St Moritz, the perfect place to train?
Having just returned from an amazing 6 week training block in St Moritz, I wanted to share my thoughts as to why I feel this is the perfect place as an athlete to go and train. I’ve been to many other places, including other European altitude destinations such as Font Romeu, but St Moritz seems to have everything.
Below I’ve summed it up in terms of trails, weather, people, travel, facilities and cost. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
This is the absolute number one reason all runners must visit St Moritz at some point in their lives. The trails are just perfect. For a mountainous location to have such well manicured and extensive, flat gravel trails going off in all directions is almost unheard of.
St Moritz is a runners paradise with it’s endless and varied trails. There are many miles of hard packed, wide, gravel trails right from your door with an option to run flat or over undulating terrain. Even a hardened ultra-runner would not get bored with the extent of the network available. Furthermore, there are so many more trails only a short bus/train/car journey from St Moritz centre, towards either Ponteresina, Samedan, Morterasch, Sils, Silverplana and/or Chamfer. These locations can also be accessed via the running trails for longer runs.
The scenery is so stunning and perhaps the only downside is you feel you need to keep stopping just to take it all in!
For faster ‘tempo’ running on tarmac, there are two main options; Celerina Arena – a 1200m quiet loop, 2 miles jog from STM or the Samedan Airstrip loop – a 3.2mile quiet loop, 4 miles jog / 10min train journey. Both loops are flat, a very well maintained surface and suitable for PB efforts
For a more in depth look at the routes with pictures and videos see my earlier blog post here:
Running routes of St Moritz
Perfectly manicured gravel trails surrounded by the most stunning scenery
OK, so anyone who knows me knows I like the sun. This is probably one downside of St Moritz over somewhere like Font Romeu in the Pyrenees. Being within a much smaller mountain range it’s effects on the weather are less pronounced. It’s also closer to Spain and you know what they say about Spain!
That said we’ve had plenty of sun in St Moritz when we’ve been there in the summer. Almost every morning starts with glorious sunshine, but occasionally getting a little more cloudy in the afternoon. On average the temperature is also a few degrees cooler in the Swiss resort and is much more susceptible to some large temperature variations. Even in August there can be a dusting of snow!
One final note on the weather. Unless you love cold, wet & snowy conditions to train in, don’t even think about travelling to any European altitude destination outside of the summer / early autumn months (June-September). I never understand why people go to these places at Easter when training is often disrupted by snowfall. Consider Morrocco, the US or maybe the Sierra Nevada if you have to go to altitude at this time. Or just go warm weather training instead :)
Early morning sunrise
After my first trip to St Moritz I fell in love with the scenery and surrounding beauty. I’d had such a good time, I just knew I had to go back. What I hadn’t initially realised is my urge to return was actually more due to the people I’d met out there. Amazing people, people just wanting to help, people willing to join up on runs, like-minded people who share the love of running, the outdoors, performance, the mountains.
It’s also so ridiculously easy to meet people in St Moritz. Most of the accommodation, the track, the gym and the start of all the running routes are centred in one very small area of St Moritz Bad, so the opportunities to meet these people are numerous. St Moritz tends to have a much wider geographical reach, attracting athletes from countries as far and wide as USA, Canada, Kenya, Japan as well as many of the surrounding European countries than other European training destinations we’ve visited.
Whilst we’re on people, I just want to mention some of those who have helped & inspired us whilst in Switzerland:
- D – our host and yoga master. He, alongside S (my host in June), made the trip possible offering up his spare room that he doesn’t normally rent out, for a sensible price. At least sensible in Swiss terms 🙂 He’s also given some amazing yoga lessons and taught us a lot about how our bodies work.
- Tim & everyone at the Athletes Service Centre. They’re a charitable organisation and offer free physiotherapy & massage! They generally base themselves in St Moritz for most of the summer and are such a positive and enlightening group of people. They also host evening sessions, inviting athletes to come and chat about various psychological topics. This is great as, not only does it help you develop this side of your game, it also brings all the athletes together in one place to meet each other, chat and share stories.
- Stu, Christoph, Jess T, Jens, Simon, Ben, Jens, Andreas, Timon, Marcel, Maja, Mona – to name just a few. These are our friends we’ve met along the way. Amazing people all with similar goals to improve their performances , meet other like minded people & generally just enjoy life and every step of the journey. It’s really been a pleasure to share the company of these guys whilst running and eating. On the latter point – Simon/Christoph/Jen I wish we could cook as well as you guys and forage as well as Simon 🙂
- S – he runs the local gym, Gut Training, based in the Ovavera building – well worth getting membership here. Again so positive and always looking to help
- Angela & the team at St Moritz Sports Office – this is a key difference to other training destinations we’ve visited – they have a full team looking to attract, help and service athletes whilst in St Moritz. If you are international level they even provide free gondola access and a once a week pass to the Ovavera pool/spa. They do everything they can to make sure athletes have what they need. This makes a huge difference.
Surround yourself with great people
One big advantage of St Moritz over other European running destinations is that everything you need is on your doorstep (trails, gym, track, physio, supermarket, coffee shops etc). So any time you are not training you can be resting without the need to be wasting energy travelling from place to place.
Furthermore, if you did want to go further afield to try other trails or venture to cheaper supermarkets the public transport system is extremely well developed, regular and, as we are in Switzerland, unbelievably punctual. Other resorts we’ve been to don’t have such a luxury.
Getting to St Moritz on paper does seem quite daunting compared to other places as it’s about 3.5 hours from Zurich airport by car or train. However, despite there being 3 changes if you take the train, it’s amazingly straightforward with good connections, regular services and the most picturesque UNESCO world heritage railway for the final leg over the Abula pass.
Train journey through Bever; a little hairy but one hell of a ride
International level athletes can use the Ice Arena gym for free, however I would actually recommend paying a little and using the Gut Training gym based in the Ovavera building. It’s much more well equipped & you also have the benefit of meeting the super positive manager, Sascha (see people section above).
Unlike other destinations we’ve visited, these gyms are setup specifically with elite level athletes in mind with all that you need.
If you like a bustling track atmosphere with plenty going on and people to spur you on, then the St Moritz is for you, however be warned it is only 4 lanes. Tracks in altitude locations are often in a state of disrepair due to the annual battering they receive from the elements. However, the team in the St Moritz Sports Office do a great job ensuring it’s in top quality condition – no holes, ridges, bumps etc.
Once finished on the track, there also a very well placed glacial stream a few hundred metres away for you to go and dip your legs. It is extremely cold even in high summer.
The track; literally on top of the world
When I’ve asked people if they’ve ever been to St Moritz, this is almost always the number one reason that puts people off. Well it shouldn’t! It’s not to say it’s cheap, however there are various things you can do to bring the cost more in line with other European destinations. Drop me an e-mail for some tips.
Save money: Bring your own food & relax in the local facilities :)