pulled up at the historical Kulm Hotel.
It’s probably worth starting this blog post properly with a little bit of history on Engadine and the Kulm. Most importantly, it is birth place of winter holidays as we know them. It all started when Johannes Badrutt bought the the 12-bed ‘Pension Faller’ in St. Moritz, and upgraded it into a hotel with the name Engadiner Kulm (today’s Kulm Hotel). One evening, he was sitting by the fire with four English holiday guests and made what has now become an infamous bet. He spoke about the snow-covered winter idyllic of Engadine and how it has so much to offer. He encouraged his guests to return in December and promised that he would reimburse their travel expenses if they did not enjoy their winter holiday in Engadine. Needless to say, the guests stayed until Easter and returned to London to spread the word about the wonderful winter holiday they had in Engadine. Thus the concept of winter holidays was born.
In addition to all of this, Badrutt was fascinated by technical innovations and bought a lighting system at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair . He had a small power plant built near his hotel, and on July 18, 1879, the first electric arc lamps in Switzerland burned in the dining room of the Kulm Hotel.
Now that we’ve gone through the history of the Kulm, it’s time to actually check out what the hotel has to offer, and I wanted to make this really picture heavy, as we all know that there’s a thousand words to a picture. I believe that every great hotel is made by its staff, and the Kulm was no different. Of course, the Kulm offers five star luxury and the service has to match up to it. We drove up to the entrance of the hotel and were greeted by the doormen, who kindly took the keys to our car so that they could park it and take out all our luggage and ski wear. In the meantime, we were ushered to the front desk to check ourselves in. It was then that I heard the magic words that are so rare ‘ROOM UPGRADED’. We were over the moon and when we were handed the large, old fashioned key complete with navy key tassels, we were pretty excited to check it out.
We walked through the opulent yet cosy lobby, complete with fireplace and sweet little seating area with a stunning view of the lake. It is here that the Kulm serves afternoon tea to guests. Our room was in the old part of the hotel, which also happens to be where the presidential suite is located. The rooms are classic and contemporary and approximately half are newly renovated in alpine chic style by the famous interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. The other half remains classic, with darker colors and a lot of local Swiss pinewood.
Aside from the beautiful rooms, the Kulm has one of the most spectacular pool and spa areas I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. It has all the standard things you would want in a luxury hotel spa such as sauna, steam room (clothed and not clothed!) and a lovely large indoor pool. That being said, what it has that other hotels do not is the most spectacular outdoor pool that is heated to 35C. It was such an incredible feeling to be swimming
outdoors in -17C, yet to feel so warm! Nothing better after a day of being freezing up in the mountains. The hotel also has a gym which overlooks this pool, as well as the lake and mountains. You can just about catch a glimpse of it here in the second picture.
Aside from the skiing, there are a whole host of activities that guests can enjoy. Right next to the hotel is the Kulm Country Club – the spot where medal ceremonies during the Winter Olympics of 1928 and 1948 took place. Nowadays, this is a huge skating rink that guests are able to use free of charge. There is also a curling field!
If you don’t know what that is, best google it. I only learnt that this was a sport in the last couple of years or so. That being said, if winter sports are not really your thing, why not check out the Kulm’s nine hole golf course – again, free of charge for guests.
Last but not least, no hotel would be complete without a selection of restaurants that serve world class food. A buffet breakfast is served every morning at the Grand Restaurant, an exquisite dining room which doubles as a great place for an evening meal. Men are required to wear jackets for dinner – any excuse to dress up! We also dined at Sunny Bar, a Peruvian restaurant with sumptuous food. One thing I never had a problem with was food. I am strictly gluten, dairy and meat free, and was always able to eat well – which is not always the case. Sunny Bar was fantastic as chef Claudia Canessa is coeliac herself, therefore does not cook with gluten and uses very little to no dairy in most of her dishes! Click here to find out about the rest of the hotel’s amazing eateries – it’s unfortunate that I was only there for 2 nights, as I would have loved to try the rest of them!
So if you are looking to have your first ski adventure and are looking for somewhere lush, St Moritz, and specifically the Kulm should definitely be on your list of candidates – from the powdery snow, to wide and spacious slopes for skiing, to sheer luxury at the hotels. Why not stay at the place where it all began, over 100 years ago!
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