It was time for the Snow Angel and I was lying flat on my back, a few metres off piste, arms outstretched, eyes shut, soaking up the rays, wondering how long I’d got until I had to get up.
“Feel the snow with your body”, said my yoga instructor, Priska Holz. Truth be told there wasn’t all that much snow to feel. Maybe 30cm on the piste at around 2500 metres – and most of that man made.
The skiing, however, was very good – but more on that in a moment. Yoga on Snow is a new option in St Moritz. I was more than a little cynical as we set out, but after a morning session I have began to see the point, sort of. It’s a mixture of skiing and fairly undemanding exercise. Stretching is certainly a benefit, especially this early in the season. Bend forward and touch the tips of your skis while keeping a straight back, for example.
Sabrina Nussbaum, who created the course for the Suvretta Snowsports School, sees it as more beneficial than the traditional pre-ski warm up. But it was the breathing exercises that I found most intriguing, and particularly their application when we set off downhill again: inhale deeply as you unweight into the turn, exhale as you bend and edge out of it. This definitely relaxed me.
Back to conditions: it’s amazing what can be achieved with snow cannon and a strong shot of sunshine. The man in the rental shop at the Kulm Hotel was hardly upbeat. The pistes were hard, he advised, as he picked me a pair of suitable skis. It hadn’t snowed since November. But these Rossignols would hold on it. I groaned inwardly. Just what I wanted on my first day back on skis after a horrendous accident in January that left me on crutches for three months. I need not have worried. Though a limited number of runs were open – 18 out of 33 on Corviglia and four of 21 on Corvasch – conditions were fine. In two days at the end of last week I rarely felt the frisson of an errant edge on ice – and the sky stayed mostly cloudless.
After yoga I lunched in the restaurant at Piz Nair, at 3056m. The red runs from there were now open but not far down a light band of cloud obscured the sun, leaving the steepish red run featureless in flat light and my confidence took a bit of a knock. But the snow was good all the way to the top of the Corviglia funicular, so I decided to carry on down to Celerina and catch the gondola back from there. Again, considering this was mostly artificial snow, the skiing was surprisingly satisfying.
That was all very well with the resort still gearing up for the festive season. What would happen come the real rush is anybody’s guess. At least, since my visit around 10cm of new snow was reported to have fallen.
December, of course, has has a habit of disappointing and causing powder pigs to bite their nails but there was just about enough snow around at village level to make the place look Christmassy, despite the fact that the lake, where horse racing is scheduled to be held again on three weekends in February, was as yet frozen only to a depth of about 10cm.
Tempting though it was to stay out in the sunshine I packed it in a little earlier than usual, for I was going night-skiing. Next year the Kulm will celebrate 150 years since its founder, Johannes Badrutt laid his famous bet with four Brits, inviting them back in winter and promising to pay their travel costs if if they didn’t agree that sunshine and snow in St Moritz was much more pleasant than cold and gloomy weather in London. They came, stayed all season, were converted – and thus the British love of wintersports was germinated. The hotel is as yet non committal about plans for celebrations – though much fascinating archive material is certain to be on display.
Meanwhile, for the first time, guests at the Kulm and its sister, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in nearby Pontresina, are being offered exclusive access to floodlit skiing on Corvatsch on three evenings this season – with food and drink in a restaurant on the way down. It was magnificent. Piste machines had made corduroy of the artificial snow. Starting at 2702m the run is a swooping four kilometres or so top to bottom. In the cable-car back up we purred with pleasure. I interrupted my third run with dinner. By the time I had rounded it off with a Kirsch the lift is closed. But there was still the last kilometre to complete and, replete with food and light headed with drink, it felt as though whole flights of snow angels were bearing us to our rest.