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St.-Moritz Hotel Picks

St.-Moritz is not your average ski resort. It's the kind of place where polo tournaments are played on a frozen lake and sponsored by Cartier. Where you need a letter of recommendation to sled with the tobogganing club. Where the gear on the slopes is Gucci, the fashion on the streets, Chanel. Think Aspen is worldly?Try St.-Moritz.

During the 1950's and 60's, the slopes were studded with stars—Audrey Hepburn, Aristotle Onassis, the Aga Khan—but in subsequent decades, St.-Moritz lost its luster. Serious skiers found better runs in Canada or, for that matter, other parts of Switzerland. The fashionable defected to Italy. Today, however, the buzz is back, fueled by global tastemakers recently enamored of all things Swiss, and a generation of Europeans newly nostalgic for the resort of their childhood. The town's best hotels have perfect timing: they're all re-creating themselves. Where you choose to stay depends on the kind of person you are—and determines who you are in the world of St.-Moritz.

BADRUTT'S PALACE HOTEL There is no address more famous here than the Palace (as everyone calls it). You'd have to be pretty jaded to sit by the fire in the baronial Grand Hall and not be impressed. The views through picture windows of the mountains and Lake St.-Moritz are heart-stopping. And the décor is grand—times 10: carved coffered ceilings; religious statuary, marble busts, and antlers galore; an original Madonna by Raphael (one of few in the world).

But what you really can't take your eyes off of is the crowd. The woman of a certain age in a pink beaver coat is just back from the hotel's Pucci boutique. A captain of industry manages to take a call on his cell phone, smoke a cigar, order a Cognac, and ogle the blonde across the room, all the while carrying on a conversation with his (much younger) wife. That blonde, by the way, is Claudia Schiffer.

Founded in 1896 and still owned by descendants of Johannes Badrutt—who transformed St.-Moritz into a winter destination by luring English tourists with a money-back guarantee of sun and snow—the Palace has pedigree. It also occupies a prime perch in the heart of town. In 1999, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts took over management and began a $25 million restoration and modernization (to be completed in 2004). Their hand can be felt in a new, less formal restaurant (jacket required, but no tie) with an Asian-inflected menu, and especially in the service: when I asked housekeeping to bring foam pillows to my room, for example, they didn't miss a beat. It seems a simple request, but I have found that at Swiss hotels you practically have to argue to get such things done.

Even at world-class ski-resort hotels the guest rooms are typically no-nonsense, and the 201 accommodations at the Palace prove the rule, though they do set St.-Moritz's highest standard for luxury and make up in freshness and views what they often lack in size. Rosewood got most of the details right in the refurbished rooms (be sure to request one of those): deeply buttoned upholstered headboards, a restrained mix of stripes and floral prints, nearly unadorned walls, pretty crystal chandeliers, and white marble bathrooms that have been given the theatrical flourish of a big gilded mirror above the sink.

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