THE LAKE AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD
“Lake Silvaplana is renowned throughout Europe. It has a strong wind current because of the way it sits in the valley. People come from all over. In the summer it really is a spectacle to watch all these people.”
While most visitors to Nira Alpina come for what lies above the resort—Corvatsch Mountain and its 120 kilometers of groomed ski runs that are lit up on Friday night till 2 a.m., as well as its famed backcountry trails—what lies below the hotel is almost as appealing. Nira Alpina overlooks Lake Silvaplana, which has become the place to snowkite and windsurf in Europe.
Quite simply, there is no other water destination in Europe quite like this one. In the summertime, the 3km x 1.5km lake is literally awash in sails, culminating each August with Engadinwind, one of the biggest sailing regattas on the Continent. A flotilla of wind worshipers—kitesurfers, windsurfers, and sailboats—vie for the crown of the world’s fastest sailor. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for boarders to reach speeds up to 65kph on a wind so fierce it even has a name (Malojawind). “Lake Silvaplana is renowned throughout Europe,” Puri is quick to point out. “It has a strong wind current because of the way it sits in the valley. People come from all over. In the summer it really is a spectacle to watch all these people.”
Not that the winter scene is devoid of spectacle or daredevil, high-speed histrionics. To wit: snowkiting. Like kiteboarding, its warmer-weather cousin, snowkiting involves the use of a large controllable sail at the end of long tether that allows riders to whip across the snow. What makes it different from other alpine sports is that a snowkiter can actually travel uphill. It’s easier to learn than kiteboarding and most visitors can pick it up in a day. Beginners start with a two-to-three meter size kite on light wind days while using their own snowboard or ski.
Needless to say, with the slopes offering the best skiing in winter and Lake Silvaplana the best boarding in summer, Nira Alpina has become a go-to year-round destination. And these summer activities easily spill outside the lake’s perimeter. Hiking in the Sound of Music-like environs is exceedingly popular, as is mountain biking. But they are not for the weak of heart—or limb. Which is why some riders use e-bikes to climb the slopes. “They’re both very invigorating,” say Puri, who well understands the rewards that await those who make it to the higher climes. “The air is crisp and the views are spectacular.”
With the temps averaging around 17 degrees Celsius, summer is also a big time for festivals, from jazz to art to cars. And for a country that seems to have an endless love affair with all that it has to offer, summer fittingly reaches its zentith on August 1 with the celebrations and fireworks of Swiss National Day.
So if one had to pick—winter or summer in St. Moritz? Puri demurs, but then throws out this morsel for those who may think of this as a winter-only playground. “I like the summer equally,” he says with a smile. “Sometimes even more, because the weather is so fantastic.”