Engadin Snow Safari: Never-ending fun on the slopes.
The “Snow Safari” is a unique ski trip through the Engadin: from Corvatsch via St. Moritz to Piz Nair, then down to Celerina. 72-year-old snowboarder Ueli Lamm takes us with him on a journey through the mountains where he has spent countless hours of his life.
The Engadin is the place to go for all those who love winter: this birthplace of winter holidays entices visitors with its almost-guaranteed sunshine – boasting the highest number of hours of sunshine across Switzerland – and an endless array of pistes.
Every free minute on the piste
A cloak of mist lies over the Engadin lakes. Ueli Lamm has made an early start, ready for a trip across both St. Moritz ski areas: Corvatsch and Corviglia. Ueli had already spent countless hours on the mountains right on his doorstep as a small boy: as a ski racer, as a cameraman when he and his friends attempted to copy the most well-known ski films of the 70s – and then for 30 years as a keen snowboarder. “We had no school in the afternoons. So we could come and ski fairly early on in the day and then just spent all of our time in the snow,” he remembers.
Nature and sport
For tens of years, Ueli Lamm ran his father’s tradition-steeped “Lamm Cashmere Haus” in St. Moritz, where he was born and grew up. Since he retired, he has dedicated all of his time to his hobbies. As for most of the locals there, these are very much characterised by nature and exercise: cross-country skiing, archery, golf… but above all his passion is snowboarding. Even at the age of 72.
Inspired to take up snowboarding by his nephew
Since the early nineties, alongside the cross-country skis and golf clubs, Ueli has also kept a number of snowboards in his cellar. The inspiration to get on the board came from his nephew Reto Lamm, Swiss snowboard pioneer and at that time a world champion in the halfpipe. “Where I would be on my skis for just a few minutes, I suddenly needed an hour when on a snowboard,” Ueli says, remembering his first few attempts. But the fantastic feeling that came along with gliding through the snow on a snowboard spurred him on – as it still does today.
An all-rounder – as fit as a young chamois
Ueli’s peaceful, even somewhat reserved manner belies his excellent record. After smashing both of his knees to pieces in a ski race, he started cross-country skiing instead. He has already taken part in the Engadin Skimarathon – an annual cross-country ski race – almost every year since it began over 50 years ago. Because of his talent at cross-country skiing, his friends even took him with them to a biathlon race. This combined cross-country skiing and archery, a sport that still fascinates him to this day.
Ever since he was young, he has also spent a lot of time on the golf course – with ever-changing and imaginative training sessions: he’s currently practising keeping a golf ball up in the air using a golf club while simultaneously training his balance on a balance board. “The crazy thing is that, yes, snowboarding came after all of that,” Ueli laughs. It really is crazy indeed – because when you watch Ueli on a snowboard, you would think he’d been doing it forever.
Corvatsch or Corviglia? Why not both!
Anyone who comes to the Engadin for the skiing or snowboarding will know this already, and newcomers should be warned in advance: the activities and variety on offer on the slopes is enormous – making the decision regarding which mountain to spend the day on rather difficult. Many visitors to St. Moritz choose to spend a day either on Corvatsch or on Corviglia on the other side of the valley. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that both mountains can be included in one route – and all in a single day. The solution? Snow Safari.
Some time has passed already since he set off on his early journey from Sils to Furtschellas, leaving behind the first tracks of the day in the perfectly prepared pistes. Ueli stands on the summit terrace of the Corvatsch, the first highlight of the “Snow Safari” – quite literally: at 3,303 metres, this is the highest ski station in Graubünden. The perfect moment to take his first break. The view is just phenomenal and extends far into the distance. The view of the Bernina Massif in particular, with the glaciers below, is hard to tear yourself away from.
Now the “Snow Safari” can really get started! Ueli takes up his snowboard in anticipation of the 1,500-metre descent to St. Moritz. “Stopping off at the upper station for the Hahnensee lift is well worthwhile,” he reveals. “The view of the valley, the lakes lined up like a string of pearls – there’s simply nothing like it.” Ueli takes a quick photo – and in no time at all he’s vanished in the direction of the valley below. It’s clearly a delight, curving over the slightly rugged terrain and finally through the larch forests as far as St. Moritz.
A change of scene: Even more sun on Piz Nair
The Hahnensee descent ends on the outskirts of St. Moritz, with the aerial ropeway to Signal just steps away. This takes its passengers to the other side of the valley. The “Snow Safari” then continues in the ski area of Corviglia. On the sunny slopes at the foot of Piz Nair, sporting history has been written here for decades: as the venue for the Ski World Cup, Olympic Games and Ski World Championships. From the gondola up to Piz Nair, the view as it crosses the start of the downhill slope – the legendary “free fall” – is simply breathtaking. Ueli, too, knows the slope here only too well.
“For those who like coasting down pistes, Corviglia is a real paradise,” enthuses Ueli. And he should know: where, as a junior in the ski club, he once had to trudge through the snow on foot, modern cable cars and mountain railways now take no time at all to reach the second 3,000-metre peak of the day: Piz Nair. With the breathtaking views that have been revealed, you can’t help but linger for a while on this peak too. A good idea in any case: “The pasta up here is supposed to be really great,” says Ueli. So it’s a good opportunity to recharge our batteries and enjoy the panoramic views.
- 4,444 – the number of vertical metres you will have sped down on this ski safari.
- 44 kilometres of pistes – the minimum distance you can expect to cover.
- 18 restaurants to supply you with gastronomic delights.
- 2 of the Snow Safari’s mountain peaks are over 3,000m above sea level.
Making the descent as the sun casts its last rays
After lunch, it’s time to buckle up once again. The wide slopes of the Corviglia are the perfect place to enjoy a thrilling descent down to the valley below. And anyone who still has energy left can make the “Snow Safari” that little bit longer with a few extra descents. The many pistes and chair lifts on Corviglia are simply too hard to resist. And of course you don’t have to! “The great thing about this ski trip is that you can stop for something to eat or drink in one of the excellent mountain inns whenever you like – so it ends up being a culinary tour at the same time,” Ueli advises.
The piste narrows out for the final few metres, running alongside a rock face through sparse larch forest. Then suddenly the view opens up, with the entire valley and the village of Celerina visible below. The sun is starting to cast long shadows already at this final stage of the Snow Safari, a journey through the slopes of the Engadin region. Ueli makes a turn at the edge of the village and looks back towards Piz Nair. Before he makes his way home, he pulls out his phone and takes a photo for Facebook to remember the experience by – and as a “wish you were here” to his nephew Reto: “It’s the same now as it’s always been: snowboarding through the Engadin is never going to be boring.”