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This Gorgeous Swiss Mountain Town Will Make Anyone Fall in Love with Winter

St. Moritz is a snow-covered fairy tale that will transform even the biggest weather wimp into a fan of winter.

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Carlton Hotel St. Moritz swiss town winter mountainCourtesy Carlton Hotel St. Moritz

The ultimate winter wonderland

Beaches, oceans, palm trees… if you’re anything like me, vacations have always meant warm weather and tropical destinations. Why would I want to shiver in the cold if I could be lounging in style on a beach? But then I discovered the sparkling “champagne air” of St. Moritz. It turns out that I’ve been doing winter all wrong. Here, in this gorgeous Swiss Alps town, which is known for bringing winter tourism to the region, the sun shines bright more than 320 days a year. And gorgeous swoops of marshmallow-topped mountains, bluebird skies, and plenty of activities that have nothing to do with heavy snow boots offer plenty of fun for every traveler. Simply embrace the beautiful scenery and decadent après-ski atmosphere. (No actual skiing required.) St. Moritz is also one of the destinations where you’re guaranteed to have a white Christmas, so keep that in mind when planning for the holidays, too!

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Carlton Hotel St. Moritz swiss town winter mountainCourtesy Carlton Hotel St. Moritz

The perfect St. Moritz perch

Since the sumptuous Carlton Hotel St. Moritz is only open in the winter, it’s a perfect excuse to plan a cold-weather getaway. Every single one of the 60 suites overlooks jewel-like Lake St. Moritz, which means you can take in the frosted scenery every morning while you sip your coffee on your private balcony. Sit by the lapping flames of the monumental fireplace in the lounge, eat lunch al fresco on the sun terrace with a view of the ice sports below, or warm up in the spa’s hot tub, which streams into a heated outdoor pool. The sun is so strong that you won’t feel a chill while you float under the warm sky. In the evening, indulge in a multicourse winter feast at Michelin-starred Da Vittorio, where delicious dishes inspired by neighboring Italy feature heavenly pasta, decadent truffles, and an apple tart worth traveling for on its own. For the ultimate in relaxation, you should also check out these 12 luxurious spas.

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Carlton Hotel St. Moritz swiss town winter mountainCourtesy Carlton Hotel St. Moritz

Snow butler to the rescue

Not sure what to do in the frozen landscape of the Alps? No need to worry! As a winter-only hotel, the Carlton has perfected the snow day, even if you’re a weather wimp. The secret? Othmar, the resort’s “snow butler,” who will plan the perfect day for you. Want to build the perfect snowman? He’ll book a horse-drawn sled to take you to a remote field. A slope-side picnic? He knows where the sun shines brightest. The best sledding? He’ll accompany you to the sled run and then point you to a lunch in a charming café. By the time you’re done, winter just might be your favorite season. Once you’re hooked, you might also want to visit these other beautiful snow-covered towns around the globe.

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Places To Visit - St. MoritzEyesWideOpen/Getty Images

A spectacular train ride

Just getting to St. Moritz in the winter provides snow-globe scenery worthy of special trip. In fact, the entire Glacier Express route is a UNESCO World History Site; the panoramic, almost eight-hour trip between St. Moritz and Zermatt passes through 91 tunnels and crosses the elevated Oberalp Pass (suspended between mountains like something out of Harry Potter) with stops along the way at some of Switzerland’s most charming and scenic mountain towns. Here are more UNESCO World Heritage Sites everyone needs to visit.

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1991 CRESTA RUN SHUTTLCOCK LUGEPascal Rondeau/Getty Images

Sledding into snow-covered bliss

If you look up St. Moritz on Wikipedia, you’ll probably see the Cresta Run, the oldest natural bobsled run in the world, dating back to 1904. Sliding down an ice slope that was used in the turn-of-the-century Olympics? Cool runnings, indeed…if you like fast speeds and possible concussions. For an easier slide, try the longest sled run in Switzerland, which is just a quick 15-minute train ride from St. Moritz. Hop off the train in Preda, rent an old-school wooden sled (you remember, the kind with metal rails and a simple string for steering), and then take off down the groomed trail that extends for nearly four miles. It’s scenic and just fast enough to be fun, but not so steep that it feels uncontrollable.

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Carlton Hotel St. Moritz swiss town winter mountainCourtesy Carlton Hotel St. Moritz

Ice, ice…polo

Horses. On ice. Really. Polo is often referred to as “hockey on horses” for its fast-paced action and team play, but the sport is taken to another level in St. Moritz, where ice polo is played on frozen Lake St. Moritz in late January. The stands are filled with the most fashionable fans in Europe (tickets are 60 Swiss francs and include a glass of champagne), but you can watch the galloping equines and their skilled riders dash across the snow-dusted lake for free.

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St. Moritz Art Masters 2013Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Art in the Alps

St. Moritz is considered the culture hub for the entire Alps region, and there are more than a dozen stunning galleries and fascinating museums that you could spend days exploring. For world-class contemporary offerings, the Vito Schnabel Gallery on Via Maistra is a can’t-miss, as is the new Hauser & Wirth Gallery on Via Serlas. (Admission to galleries is always complimentary.) To learn more about the local Engadiner culture of the alps, stop into the century-old Engadiner Museum of Via del Bagn.

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Carlton Hotel St. Moritz swiss town winter mountainCourtesy Carlton Hotel St. Moritz

Nighttime on the slopes

Inspired to swish down the slopes? Soak up the sun during the day, and then hit the slopes in the crisp evening. Night skiing in this Swiss town is some of the best in the world. Picture it: Clear sky, full moon, inky quiet, and a canopy of stars. At Corvatsch Mountain, the nighttime fun starts at 7 p.m. on Switzerland’s longest floodlit run, the 2.5-mile Chastelets slope. If you need energy for skiing, you can always refuel with pizza from the wood-fired oven at Murtèl middle station. You can keep skiing until the last cable car at 1:40 a.m. Here are more of the best ski resorts you need to visit.

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Places To Visit - St. MoritzEyesWideOpen/Getty Images

Over-the-top shops

Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel…shall we go on? If you want international designer fashion, St. Moritz is basically an amalgam of Madison Avenue and the Champs-Élysées turned into a storybook village with mountain views. Needless to say, the price tags here are as high as the altitude, but the window-shopping and people-watching are unsurpassed, and strolling along the sun-filled streets made me feel like a million dollars. When you’re ready to buy something to bring home, skip the luxury clothing labels and head instead to the jewel box Läderach chocolate shop, which offers gem-like displays of sumptuous sweets—the perfect reminder of your delicious winter getaway. For something a little closer to home, check out America’s prettiest winter towns.

Melissa Klurman
Melissa is an intrepid explorer and award-winning travel journalist with more than 25 years of experience. She covers topics ranging from family travel and Disney to honeymoons and romantic beaches, and everything in between.