Seated on the banquette next to a stylish woman of a certain age, I asked: “How long have you been coming to the “>Kulm?”
“Oh, my dear,â€? she replied with a twinkle in her eye, “Why, we’ve been visiting here for the past 45 years.”
Mingling with other (mostly veteran) guests at the champagne cocktail party graciously hosted by hotelier and General Manager Dominique Godat and his attractive wife, I learned that the Kulm has served as a home away for home to a well-heeled and gentile crowd since the end of the 19th century.
In winter, the high season, fit grannies and gramps come with their extended families to ski, while the stylish set, looking to vacation in a setting that affords them the opportunity to show-off a new fur wrap each evening, swarm the spa, designer boutiques and restaurants of uber-chic St. Moritz. For five-star lodging, gourmet meals, professional yet friendly service and gorgeous grounds, those in the
know, opt for the sophisticated warmth of the Kulm.
A Bit of History:
The hotelâ€™s original fame was as a chic summer resort catering to “up market Brits”, however it was virtually ignored during the winter months. So in 1864, the Kulm’s founding father, Johannes Badrutt, made a daring marketing challenge.
He bet that vacationing guests would find the sunny winter weather in St. Moritz so far preferable to rainy, cold England that anyone who stayed and disagreed would not be charged a cent for their lodging. The guests came; he won the wager, and so began St. Moritz and the Kulm’s foray into the wide world of winter sports.
Pick your Favorite Season:
The amazing Swiss Alps offer the active winter traveler a plethora of activities: skiing, sledding, skating and bobsledding are just a few.
Warm weather gives over to rock climbing, rappelling, hydro speed racing, cross bow shooting while hiking, biking, and invigorating park walks are a blast year round. Truly, there is something for everyone -even if you are of the mindset to do little more than appreciate the breathtaking views
of Lake St Moritz topped by lush green mountains sporting their white snowy caps while debating the merits of a sunrise versus sunset photo-op.
The Hotel Kulm’s Panorama Spa is just one big pleasure palace of pampering. Thereâ€™s nothing like pumping-iron looking out over the Alpine mountains, while my sister leisurely swam laps in the sparkling glass enclosed pool. Classes, top exercise equipment, Jacuzziâ€™s, saltwater grotto, caldarium with essential oils, steam rooms and sauna are all available at no charge to hotel guests. Services at additional cost include a Thalasso treatment, body wrap, sport or hydro massage- sure to be most welcome after a tough day on the slopes. I even read about an amoeba shaped â€˜alpha-relaxationâ€? pod that is supposed to â€œrelease energy while stimulating creativityâ€? which sounded tempting.
The first night we opted for a casual supper in the cozy trattoria. The wood burning oven turned out a pizza that was as good as any we’ve had in Italy. The oven also produced a deliciously smoky rendition of branzino, the local fish. A regional white wine, suggested by amiable Maitre’ D. Massimo was fittingly crisp and clean-the bottle went down too easily, but hey, just an elevator away was our elegant, yet exceedingly comfy, maroon and gold striped room-with romantic views of Lake St. Moritz.
The following night we opted to join the â€œjacket and tieâ€? crowd at the opulent Le Grand Restaurant, for a beautifully presented six-course meal, that is included in the half-board. We nodded to a member of the bridge group we had watched professionally shuffling in the hotel’s card room earlier. An expensively bejeweled older, woman who (wink-wink) still had a youthful face, was dining with her blond bombshell much younger ward, a sixty-ish couple who appeared to be still madly in love sat across the room, romantically toasting one another with each glass of wine, and an artsy-looking man and woman styled out in a multitude of black layering, both wearing dark glasses, rounded out the mix. In lesser hands, the service in such elegant surroundings could have been stuffy, however the maitreâ€™d had us laughing as he comically corrected my sister’s horrible attempt at ordering her meal â€œen francaise. â€œ
Movers and Shakers:
The next morning, fortified by our scrumptious buffet breakfast, (we loved Kulm’s mini-croissants sized so one can devour two of the babies, plain or whole grain sans guilt, we decided it was time for a little exploring. First an hour train ride to Pontresina, a typical bright and sunny Engadine village. We boarded the ten minute aerial cable car which whisked us up, up, up to the cold, grey Corsvatsch Glacier, where many adventurers, took their walking poles and set off in every direction.
Too chilly for us, we decided to pop off the train mid-way and walk back to St. Moritz. We passed a number of tiny villages nestled alongside flower filled fields, all the while breathing in that good, clean air.
On the road fellow outdoor enthusiasts nodded in greeting; we passed bikers, dog walkers, horse-drawn carriages, couples, families with kids, all quietly conversing, with nary a head set or cell phone to be seen. Evidently, physical activity is a way of life for the Swiss, where everyone seemed to enjoy both being surrounded by nature and their families.
Forty -five minutes more and we had walked round Lake St. Moritz and reached the posh downtown area. Dispersed among the many floristâ€™s with ornate window displays were the King pins of fashion–Escada, Armani, Gucci, Prada and the rest of the along with several small banking centers.
Drat– I forgot my private Swiss bank account ATM card!
Climbing the semi-steep hill back to the Kulm, we arrived ready for a quick change of clothes and a cocktail. I can only imagine how tickled founder Johannes Badrutt would be by the cutting edge video art installations on display in the lobby. Clearly the Bill Gates of his time, Badrutt had been the first to install electric lamps in Switzerland, in 1878 as well as telephones, water closets, hydraulic lifts and hot-air heating!
The Kulm’s legacy as a stately lodging for family and friends remains intact. Monsieur Badrutt would likely be gratified to know that his hotel is still holding its place: seamlessly blending today’s modernity with yesterday’s grace – a solid, worthy, and confident candidate for a sixth star!
Five Small Pleasures:
1. The Hotel Kulm’s black limousine that meets guests at the train station.
2. The gorgeous orchids in every guest room.
3. The staff who instantly makes you feel like a hotel “regular.”
4. The hotelâ€™s private (9 holes) golf course.
5. The hotelâ€™s grassy knoll perched high over St Mortiz-the perfect spot to relax, read, or just daydream about a return visit.
For more details:
Visit www.kulmhotel-stmoritz.ch or
By Vagablond’s Token Redhead.