St. Moritz/Corvatsch, CH: 03/12/19

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St. Moritz/Corvatsch, CH: 03/12/19

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:05 am

After three previous days skiing mountains that are to varying degrees unknown to people from outside Switzerland (or who don't ski in Central/Eastern Switzerland), I drove up and over Julier Pass from Bivio into St. Moritz: from Hooterville to Park Avenue.
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In addition to Tony and Liz, a work colleague had been there separately in late January and similarly raved about it with very few qualifiers: huge, varied, high elevation, excellent lift infrastructure, uncrowded slopes, sunny, etc. The main reason I never even considered going there was the obvious one: perceived cost. I figured that mere mortals couldn't afford it unless as part of a group package, which isn't my cup of tea.

While you *can* spend your entire life savings to ski here for a week, within a few minutes of e-sleuthing (only five days before departure), I found lodging that was completely reasonable along with an even bigger surprise -- when you purchase lift tickets at your hotel front desk, the price is an astounding $37/day. At first, I thought it was a misprint, but apparently they've been doing this for a few years. Thus, between lift tickets, lodging (breakfast included), and access to the region's extensive bus and train network, my cost was approximately $130/day. For St. Moritz.
:bow:

I awoke Monday morning to this view outside my window, looking out over Corviglia, which I'd call St. Moritz's Breckenridge, especially demographically:
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Unfortunately, while on the tram from the valley, a storm front with heavy snow and 30 mph wind gusts moved in. Visibility quickly went from challenging to a virtual whiteout by 11 am. After killing almost two hours in a midmountain restaurant, I skied the rest of the afternoon on the new snow; however, the continuing flat light and low cloud banks hid the gorgeous surrounding scenery. Thus, no need to post pix/look at Tony's TR instead. So it goes in Alps above-treeline ski areas -- sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you.

Tuesday was payback as it went bluebird with perfect mid-winter temps, the ideal day to hit what most people consider St. Moritz's premier area: Corvatsch. As always, the map doesn't convey the expanse:
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I took a scenic half-hour bus ride past Silvaplaner Lake to the far looker's right, the Furtschellas sector, where you take a tram to mid-mountain, then a HSQ further up:
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At the top of that chair, I immediately saw the Dolomite-esque rock outcroppings along the ridgeline that Tony noted:
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I spent an hour here warming up on 1,600-vert runs:
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There are two lakes on view from this sector, Silvaplaner:
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And Silser:
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The only thing that would've made this vista even more impressive is if the water below were unfrozen like in the Schwyz lake region I visited three years ago; however, that's not an option at this elevation.

I moved skier's right to the Curtinella sector where I found a number of short but sweet powder lines with 6-8 inches from the previous day's storm in between the rocks (also skied by a FTOer recently). Due to the gusty storm, you had to choose your aspects to avoid wind-affected snow:
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At 11:30, I stopped for an early lunch at the Rabguisa hut:
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From Curtinella, there's a really nice groomer to the middle of the ski area and the scenic Hossa Hut:
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Here in the Murtel sector were some nice offpiste lines alongside the boulder fields/rock gardens. Tracked and untracked skied equally well due to the low temps:
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After doing four laps on that chair, I took the summit tram:
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"Just Heavenly" (it's more poetic in German):
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This advert cracked me up with the woman enjoying these new ergonomic socks while her fellow model looks on stoically:
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Conditions were fantastic: everything is direct-north facing and at this altitude, snow preservation is especially good.
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The Fuorcia Surlej hut. Had a ten-minute line so I went elsewhere:
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Mid-afternoon nut pie and coffee overlooking the only south-facing slope in the entire resort -- and the untracked skied superbly despite the blazing sun/lapped it three times:
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At 3:30, I decided to head down to the village via the 2,800-vert valley run.
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It quickly turned to spring silk:
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Reaching the treeline:
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And you emerge right in the middle of town with a short skate past the Hotel Kempinski (the closest I'll probably get to staying there) and my bus stop followed by a three-minute ride to the hotel:
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I hate using the term "Top Ten Day" because it's so overused, but for pure enjoyment, this was one of the better days I've had in recent memory.
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Re: St. Moritz/Corvatsch, CH: 03/12/19

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:36 pm

Conditions look very similar to what we had on Jan. 19. We only skied 11AM-3PM because I was rather sick the night before and wanted to be out there in the warmest part of the day. We also had a lengthy Gourmet Festival dinner scheduled that night, and I was equally worried about my heath for that as for the skiing. Fortunately that first night in St. Moritz was the peak of my cold and it was all good after that.

I'm sure James explored Corvatsch more thoroughly that we did in those 4 hours. We never descended to the Furtscellas base where James started his day. We did ski that 2,800 vertical run the next day on the way to Corviglia. We were in the Nira Alpina hotel at the Corvatsch base and it too offered the $37 lift tickets.

jamesdeluxe wrote:what most people consider St. Moritz's premier area: Corvatsch.

There's a good argument for that, but it's not reflected in skier visits. Corvatsch was shockingly empty on the blue sky Saturday we skied it. Corviglia on Sunday was way busier. Casual skiers are lazy. There's a funicular to Corviglia right from the center of St. Moritz, so people take that rather that a bus to a different area. My friend Richard was in St.Moritz for a week with his non-skiing wife ~15 years ago. He skied 2 or 3 days, all at Corviglia.

jamesdeluxe wrote:Corviglia, which I'd call St. Moritz's Breckenridge

Nah. Busier than Corvatsch, but no way in the ballpark with Front Range Colorado. We thought Aspen was a good analogy in terms of remoteness to metro areas, but Sun Valley is perhaps an even better analogy, with impeccable grooming and a notably sunny climate, a big attraction to Brits and Germans coming from their gloomy winter climates. Here's the St. Moritz logo in street lights:
St_Moritz_Sun.jpg
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Re: St. Moritz/Corvatsch, CH: 03/12/19

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:36 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:Corvatsch was shockingly empty on the blue sky Saturday we skied it.

After Monday's storm, Corvatsch certainly had a decent turnout on Tuesday; however, all lifts were ski-on and plenty of elbow room on the extensive slopes.

Tony Crocker wrote: Busier than Corvatsch, but no way in the ballpark with Front Range Colorado. We thought Aspen was a good analogy in terms of remoteness to metro areas, but Sun Valley is perhaps an even better analogy.

Terrain-wise, Corviglia reminded me of a south-facing Ischgl surrounded by even more dramatic scenery, but for a U.S. analogy, agreed, a mixture of Aspen and Sun Valley. I drove St. Moritz to Zurich yesterday in three hours before the big storm arrived, which is tough to call day-trip distance, especially with so many options with half or less of the drive time along the way. Good thing that I didn't wait until later in the day to leave; Fraser said that some regions over 2000m (e.g. the Arlberg) will get 70-100cm.
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Re: St. Moritz/Corvatsch, CH: 03/12/19

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sat Mar 16, 2019 7:20 am

To pad out the report: I left St. Moritz for the three-hour drive to Zurich just before a major storm was supposed to arrive so here are some pix on my way outta Dodge:

The bottom of Julier Pass, only two miles from the middle of town:
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Driving past Corvatsch:
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Heading up to the pass:
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On the way down, you can see Bivio, where I was four days earlier, in the distance:
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A shame that I didn't ski Bivio under a clear sky; I would've had a much better experience. As others can confirm, visibility is a bigger part of the Alps enjoyment equation than it is on this side of the pond because of North America's very high tree line. Storm skiing usually doesn't deter us; in fact, we search it out. Non-hardcore European skiers are more likely to wait it out until the sun comes out again.
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Orthopedic sport surgeons don't have to go far to find good visual material for their advertisements ("all's well that ends well"):
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Given the big role that cows play in their culture, I liked this as well: "Our cows are really strong and regularly figure out a way to make it through the winter. Swiss milk and dairy products: really strong."
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