While the Palace doesn't always live up to the promise of its beauty—dinner in the attractive dining room was spoiled by the experience of watching my poulet de Bresse being hacked at by a waiter unskilled in the art of tableside carving—it nonetheless never fails to generate the feeling that you've arrived. At that same dinner, I had the unexpected pleasure of dining next to a group of children participating in the hotel's etiquette class. Children would normally be out of place in such a formal setting, but the boys were wearing smart navy suits, the girls pristine dresses—and tiaras—and not one made an improper peep. At the Palace even the children are exceptional!
27 Via Serlas; 888/767-3966 or 41-81/837-1100; www.rosewoodhotels.com; doubles from $530, including breakfast.
KULM HOTEL You can tell the Kulm is serious about winter sports the moment you walk in the door. On one of the walls of the busy entrance hall—beneath trompe l'oeil wood panels depicting an Alpine village—hangs a wooden sign indicating the day's weather conditions, and another announcing the practice days and times of the Cresta Run (managed by the famed and exclusive tobogganing club, based at the hotel).
Sporty types also choose the Kulm for its location. The hotel's four interconnected structures—an 18th-century pensione and three later, undistinguished-looking buildings—occupy a hilltop at the edge of town. This placement pays off in especially close proximity to Corviglia, St.-Moritz's main skiing area. Even lugging skis, you can walk to the tramway, something you can't do from the Palace. The setting also provides space enough for two massive skating rinks (one is home to the Curling Club), St.-Moritz's best gym and spa, a vanishing-edge indoor pool with dramatic mountain views, and, for summer visitors, two tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course.
Though the Kulm lacks the jaw-dropping scale of the Palace, some of its public rooms do have similar visual punch. The showpiece is the Renzo Mongiardino-designed lobby, a dizzying fantasy where every available inch (columns, furniture, walls) is swathed in printed fabrics. For après-ski, a ruddy-cheeked crowd gathers by the fire; snag a table in the rear of the room near the windows, order cocktails or a pot of tea, and you've got the perfect spot for hours of people-watching.
Alas, the standard residential look of the 185 guest rooms does not invite the same kind of lingering, though most have generous proportions and lots of closets to accommodate all of your gear (and gowns)—not to mention freshly pressed pure linen sheets on the bed. Be sure to book one of the renovated rooms; my favorites are those in the atmospheric pensione, which tend to be smaller but have been redone in a cheerful Engadine style with simple painted walls and pine everywhere.
The Kulm failed me just once, when a staff member entered my room without knocking—an unthinkable mistake at a hotel of this caliber. But all was forgiven at lunch, over an exquisite truite au bleu—lake trout poached live in a court bouillon and served with perfectly sculpted potatoes and the most dainty of haricots fines. Sitting by the window in the restaurant, watching the horse races on the lake below, and savoring what is, for me, the Holy Grail of Swiss dishes...maybe the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, after all.
18 Via Vegria; 800/223-6800 or 41-81/836-8000; www.kulmhotel-stmoritz.ch; doubles from $530, including breakfast.