From without, the Nira Alpina resembles nothing so much as a classic, chocolate box wooden chalet. Flanked by a striking cluster of snow-capped peaks, it sits overlooking a picturesque valley bisected by a lake that turns glittering white in winter and the deepest navy blue come the warmer months. It’s all very quintessentially Swiss, which is why stepping inside comes as a (rather pleasant) shock, for this is definitely not your typical ski lodge.
One of the newest hotels to spring up in and around the chic resort of St Moritz, the Nira Alpina has been open for less than three years and, says the brochure, aims to do things differently. In terms of decor, that couldn’t be more true with classic pine and gingham cosiness swapped for clean lines, a quirky collection of ceramic cows and chic sheepskin rugs. Laid out across four floors, there’s six restaurants, including a tiny one off the hotel lobby, a spa complete with a frostbite-banishing sauna, and a small gym. There’s even a bar with a view of the neighbouring ski slope. But for all that, it is the rooms that make the Alpina worth splashing out on.
Decked out in chic shades of chocolate and cream, mine boasted a colossal king-size bed, complete with a downy duvet and huge plump pillows, a comfortable set of chairs and a sleek bathroom dominated by a vast bath. Peaceful and quiet, barely a squeak broke the silence at night, thanks in no small part to the Alpina’s location – in a small village two miles outside the busier St. Moritz. Best of all though, was the small outdoor terrace which boasted gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains, as well as a good vantage point for watching junior skiers come whizzing down the nursery slope at speeds that made me break into a cold sweat. And that wasn’t all. My ground floor location also put me within striking distance of one of the hotel’s other highlights – the Trattoria restaurant.
Perched on the ground floor opposite the boot room, Trattoria was a four-second walk from my room and a cosy little oasis staffed by a mixture of jovial Italians and surprisingly smiley Swiss. Food was classic cold-weather Italian, with antipasti, perfectly cooked pasta and some seriously good foie gras all on the menu. Just as good was the pint-sized Pichalain, a teeny chalet-style restaurant that served up toothsome cheese fondue washed down with icy local wine from its perch at the bottom of the Corvatsch ski lift, which daily whisked hotel guests and locals up the flanks of the mountain. Those who went up, came down to skid to a halt at the bottom of the nursery slope next door to the hotel – all of which could be watched from the hotel’s Bistro and Rooftop bars.
The Nira’s proximity to the Corvatsch ski lift is another bonus and while the hotel isn’t ski-in, ski-out, it’s as close as it’s possible to be. Hitting the slopes is a matter of crossing the road in front of the hotel, while ski gear can be picked up from the smattering of hire shops down the road. Up on top of the mountain, there’s a mixture of runs – blue for wimps like me, as well as red and the terrifying-looking black. Once a week, the slopes stay open until 10pm with skiers whizzing down through the dark clumps of fir trees that dot the lower flanks of the mountains and arriving next to the Alpina’s bar for a glass of gluhwein. I skipped the skiing and went straight to the booze. Lovely.
That episode more or less encapsulates the appeal of the Nira Alpina. Close to the snow-covered peaks but with plenty of other things to do should skiing not be your forte. The food is good, the rooms cosy and the staff friendly. The drinks are tasty, even if the DJ at the Rooftop Bar is a little too fond of Euro pop. There’s a spa, albeit with a nudist-friendly spa (cue much embarrassment for British travellers like me) and a village full of ski hire shops. St Moritz and its icy lake and rows of designer shops is just ten minutes away. In short, it’s hard to visit the Nira Alpina and not have fun. And that, after all, is exactly what winter holidays are all about.
NEED TO KNOW…
A stay at the Nira Alpina starts at £207 per person per night. Flights to Zurich (the nearest airport) with Swiss, start at £128 return. Swiss Transfer Tickets, which can be used on any train, tram or boat, start at £96.
IN THE AREA…
A short drive from the chichi resort of St Moritz, there’s no shortage of things to do at the Alpina. Skiing is the biggest draw and if the many ski slopes atop the Corvatsch aren’t thrilling enough, there’s plenty more a short drive away. It doesn’t all have to be downhill either. The hotel can also set you up with a Nordic ski guide, although its worth booking a sauna session timed to start the second you get back – it is seriously taxing on the thighs. Less exhausting but just as fun is ice skating which can be done for free on the lake in nearby St Moritz – itself worth a visit for its picturesque cobbled streets and seriously pricey shops. If that hasn’t exhausted you, there’s always a horse-drawn sleigh ride, which can be booked at the hotel and will give you a glimpse of the pretty snow-covered valleys just outside Silverplana.