If we compare the wide Engadin valley to a mighty tree trunk, the narrower side valleys appear like delicate and intricate branches. These havens of tranquillity offer cross-country skiers an escape into a pristine natural world and a sense of boundless peace. This experience of pure nature is more delightful still when combined with a taste of the irresistible delicacies served at the cosy mountain restaurants that await at the end of each trail.
In Pontresina, too, just a few (diagonal) strides take us from the bustling resort to the enchanting tranquillity of a pristine winter world. Starting at the railway station, we follow the trail into a valley of bewitching beauty. Almost perfectly V-shaped, the delightful Val Roseg leads between dramatic 3,000-metre peaks; along the way, the Piz Morteratsch and Piz Corvatsch frame our trail as it traces the course of the wild Ova da Roseg river. Higher up, the valley opens out to reveal spectacular views of the Sella massif and the Roseg Glacier – which gives its name to the Hotel Restaurant Roseg Gletscher, our destination after 7.5 kilometres of gentle ascent. The legendary dessert buffet here is a must. Now we have a choice: do we follow the same route back to Pontresina? Or should we treat ourselves to a leisurely ride back on a horse-drawn sleigh? Or shall we explore another 2.5 kilometres of trail, climbing further up the valley towards the frozen glacial lake of Lej da Vadret? Let’s think about it over a slice of cake …
No wonder the ancient Engadin village of Bever is often described as “fairy-tale”: the historical houses appear enchanted, and the whole village seems to lie under a magical spell. Bever nestles at the entrance to the Val Bever, and the cross-country ski trail that begins opposite the railway station and heads up the snow-blanketed valley also reveals a world of fairy-tale charm. Graded medium difficulty, the route leads along the bubbling Beverin river, over sparkling snow-covered meadows and through bewitching winter forests to the hamlet of Spinas. As we ski along, lost in the beauty of the surroundings and in tune with nature, we barely notice the gentle ascent over the 4 km of trail. It is only the delightful glide back down afterwards that makes us aware of the 100-odd vertical metres we have conquered as we climbed the valley. However, before leaving this blissfully tranquil spot to return to the dense network of trails back in the main valley, the Gasthaus Spinas tempts us to linger – with its hearty Engadin specialities and delicious home-made cakes.
“Valley of tranquillity”: the Val Fex fully deserves the description. It is already 65 years since the municipality of Sils teamed up with the organisations Pro Helvetia and Pro Natura and the Swiss Heritage Society to protect comprehensively the original and authentic nature of this side valley. A happy decision: as a result, we won’t find winter sports lifts, overhead power lines or holiday villages here. Just a few minutes after we set off from the valley station of the Furtschellas cable car, an enchanting winter world opens up before us; 10 km of delightful trail promise to work wonders for mind and body. The experience may be magical, but this route is far from child’s play. Divided into four sections (Furtschellas – Fex Platta, 2.5 km; Fex Platta – Fex Crasta, 1.7 km; Fex Crasta – Hotel Fex, 1.8 km; Hotel Fex – Plaun Vadret glacier, 4 km), the full trail climbs about 280 vertical metres in all and is officially classified as “difficult”.
br>Along the climb up the valley (or on the way back down), gastronomic treats beckon, promising a welcome reward for our efforts. The atmospheric Hotel Fex, for example, was originally built in St. Moritz in the 1850s, before being dismantled carefully into its component parts in 1900, transported by horse-drawn cart into the Val Fex and then rebuilt at an idyllic location. Here it now serves delicious Graubünden specialities and home-made cakes to hungry cross-country skiers – as do the legendary Hotel Sonne and the delightful Pension Crasta, with its splendid sun terrace. And if after eating we don’t feel like skiing any further, we can simply glide back to Sils in a horse-drawn sleigh!