Posts Tagged ‘Bernina Pass’


Engadin Ski Marathon, Switzerland

March 6, 2009

Living with the Alps in your backyard breeds a feisty appetite for competitive sport. Every other person I have spoken this week seems to be training for the Geneva Marathon, La Marmotte (174km on a bike), the Lake Geneva triathlon. 

I like husband @luefkens’s attitude. Skip the training and just do the race (preferably with Flip camera in hand). ‘His’ race is 42km on long skinny cross-country skis across frozen lakes, snowy plains and pristine pine forests in the Engadine Valley, eastern Switzerland. Warm up on the snow with thousands of skiers to a rousing Chariots of Fire, glide into fashionable St-Moritz in the shade of the historic Palace hotel, wave at the picture-book red train chugging upwards and onwards over the Bernina Pass into Italy, and know there are few Swiss experiences this big.

The price for skating across such a godlike canvas is an ungodly 5.30am wake-up call the morning of the race, a cross-legged queue with seemingly all 12,000 other competitors for a pee in a portable loo, and a mad scramble on the start line to keep your two poles whole, intact and in your hands. (Hundreds of snapped ski poles litter the course by the end of the race and however good a start you get you’ll still probably finish 8888th position four or five hours of sweet ski and sweat later.)


Dine & Dream: Pontresina is a down-to-earth alternative to glitzy St-Moritz to eat and sleep. But nothing beats Gasthaus Berninahaus, 7km away from it all at the foot of the Bernina Pass. Decorative pine and wood beams rule the quaint roost inside and lunching on its terrace at 2046m altitude is heady, peaceful and intoxicating.


For cheaper, basic bunk rooms with bags of mountain panache, continue up the pass to Albergo Ospizio Bernina, a old mountain inn wedged between snow and rock at 2330m. The Bernina Express train stops right in front and views are the big brilliant breathless type that no photo can capture.


If it’s an entire valley you want to feast on, head higher says @luefkens to Muottas Muragl. He’s there now. Wish I was.