ODDS ON FAVORITE
Written by Claire Williams / Photos courtesy of Badrutt's Palace Hotel
After making a bold bet with a group of summer English guests to stay in the Swiss town of St. Moritz for the fall season, claiming it to be more agreeable than London, Johannes Badrutt and four Brits who stayed behind would found not only the birth of winter tourism but also put this mountainous town on the map. Some 30 years later, in 1896, Caspar Badrutt followed his father's ambitious footsteps by opening Badrutt's Palace. Although more than a century has passed, the chateau theme of the Palace remains but on a much grander scale. Most guests arrive in St. Moritz via the Bernina Express, more lovingly known as the Little Red Train, a UNESCO World Heritage Property. The storybook journey wends past villages built on mountainsides and snow-capped peaks while powdery snowflakes fall so gently that it's possible to imagine yourself inside a snow globe. The pampering begins at the station, where a smartly uniformed Badrutt's Palace chauffeur awaits to whisk you away to the hotel in a Rolls Royce.
It's a short ride up the mountain to the heart of St. Moritz. The scale of Badrutt's Palace is hard to appreciate from the city center: 10 restaurants, three bars, a nightclub, a spa, and an array of other offerings await behind its spinning doors. On the other side, you're greeted by grand wooden vaulted ceilings, with antique and authentic pieces adorning the space, and floor- to-ceiling windows to make sure you never miss the beauty of the land that made those English linger longer way back when. Constantly evolving, Badrutt's has carefully crafted a grand hotel that exudes the glamour and glitz you expect from St. Mortiz while also celebrating the local styles and heritage of the area.
As a historic hotel, there are no cookie-cutter rooms; each tells a unique story. In fact, Alfred Hitchcock famously drew inspiration for The Birds from one of them, and the Palace named room 501 the Alfred Hitchcock suite after his 34th visit. Guest rooms offer opulent touches, including spectacular wooden moldings on the ceilings, antiques, art, and even local crystals in the chandeliers. The marble bathroom in my suite was nearly as large as my Paris apartment! Guest experiences abound in all seasons. In winter, the obvious main attraction is skiing. As a novice, I appreciated the expertise of the ski pro in the Badrutt's Palace on-site ski shop, although my bunny-ski skills were a far cry from the Olympic athletes she's outfitted for more than 17 years. She aptly demonstrated her prowess by guessing the correct size of our needed gear with a cursory glance.
Having skied only once before, as we ascended the mountain with seasoned skiers, I was worried my flashy ski suit would be the only thing going for me. Spending the morning with Pierre, one of the Palace's resident instructors, quickly allayed my fears. Having worked worldwide with beautiful people like Claudia Schiffer, Pierre remarked that people who've been skiing for decades will still hire him to continue the relationship they've built over the years. After a day of busting down black diamonds or sticking to the more sedate slants of the bunny slopes, Badrutt’s Palace’s Paradiso is one of the hottest tickets in town. Paradiso sits at the apex of the après experience with a sprawling mountain-view terrace, spectacular food and wine, and a seasonal Gucci-branded lounge. Seizing the moment definitely calls for some fur accessories and bling. While my slope skills don't qualify me to participate in a stylish 007-esque pursuit down the mountain, I did my best to exhibit the effortless glamour of a Bond girl while at Paradiso.
One of the other main attractions of St. Moritz is shopping, and Badrutt's has that covered, too, with its prime location on Via Serlas, the world's highest luxury retail street. They recently opened a Golden Goose storefront on the property, allowing shoppers to create the ultimate souvenir: a shoe from scratch. Just across the street, Badrutt's Palace partners with the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and more locally-known European brand Fusalp (their Emilio Pucci ski suit might make you want to rethink taking more ski lessons) to cater to any and all shopping fantasies. There's even the possibility of arranging private shopping at any point, even at two in the morning. During this past ski season, Louis Vuitton opened a second-of-its-kind branded Khazastan-inspired yurt pop-up. Guests of Badrutt's Palace receive special access to this one-of-a-kind shopping extravaganza.
Like their shopping experiences, Badrutt's dining options cater to all palates and appetites. A short walk across the street from the hotel leads you to the center of the village and the 364-year-old Chesa Veglia. This former Swiss farmhouse specializes in authentic Italian pizza, elegant French cuisine, and rustic Swiss specialties (and where truffle is never lacking). For an even more authentic experience, you can ask for a private candlelit dinner in the wine cellar of the original Badrutt family farmhouse. The prices of the rarest among the 30,000 bottles it holds rival the Rolls Royce that brought me to the hotel.
What had been the hotel's tennis hall, the first in Europe, is now La Coupole-Matsuhisa, which offers Japanese-Peruvian delicacies by chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, or as many know him, the man behind the infamous Nobu empire. The star-studded roster continues with King's Social House, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton. The food is just as spectacular as the after-party, when the restaurant transforms into a nightclub, with table service consisting of sparklers and Dom Perignon. Finish off the night in the Renaissance bar, where you can pair your cocktail from their choice cigar collection and truly feel like the James Bond villain. They say the new statement pieces are experiences; material objects are briefly exciting, but adventures stoke the fire of our memories for a lifetime. The highlight reel from a stay at Badrutt's Palace encompasses moments big and small, from indulgent treatments in an underground spa with a heated outdoor infinity pool so you can watch the snowfall to a simple touchpoint of a musician playing the harpsichord every morning at breakfast every carefully crafted encounter creates unforgettable moments. And if that wasn't reason enough to return, the property is building a new addition across the street to ensure that coming back again and again is a safe bet. sl