Learning to ski as an adult isn’t easy – but skiing’s not the only thing to do in St Moritz.
Words by Pendle Harte
When is it too late to learn to ski? Everyone knows that you should start young but when are you actually too old? Partly it’s just embarrassing. Especially when you’re in St Moritz, one of the world’s oldest and most luxurious ski resorts. Everyone here can ski, of course. Even if some of them prefer not to crease the luxe skiwear purchased from boutiques that make Bond Street look a bit low rent.
Because nothing about St Moritz is anything less than uber glamorous. We’re staying at the stylish Carlton Hotel, where people routinely order lobster (lobster in the alps!) and ask the concierge to book them “the most expensive activity, whatever it is” (it’s heli-skiing) and leave former Olympic champion ski instructors waiting for hours while they rethink their outfits. The Carlton offers comfort and discretion at all times, as it has done since its inception in 1913.
I’m here to learn to ski, and the Carlton has arranged a private instructor for me, which is the best way to learn if you’re an overgrown beginner unsuited to a group of toddlers. Elisa is a pro – she grew up on skis in the Dolomites and competed at the Olympics before settling into a quieter life teaching, and she’s not only unphased by my never having skiied before, but she affects to be impressed with my skills on day one and claims never to have seen someone start off so well.
By lunchtime I’m thinking of myself as a natural talent and regretting all those wasted non-skiing years. The smug feeling lasts all evening and well into the next morning, until my strength fails on the first run, my confidence disappears and I collapse in Elisa’s arms, a failure on skis. Heroically, she carries me over the mountain so as not to miss our lunch booking, where plates of steaming spaetzle and glasses of Prosecco make up for my poor performance.
Anyway, there are lots of other things to do here. The hotel has a dedicated Outdoor Butler who’s an expert in the region and will guide guests on nature walks or take them snowshoeing, for example. He takes us on an unforgettable torchlit midnight hike – and by torch he means the fire kind – where we follow him to a frozen lake, blow out our torches and look at the stars in total mountain darkness.
The next day, we head to another frozen lake with the aim of immersing ourselves in it, thanks to a small square cut in the ice. It’s all in the breathing, we’re told, though the actual immersion proves a step too far for me. Happily, it’s only a quick drive back to the hotel and to the welcoming arms of the spa, where a relaxing facial and a dip in the pool aren’t cold or exhausting at all.
Meals at the Carlton are predictably impressive, with the hotel’s Da Vittorio restaurant having two Michelin stars and serving an elaborate tasting menu of clever and tiny dishes. At the Romanoff restaurant, a new programme called Moving Mountains is dedicated to healthy pursuits and healthy eating, and part of this includes a focus on vegan dining, which is done with creativity and great skill.
There’s a sunny terrace for lunch (St Moritz enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine every year, apparently, so even when the temperature says minus 11, you can be eating outside in sunglasses) and – our favourite – a row of decommissioned gondolas outside the hotel entrance that function as cosy fondue booths with blankets provided.
Carlton Hotel St. Moritz is available from CHF 880 per room per night based on two adults sharing on a B&B basis, with 100 CHF food and beverage voucher per adult per day, butler service, minibar, service, VAT and complimentary access to the hotel’s spa.
For more information, call +41 81 836 7000 or visit;
Flights and rail passes were sponsored by Switzerland Tourism