Winter Sports in the Engadine Valley
Charlie Morris, February 13, 2011
The Engadine Valley lies in the heart of the Swiss Alps, a couple of hours drive south-east of Zurich. At over 1,000m in altitude and 100km long, this stunning landscape provides a winter playground as good as any other.
With hundreds of kilometers of high altitude pristine piste to choose from, the Engadine Valley is well known for its skiing. The Valley has three separate ski areas, each offering a distinctly different experience, connected by both buses and a train line that accept ski passes.
Furthest north, and lying directly above St Moritz is Corviglia, home to well-groomed pistes and rolling slopes. This is the largest ski area of the three, with broad views over the wide expanse of the valley.
At the other extreme is Corvatsch, a ten minute bus ride from St Moritz, with its high peaks and large vertical drops. This provides an escape for the more experienced skier, with some excitingly steep and rocky off-piste and a world-class snow park guaranteed to send shivers down the spine.
Furthest south is Diavolleza, which provides a fantastic descent across a glacier and is the ski-mountaineers zone of preference. Diavolleza also has a take off point for para-gliders, and views over the border into Italy.
There are numerous ski rental shops in the area offering the full range of kit along with ski services. St Moritz has a reputation for being rather pricey, and hiring skis from a nearby town or through an online service might save you a drink or two.
For those wanting a break from the piste highway, snowshoeing in the remoter parts of the valley can open up a hidden Narnia landscape. Snowshoes allows a hiker access to peaceful vantage points, and the Engadine Valley has a large selection of routes that can be tackled with or without a guide.
Snowshoes can be rented out from ski rental shops for around 20 francs for an afternoon, and attach to any shoes (we would recommend a sturdy pair of walking shoes). Be warned – your shoes will get wet.
The Engadine is famed for its taboggoning, perceived by some locals as more of a sport than an casual hobby. Sledging from Preda to Bergün is a good first run down an icy road (closed to vehicles), lit up and open until midnight during winter months.
Preda is served by trains of the Rhaetian Railway hourly, and is about 20 minutes from St. Moritz. Toboggans can be hired from Preda station, and returned at Bergün.
For the more daring sledger, Muottas Muragl is a 4.2 km run descending 705 m down a route with 20 bends from Muottas Muragl to Punt Muragl. Toboggans can be hired from the station and the run is open daily from 9.30am to 4.00pm. This is not for the faint hearted.
The Cresta Run
For the ultimate rush, and a rather sizeable fee (about 600 Swiss Francs), men (and women for one day in the year) can take on the world famous Cresta Run. Cresta is almost identical to bob-skeleton, although the rider has additional rakes on on their shoes. It is essentially sliding down a steep icy tube on a tray, head first, at the highest speeds known to tray-sledging.
The run can get very busy, and members get priority so be sure to arrive early in the morning.
Viewing the valley from above is breathtaking for those daring enough to take off. Novices to the sport can take a tandem flight from a number of locations. The most popular is from Corviglia. In favourable weather conditions, take off starts on the hour from 10am to 4pm, leaving from below the Corviglia station and landing at the boat house on the lake.
One different and fun way to spend an evening is to try curling. While bowls on ice may not appeal to all adrenaline hunting sports enthusiast, it takes a great amount of precision, accuracy and skill to land those “rocks” in the ”
house”, and is a highly competitive and challenging sport. There are a number of open air curling sheets in the Engadine, including in:
- St. Moritz
- La Punt
Curling lessons are around 100 Francs for up to 8 people.
Getting there responsibly
Travelling by train in Switzerland is a pleasure. The route across the high Alps to St. Moritz follows the world famous Glacier Express route and is well worth completing en route to the Engadine Valley. Follow greentraveller.co.uk’s journey plan for the London to Geneva leg by train, then book a return fare between Geneva and St. Moritz with Swiss Rail. If you are looking to do multiple trips within Switzerland, you may want to look into investing in one of Swiss Rail’s multipasses.