Everybody has heard of St. Moritz but most people don’t actually realize that it is only the name of the glitzy town by the lake and not the name of the ski area. The ski area above St. Moritz is actually called Corviglia and is only one of several ski areas in the Engadine Valley.
Don’t be fooled by the Gucci clad clientele in St. Moritz into thinking this is just a Swiss equivalent of Aspen. The Engadine Valley is home to several of the most picturesque villages in all of Switzerland and has accommodation and unique snowsport offerings for every taste and budget. If you look past the extravagance of St. Moritz, you will find the most beautiful and charming valley with a passion for the outdoors and a vast variety of outdoor activities.
The Upper Engadine is a 50 mile (80km) long valley located in the south east corner of Switzerland on the border to Italy at an altitude of 5,540 ft (1,660m) to 5,955 ft (1,815 m). The valley features several lakes which attract people for kite surfing and sailing in summer but show their true magic in winter. The lakes will freeze solidly from about December to April and integrate seamlessly into the winter activites: ice skating, walking, cross country skiing, the famous Polo on Ice, White Turf horse races and skijöring and classic car races.
S-Chanf at the north end is not only a picturesque village, but also location of the finish of the annual Engadine Ski Marathon, a 26 mile (42 km) cross country race that attracts 10,000 – 15,000 cross country athletes every year. Hence you will find predominantly lycra-clad cross country enthusiasts here, who have easy access to the 240 km of classic and skating cross country tracks.
Just a mile down the valley we find Zuoz, which is one of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland, with cobble stone streets and typical Engadine houses. Zuoz is home to its own ski area, with a base elevation of 5,643 ft (1,720m) and six lifts reaching up to 8,087 ft (2,465m). There are 9 miles (15km) of groomed runs which attract a lot of families with small children. It is a family friendly resort, featuring the first child safe chair lift in Europe. Aside from families, Zuoz is also a base for backcountry skiers. From the top of the Pizzet triple-chair lift you can climb further and drop into the extensive mountain ranges behind.
More beautiful villages follow along the flow of the river Inn. Some will have a single surface lift for beginners or direct access to cross country trails. Samedan is the capital of the Upper Engadine and, apart from municipal offices, also features a small airport where you will see private jets flying in for the St. Moritz Polo on Ice or heads of state for the Davos World Economic Forum. It is the second highest airport in Europe (after Courchevel) and one of the most challenging airports in the world due to its difficult topography.
Travelling south from Samedan we find the really big ski resorts. Towards the Bernina pass are the twin ski areas Diavolezza and Lagalb, which combined offer 28 miles (45km) of runs, serviced by big gondolas from the base stations. These resorts are very popular with touring skiers. Due to the lack of easy slopes, you will find mostly advanced skiers here. Diavolezza, or the she-devil mountain, is situated on the Morteratsch glacier and is skiable from mid-October to mid-May. You will often find the Swiss National Team training here in October as the snow at the top is preserved under big felt blankets over summer. Diavolezza reaches an altitude of 9,704 ft (2,958m) and features a six-mile (10km) glacier run, the longest glacier run in Switzerland. Lagalb reaches an altitude of 9,491 ft (2,893m). The view from both top stations across the Eastern Alps and to the Piz Bernina (13,283 ft) is breath taking.
In the direction of the Maloja Pass you will find the ski areas of Corviglia and Corvatsch. Corviglia is located facing the sun, right above the villages of St. Moritz and Celerina, while Corvatsch, with its 75 miles (120 km) of groomed runs, is on the opposite side in the shade. Due to its shady location Corvatsch is skiable from November to late April, while Corviglia has a shorter season that ends typically before Easter. Corviglia has 100 miles (163km) of runs and hosts the FIS World Cup in Downhill, Super-G and GS every December. Corvatsch is host to the annual FIS Freeski and snowboard World Cup every March. Corvatsch is a mecca for freeriders and hosts several freeride events.
The Engadine valley has something for every kind of snowsports enthusiast and for every budget. You can stay in a five star hotel with private butler or in a youth hostel. You can rub shoulders with European billionaires in one of the swanky clubs in St. Moritz or sing random Italian songs with cheerful Italians in the gondola on a Friday night at Corvatsch’s weekly night skiing. The best part is that all ski resorts are on the same ski pass, so the Engadine Ski Pass gives you access to a total of 223 miles (360km) of groomed runs!
There are plenty of activities for non-skiers/boarders and the average 322-days of sunshine a year means that whatever you will be doing will be in spectacular weather. So why not try snow-shoeing, ice skating, sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, all year walking trecks, ice climbing, ice carting or tandem paragliding? But rather than me trying to tell you how amazing this valley is and all the things you could be doing, why don’t you come here and explore everything the Engadine has to offer!