KLOSTERS, Switzerland — When you're looking for a small and exclusive boutique of a ski resort frequented by the likes of Greta Garbo, Deborah Kerr and a regular hangout for Prince Charles since he was a schoolboy, this little charmer has to be your choice.
Named for the cloisters built here by monks in the early 13th Century, it shares the world-renowned Parsenn and Silvretta ski runs with larger Davos just up the valley, shuttle trains keeping the tracks warm between the two.
And in truth there is an intimacy about the place that most visitors find appealing. While other Swiss winter resorts may rate a page or two in the Michelin guide, Klosters must settle for a scant paragraph, which describes its setting as "still quite rural."
Klosters' small size also breeds a familiarity between natives and visitors, akin to being admitted to the family upon arrival. Prince Charles and Lady Di have local cronies they ski and party with, one of them telling us that, contrary to press reports, Diana is quite good on the slopes.
The royal pair may not be your run-of-the-mill visitors, but any outlander can make friends from one end of town to the other just by petting the dachshunds. It seems that every family has at least one.
Here to there: TWA, Air Canada and Pan Am will fly you to Zurich, domestics to New York or Chicago for a change to Swissair. Balair flies LAX-Zurich weekly during summer months. A train leaves hourly from Zurich's airport for Klosters, with a change at Landquart, the trip taking less than two hours. Your Swiss Holiday Card allows you to check baggage and skis straight through to any town in the country.
How long/how much? Most skiers stay at least a week, summer visitors set a shorter schedule. Lodging costs are moderate to expensive off-season, expensive when skiing is best and on holidays. Dining very well is usually moderate.
A few fast facts: The Swiss franc was recently worth 61 cents, 1.63 to our dollar. Summer months are beautiful, May, June and November rainy, best skiing Christmas to Easter. Getting around is easy as buses are free, but walk all of the village with ease.
Getting settled in: Hotel Ratia (Klosters Dorf; $73 double, half-pension in summer, $116 average in winter) is an old farmhouse that reeks with rustic charm. Dining room of logs and beams, copper-hooded fireplace, great bunches of dried wildflowers. Huge meadow just out front door, room balconies, 20 rooms, less expensive ones without baths.
Surval (Klosters Dorf; $80 summer, half-pension, $86 winter) is very contemporary, with Swiss overtones, bright and cheerful feeling throughout, small garden and pool, owner's paintings on walls, gallery of local artists upstairs, games and books add to a family atmosphere.
Bundnerhof (mid-village; $65 double, half-pension summer, $73 winter) is simple and homelike, family owners for 38 years have built reputation for hospitality.
Regional food and drink: Chas-gatschader is a Klosters favorite, a bread, milk and cheese pancake usually eaten at lunch. Chruutcapuns is another omelet, this one stuffed with various meats and rolled in green-vegetable leaves.
Stop in at a bei, the Swiss version of a pub, for greuchta engadiner mit rosti, a heavenly rich sausage with the staple Swiss pan-fried potato cakes. Malanser red and white wines are quite good, also the Fendant from Valais and Aigle, another one we enjoyed.
Moderate-cost dining: Restaurant Hohwald, its 17th-Century farmhouse now a no-nonsense bei, served us all of the above dishes. Mostly locals here, drawn by the warm and inviting atmosphere.
Hotel-Restaurant Wynegg has been in owner Ruth Guler's family for three generations, everyone in the valley hailing its food. Prince Charles came here several times before his marriage, has brought his wife back since. Decor and ambiance as Grisons-authentic as you can believe, 19 rooms at friendly prices, eight without private baths even friendlier.
Going first-class: Valserhof (edge of village; $85 B&B double, summers, $116 winter) is all enchantment from doorway to rooftop: superb rooms and baths, a dining-room menu you'd expect to encounter in Paris or Lyon, the chef-owner and his wife dedicated to your satisfaction upstairs or at table. They made the dining room of 13th- and 14th-Century farmhouse beams, each still branded with the house sign. People come from Zurich just for a meal, a tribute to Beat and Gabi Bolliger's fantastic food and superlative wine list.
Chesa Grischuna (mid-village; $189 half-pension summer, $208 winter) is almost a Klosters landmark, beautifully traditional, almost always booked solid. But we found the pace much too hectic for us, staff impersonal at best.
Alpina (opposite rail station; $116 for full-kitchen apartment in summer, $146 winter) is a great place for families. Huge twin chalets, indoor pool, sauna, everything a contemporary treatment of Grisons' architecture.
On your own: Some of Europe's best skiing in winter, lots of hiking and wildflower walks in summer, other sports and recreation activities for both seasons, all adding up to something for everyone.
For more information: Call the Swiss National Tourist Office at (415) 362-2260, or write (250 Stockton St., San Francisco 94108) for brochures on Klosters, the Grisons and the Swiss Holiday Card. Ask for the Klosters Package.