St Moritz, Switzerland ski resort guide
Posted December 5, 2017 5:38 a.m. EST
(CNN) — It's the spiritual home of the jet set and one of the Alps' first winter resorts but there is far more to glitzy St. Moritz than just diamonds and designer ski suits.
The swish town in Switzerland's Engadin valley is a hotbed of skiing and eclectic wintersports, from toboganning on the famous Cresta Run to golf, cricket, polo and horseracing on its frozen lake.
A traditional mountain culture underpins the glamor, all set against the backdrop of the Piz Nair (3,056 meters) and the Piz Corvatsch (3,451 meters) on either side of the lake-filled valley.
St. Moritz is a regular stop on skiing's World Cup circuit -- the women are there this week for and alpine combined and two super-G races - and has hosted two Winter Olympics (1928 and 1948) and five World Championships, most recently in 2017.
For those who like to follow in the ski tracks of movie stars, the resort was also used as a location for James Bond flicks "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "A View to a Kill."
Here's what you need to know about this jewel in the glitterati crown.
The ski area
The 218 miles of ski runs and 58 lifts are an intermediate's heaven centered around the Corviglia area, with skiing from just below the summit of the Piz Nair via a cable car.
A funicular railway whisks skiers from the main bling-filled hub of St. Moritz Dorf (1,846 meters) into the heart of the slopes, from where lifts and runs spread across the mountain.
Up here lies the infamous men's downhill race course, with a starting slope known as "Free Fall" because of its fear-inducing gradient. The almost vertical drop catapults competitors from standstill to 90 mph in just six seconds.
It's the steepest start gate in the world, accessed by a gondola lift and a 178-step climb. The severity of the slope means TV cameramen have to wear crampons and abseil down to obtain suitable filming positions.
The interconnected Marguns area above the hamlet of Celerina offers more cruising options in a wide bowl on the flanks of Piz Corviglia.
On the opposite side of the valley above the less showy St. Moritz Bad (1,772 meters) is the smaller Corvatsch area rising to a high point of 3,303 meters with wide open skiing on the Corvatsch glacier.
The outlying Diavolezza area offers more options for those prepared to travel.
St. Moritz first became famous as a summer resort because of its mineral springs before winter visitors were tempted by talk of 300 days of sunshine from the mid-19th century.
As befits its status as an opulent outpost for the beautiful set, St. Moritz is home to myriad luxury hotels, including celebrated five-star options such as the 120-year-old Badrutt's Palace (Engadin suite from about $5,300 per night), the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, the Suvretta House and the Kulm Hotel.
St. Moritz is also a gourmet's delight and offers a rich choice of stomach-stuffing options with five Michelin-starred restaurants and a host of other fine-dining emporiums in town and on the mountain.
Ecco St. Moritz is the highlight, a two-starred Michelin masterpiece in the Giardina Mountain hotel on the outskirts of town, while Da Vittorio in the Carlton St. Moritz is another on many a bucket list.
Renowned restaurateur Reto Mathis has consolidated his empire into the new CheCha Restaurant and Club, but his signature dishes are still on offer, such as truffle pizza or beef carpaccio with truffles Robespierre followed by pine tree ice cream with caramelized walnuts and red currant compote.
The Via Serlas is St. Moritz's answer to LA's Rodeo Drive and offers every designer label from Armani to Valentino.
St. Moritz is home to the infamous men-only Cresta Run toboggan course, first built by British upper-class gentlemen in 1884, and home of the St. Moritz Toboganning Club.
The 1,212-meter natural track, which is created from scratch every year, drops 157 meters to what was the village of Cresta, but is now part of Celerina. Riders lie face down, head first and use rakes on special boots to brake and steer. Guests can apply for a slot, with prices starting from $500 for five rides.
The track record is held by Irish Winter Olympian Lord Wrottesley, who became the first person to go under 50 seconds when he broke James Sunley's 16-year mark in February 2015. He also achieved the fastest speed ever recorded of 82.87 mph.
The nearby Olympia bob run, opened in 1904, is the world's first and only naturally refrigerated bobsleigh track. Guests can ride in four-man bobsleds between a pilot and brakeman.
The frozen lake of St. Moritz also hosts the annual "White Turf" horse races in February and prestigious World Cup polo tournament in January.
True members of the jet set can have their private plane land at nearby Samedan airfield, only four miles from St. Moritz.
For those without the keys to their own jet, a two-night return in a private charter from the UK to Samedan starts at about $9,500 with PrivateFly.
For the rest, St. Moritz is a three-hour drive from Zurich airport.