Thursday, 20 October 2016

St Mortiz Travel Tips

Over the past month I've been sharing details of my favourite trails in St. Moritz, posting photos from my afternoon exploring expeditions, and suggesting some things to do between training. Here I share a few tips on travel and staying in St Moritz. Everything else you need to know about training in the town - including how to get there, where to stay, what sports facilities are available and how to access them, tips on booking accommodation, and other useful information - can be found alongside information about 14 other altitude training destination in my book Notes From Higher Grounds. It would make a great Christmas present for you. Go on, you know you want to treat yourself!

Taking the train
If you're travelling from Zurich to St Moritz by train, book in advance. This will save time/effort at the airport/station and also a bit of money if you're willing to commit to a set time. You can save up to 50% of the standard price when booking in advance (you can book up to 30 days before intended travel), which, when we're looking at standard prices of 70-80 Swiss Francs each way, can add up to quite a bit. Your booking will also let you know which platform you arrive on/leave from, making transfers easier. You'll need to show your passport as well as your electronic (smartphone) or printed ticket on the train, and your ticket will absolutely be checked.

While the route that changes in Landquart is quicker, the one through Chur is more interesting (both are pretty routes, but there's an extra degree of architectural beauty with the Chur route, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Bernia Express route). It is a highly recommened journey!

While the large Co-op shop in St. Moritz has the widest variety of food, it is not always the cheapest option. Large quantities of fruit and vegetables can be bought at a reasonable price there, but for better allround value try the Denner supermarket across the road from the ice rink/gym building, or the Aldi supermarket in Samedan.

Eating out is expensive, but most appartments are well equipped for catering for yourself and with a good variety of fresh food available in the town's supermarkets, eating in is definitely a good option. There are several public barbacue sites in the town.

Public toilets are plentiful in St. Moritz, and you'll even find some at the busiest points on the trails, so you should never really get 'caught out', so to speak. They are, in general, just port-a-loos within a wooden cabin - to make them look nice. However, the wooden surround does make them a bit darker than normal though, so be careful. They are generally clean, and well maintained, so usually have toilet paper. There are even changing cabins by the Lej da Staz, so you can get changed before/after a refreshing dip.

Like everything in St. Moritz, maps are expensive. But there are such a valuable resource. The free streetmap will help you find your way around town, but the more detailed mountain biking and hiking maps, available in many of the shops and supermarkets in the town, will give you great ideas of where you can run, and what the flattest/hilliest runs might be.

And in case you missed them, here are the other blog posts from my most recent visit:

Trail suggestions
St Moritz Trails Part 1: The Lake
St Moritz Trails Part 2: East of the Lake (Aka Hostel - Forest - Staz - Celerina - Via Grevas loop)
St Mortiz Trails Part 3: The Other Lakes (Lej da Champfèr, Lej da Silvaplauna and Lej da Segl)
St Mortiz Trails Part 4: Down the Valley (Celerina, Samedan, Bever and beyond)
St Moritz Trails Part 5: Behind the Mountain (Val Roseg)

Things to do
St Moritz Things to Do Part 1: Funicular and Cable Car to Piz Nair
St Moritz Things to Do Part 2: Take Your Camera on a Little Walk
St Moritz Things to Do Part 3: Take in the Olympic Sites
St Moritz Things to Do Part 4: The Heidi and Ursli Trails

I had planned on visiting the museums and putting together some suggestions of what to do on a rainy day, only it didn't actually rain while I was there, so stayed outdoors instead. Sorry! Maybe next time.

Meanwhile, you can have a look through some of my photos from the trip on FlickR

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

St Moritz Things to Do Part 4: The Heidi and Ursli Trails

Most things to do in St Moritz involve physical activity of some form. And climbing a mountain is an obvious way to spend a sunny morning or afternoon in the resort. In a previous post I described my trip to the top of Piz Nair, and my hair-raising hike back down again. If you don't fancy something quite so energetic, but would still like to get a view of the town from above, perhaps you can explore the novel Heidi and Schellenursli trails on the lower slopes of the mountain on which St Moritz is perched.

You'll find a trail head just west of St Moritz Dorf by the Segantini Museum. This trail winds gently up the mountain; the trails as this end of town are less steep than the ones directly behind the village. (The Talabfahrt St. Moritz Bad ski trail from where Via Somplaz and Via Chavallera/Via Survretta converge is also a good place to start your ascent).

After climbing through the forest along Via Laret and some narrower trails you'll reach a road (Via Laret and then Via Signal) which meanders up the mountain through the ski area. After following this for a short time, you'll reach the start of some of St Moritz's more novel mountain walks. If you're travelling with children, these are a particularly nice place to spend an hour or two, but adults, too, can be entertained and enchanted.

If you don't feel like climbing up the mountain, take the Cable car from St. Moritz Bad to Signal and walk down Via Salastrains to the trail head, or take the funicular from St. Moritz Dorf to Chantarella (the first stop) and walk across to the start of the Heidi trail near by.

Heidi Flower Trail

This kilometre-long walk, which is relatively flat and suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, will be of particular interest to flower lovers, with approximately 200 different Alpine species laid out in pretty flowerbeds. You can pick up a free brochure detailing the plants present in the Tourist Information office in St. Moritz Dorf.

St Moritz was, of course, one of the filming locations for the 1952 Heidi film, and the Heidi Hut, used in that film, still stands. It can be found not far away on Via Salastrains, just before the hotels in the Salastrains ski area.

Schellenursliweg (Ursli and the Bell Trail)

This trail tells the story of Ursli, a small boy, and the Bell in four different languages. The rhyming story (yes, it rhymes in all four languages!) is written out in 'chapters' at different points down along the trail.

Carved themes bring the story - a local fairytale - to life.

It's important to remember that the story runs from top to bottom, so start at the trail head by the Heidi Flower Trail, and head back to the town, rather than the other way round.

Don't forget to take your camera. The views of the town from the hill are pretty cool.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

St Moritz Trails Part 5: Behind the Mountain

Val Roseg

When you think you've explored all that St Mortiz has to offer - circled the lakes up the valley; explored the valley around Celerina, Samedan and beyond; ran the forest trails to the east of the town; even tested out the mountain routes to the north and west - there are still surprises awaiting.

Looking at my treasured map the other morning, I felt that there couldn't be many more surprises - sure, there were paths and trails that I'd never reach on, but after two visits I felt that I had a good feel of the area and all that there was on offer.

But there was one possible option left. My map showed a valley at the back of the mountains south of the town, and the access from Pontresina seemed pretty flat. Only problem was that I knew that it would take almost 30 minutes to get to Pontresina - if I was going to make this, I'd have to do longer than the planned 60 min run.

And so off I set...

From Lej da Staz, take the trail behind the restaurant towards Pontresina. The first section is slightly uphill, but then it's gradually downhill all the way towards Pontresina station where the trail comes to an end.

Leaving the station to your left, follow the road for a couple of hundred metres past some houses until it veers right just before the river and turns into a trail again. Do not cross under or over the railway line at any point.

The trail here is wide, level and gradually uphill, and stretches on for miles up the valley. At first it looks like it is one long straightway with spectacular - but similar - scenery as far as the eye can see. But the scenery does change. There are more trees in parts, cool waterfalls, and as the path gently meanders up the valley you get different perspectives of the mountains. You even cross a bridge to the other side of the river at one stage! The incline does also get a bit steeper in places, but the route is so beautiful you hardly notice.

Don't forget to look up. The glacier covered Corvatsch peak is straight ahead, and mid-summer offers a surprising winter feel to this outdoor wonderland.

I ran the route as a simple out-and-back; the mountains gave me little other option, though it is possible to do a circular route if you don't mind a fairly serious mountain climb. The range is at its lowest at Fuocla Surlej on the town side of Corvatsch (still 2755m mind!), with the decent towards Silvaplana. If your fit and up for a challenge, this has got to be a pretty spectacular route. The Scott Engadin St. Moritz Mountainbike Map suggests doing this route in the opposite direction. It rates the route as 'technically demanding over long distances'.


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

St Mortiz Trails Part 4: Down the Valley

Celerina, Samedan, Bever and beyond

Down stream from St. Mortiz, the valley widens to offer an almost endless choice of flat trails in the Celerina/Samedan area. This is where I've been happily doing my long Sunday runs, and while not as pretty as the lakes around St. Moritz - it's a very high standard to be fair - the area offers nice variety and, apart from the final climb back to the town, miles and miles of perfectly flat ground.

From St. Moritz simply head towards Celerina via any one of a number of routes. You can run via the forest and Lej da Staz to Celerina station as described in my best of East of the Lake post; head all the way to Pontresina and back the Flax valley towards Celerina; take Via Meistra from St Moritz Dorf (past the Bobsleigh course), or simply down the path beside Via Grevas from the lake.

Once you approach Celerina you can simply take any of the marked paths down the valley away from St Moritz. The valley is littered with trails, all running practically parallel to each other, with paths and bridges connecting them at various points.

The main paths are alongside the two main rivers - The En/Inn which flows from St Moritz, and the Flax, which flows from Pontresina. There are other paths alongside the various ponds and smaller tributaries in the area, along the edge of the mountains (particularly from Bever onwards) and a flat, surfaced path - used for inline skating - around the airport runway.

With mountains at either side of the valley, it's difficult to get lost, so just take a path in the right general direction, follow it to your heart's content, cross a bridge and head back via a different route. 

Just remember to keep enough energy for the final wee climb back to the town!

 ...just a few more shots...

Saturday, 1 October 2016

St Mortiz Trails Part 3: The Other Lakes

Lej da Champfèr, Lej da Silvaplauna and Lej da Segl

While Lej da San Murezzan forms the focal point of the town and the path around it is a great starter running route, it is far from the only beautiful lake or flat running route in the area. For a whole new world of beauty and a great trail network, head roughly south west from St Moritz Bad along the edge of the river En valley, towards Champfèr.

As you approach Champfèr, you'll reach a footbridge across the river. You can choose to go left of the river from here, along the edge of the forest, or take the more open route on the Champfèr side of the river (or better still, take one route out and the other back. The route on the Champfèr side is marginally longer, and also wider and more level, though the route on the forest side is also very runnable, but slightly rocky as you reach Silvalpana/Surlej.

When you reach the bridge between Silvaplana/Surlej, cross the bridge, and take the path to the left (Surlej side) of Lej da Silvaplauna. There is a path at the Silvaplana side, which runs along by the kitesurfing and windsurfing centres, but ends at the campsite.  The first section of the path is through open grassland, slightly above the level of the lake, but as it meets the forest it rejoins the lake edge. On a calm sunny morning, the vistas from here are particularly spectacular. On a windy Saturday afternoon, the lake will be a blaze of colour as windsurfers and kitesurfers get their weekly adrenaline rush.

At the far side of the lake, you'll reach Sils im Edigan/Segl. If you are going for a really long run, you can carry on through Sils/Segl and run alongside Lej da Segl to Maloja. Those of us with purely human qualities, however, will likely have reach our limits long before this point, and will have turned and headed back towards St Moritz - I have not comments to make on this section of the run; I simply didn't make it that far. 

It's approximately 10km from St Moritz to Sils, and a further 6km to the far side of Lej da Segl. This is a mostly flat route, though you can add hills if you please - the forests to the south of the lakes provide plenty of opportunity to do so.