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Club Med Saint Moritz & Lucerne Switzerland

Date: Jan 26-Feb 6, 2019
Trip Leader: Steven Krapes
Trip Assistant: Raghu Naik
(click pictures to see high resolution image)

The group met at Newark airport for the Saturday overnight flight to Zurich. The airport was empty for our 10pm departure, so no lines at check-in, TSA, or the Irish bar across from our gate in Terminal B; a very civilized departure experience. When we arrived in Zurich at 11:30am Sunday morning, the 52 of us loaded our luggage and skis (skis fly for free on Swiss) onto two motor coaches for the 3.5 hour drive via windy switchback roads to the mountain village of St Moritz.

When we arrived at Club Med, their "GO" team took our luggage and staged it on the appropriate floor for each of our rooms. Our skis and boot bags were placed outside by the basement ski room door. Unfortunately we weren't told of this segregation of our luggage and it took a while before most of us discovered that our ski stuff was outside, where it was snowing and wet. One couple's boot bag was "lost" in the kerfuffle (Club Med gave them free boot rentals and a lost luggage claim was filed). The ski room was an open area with ski racks where each room had a designated slot in a rack. There were shelves where you could store your boots. If you wanted to secure your skis or boots, you needed to bring a cable lock. Upon entering Club Med we were greeted with drinks and our room packet (keys, ski lift card, CM charge card). Within a few minutes we were all in our rooms and then we went to the bar lobby to enjoy a drink and sign up for lessons by group difficulty number.  There was a video that showed what type of skier skill level is appropriate for each level. 1=never-ever; 2=wedge; 3=parallel-slow; 4=parallel-moderate-speed; 5=aggressive-plus-off-piste; 6=cliffs-and-rocks.

Since about 70% of the group had been to Club Med before, most of us did not attend the 7pm orientation, which was difficult to understand given that every topic was spoken in French, then English, and then Italian. Plus we were all hungry and dinner started at 7pm. There were two buffet restaurants (Main and Italian) that you could visit regardless of which restaurant you were seated. The quality and variety of the buffet was good. Everyone had smiles, even when trying to drink the free wine (white, red, rose), which reminded everyone of Trader Joe's 2-buck chuck. Okay, it's free and you could always get beer or a mixed drink from the bar. And the bar's tequila was actually quite good. Several times we drank them out of tequila after numerous 20-shot platters. There were some comparisons to the food at Val d'Isere, which was of higher quality and French flair (especially the breads and pastries), but nobody comes to Switzerland for the unique food, so expectations were in line with what we received. The sushi, muscles, prawns, risotto, duck, etc were more than enough variety to keep everyone engaged and happy.



Monday morning began the 5-days of instructor led lessons. Each skier level had a different meeting time and destination, which changed each day, as posted on the lesson board by the front desk. Of the 3 different ski areas, 2 required bus transportation, and one required a 600m walk. Several of the skier level groups consisted of all or mostly Holmdel Ski Club members. It was important to align with a particular social group on the first day since this was your group for the entire week. Some instructors in a given group level gave frequent lesson tips/assessments, while others mostly guided us around the mountains. Once again, it was important to initially align with your preference of an instructor or a guide. 




Skiing in St Moritz is primarily on firm, narrow, groomed runs. Most of the off-piste areas were rocky and covered in hard windslap snow. There were no on-piste moguls, since every run is groomed every day, even after a large dump of snow. The locals all had stiff carving or racing skis. The allure of St Moritz skiing is the various views of the Alps.



Two of the three ski areas had Club Med lunch rooms where you had a specific 30 minute schedule to dine. The Corviglia lunch room (picture at left) was small and thus crowded but the process was efficient. Several web blogs pan the Corviglia lunch process as horribly crowded and almost a deal breaker, but unless you live a pampered ski life where you always expect a Deer Valley style lunch experience, the crowded mountain cafeteria experience is the norm. Nobody that I spoke to had a problem with the lunch experience. Plus, outside the Corviglia lunch room was an ante-room that served gluhwein, soup and ice cream.  The Corvatsch lunch room was spacious with a greater variety of food. The instructors made sure to get the group to the lunch rooms on time. After lunch we had 45 minutes to ourselves before the instructor rejoined us.

At around 4pm the instructors brought the group back to Club Med. There were some snacks available but most folks used this time for walking to St Moritz Dorf (the main town), or taking a sauna, swim, or a nap. Around 6pm folks gathered at the bar area, where there were additional snacks. Each evening had a trivia contest or karaoke singer. Mostly this time was used to socialize about our day's adventure. At 9pm there was a show put on by Club Med employees. Not a high quality performance but if you drank enough beforehand the show started to become entertaining. Vlad (picture at left, leftmost person) was conscripted to be one of the entertainers, and he was a natural on stage.

Tuesday through Friday were similar to Monday, but at a different ski areas. When we skied at the Diavolezza/Lagalb ski area, we were taken back to Club Med around 1pm so that we could eat lunch at the hotel. Diavolezza and Lagalb had the most spectacular scenery, but very few runs, so the 1pm departure was appropriate.

Sunday morning was the departure day for most Club Med guests, so the lobby was filled with luggage going to different places. It was again imperative that each of our memberís bags had our Club's colorful luggage tags so that we could differentiate our bags from others. The Club Med bellboys sometimes got confused about whose luggage went to which pile, so it was imperative that we had watchers that blocked any non-HSC luggage from our pile, and looked at other piles to move HSC luggage to our pile. By 9:30am we were on our way to Lucerne. The first hour was driving above tree line across passes, switchbacks, and rural towns with narrow roadways where the bus barely was able to pass between buildings. We stopped at a typical Swiss rest area that served high quality meals, fruits, sandwiches, etc. Bathrooms required 1 Swiss Franc or 1 Euro, typical for all rest areas and some towns.

We arrived at the Hotel Waldstatterhof in Lucerne around noon. This was one of the best city hotels that the Club has ever visited. Moderns rooms and a good hot breakfast. The hotel was located right next to the train station and ferry station. About 3 blocks away was the famous Chapel Bridge (right)  and the old town area where all the shopping and sightseeing was located. There were many wrist watch stores, as you would expect in Switzerland. After everyone checked in, which was a quick process, we all fanned out into the city and enjoyed the snowy day. Many people took a day train ride to Basel, a larger Swiss city at lower altitude - so you won't see snow in those pictures, but you will in all the Lucerne pictures.









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