Liberty Road Report 3: Trams, Trains and Terrain: St. Mortiz has plenty of all of them

Liberty Road Report 3: Trams, Trains and Terrain: St. Mortiz has plenty of all of them

The love affair starts with the trams. They take you from the valley floor, and then, mocking gravity, climb effortlessly to the highest peaks. From these precipices, hair-raising descents beckon: adrenaline-pumping lines that will provide the most vivid memories of winter. When the day is done, and trams silent, lively mountain huts offer sustenance and refreshment. Here you feed not only your belly but also your soul as you recover from the most intense days of your life.

We’d come to St. Moritz as outcasts. The town is known for wealth and opulence. We had neither. But appearances deceive, and the mountains don’t care about what kind of car you drive (although, to be perfectly honest, we had a very nice, very new and very black VW Touareg), don’t care about your platinum American Express Card and certainly don’t care about how much your ski suit cost (a lot less than what the guy in the funny red and white Bogner one-piece paid his clown outfit, that’s for sure!).

No, the mountains don’t care about much. But we cared about mountains, about simple, easy access to steep, forbidding chutes and open bowls, about endless runs down glaciers and about, well, everything that makes skiing great. So we arrived in St. Moritz primed to empty what was left in our wallets (yes, you can ski here affordably), and ready to redline the fun factor.

The key to St. Mortiz is the amazing access that the three main ski stations provide to the surrounding peaks. The Swiss are nothing if not industrious and creative when it comes to engineering, and the lifts that grace these resorts, Corviglia, Diavolezza and Corvatsch are impressive feats on their own, and become even more impressive when you start to consider the effort that it took to build them. But the engineering and construction efforts pale besides the access that they give to serious skiers.

Take the Corvatsch tram, for instance. It climbs from a base elevation of 1870 meters to a height of 3303 meters, with one intermediate station where the punters can escape to gentler slopes. Or the Piz Nair tram, with an intermediate station that feeds the world’s best racers onto the Corviglia-Engiadina course. The start, “White Drop”, is the steepest on the World Cup downhill circuit, which is saying plenty, as WC downhills aren’t known for being flat. Or how about the Diavolezza tram, which whisks you to the top of a winter fantasyland of glaciers, hanging seracs and impossible cliffs.

Still, despite the abundance of choices, we were pulled towards one particular line and one particular peak: The Corvatsch.

The Corvatsch is a St. Mortiz icon. It may not offer the steepest skiing in the area (there’s some wild stuff off of the top of Diavolezza) and the views may not be the most impressive (all the views are spectacular here, so you could argue the point endlessly), but there’s something about skiing a massive face directly under the tram, with tourists gaping at you that is immensely appealing. Yeah, we’re showoffs.

The line, while appearing gnarly, is actually straightforward. Traverse over to a short climb from Corvatsch’s “Standard” piste, do the hike, hang out next to the tram tower to soak up the views and experience the surreal effect of the tram rumbling above you and then, when your legs and lungs are fully rested and your mind focused, drop in.

A technical entrance gives way to plenty of room, and the farther down you go, the more space you find, until you’re opening it up on the apron, giving it, with a head full of endorphins. The buzz will make you want to do it again, but the run keeps going, onto the groomed piste and down, down until you arrive at the Alpetta hut, with its sunny deck and simple, tasty fare. It’s the ideal spot to look back up at your tracks, savor everything special about St. Mortiz, and plan your next trip.

Details, details:

ST. MORTIZ: stmortiz.ch
Information on St. Mortiz, the resort, weather and trail maps.

INNLODGE: innlodge.ch
Hip and comfortable accommodations featuring great wireless connectivity, studios with kitchens and the warmest of down comforters.

SWISS TOURISM: myswitzerland.com
Deals on traveling to and from Switzerland, background information on ski resorts everything else you need to know (excepting how to set up secret bank accounts).

GRAUBÃœNDEN: graubuenden.ch
The most mountainous canton in Switzerland is the place to go skiing.

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