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Youth Beat

Affordable Switzerland

September 20, 1987|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Canadian travel journalist covering youth budget routes.

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — This city does live up to its expensive reputation.

Shop windows display $500 sunglasses and restaurant meals are sometimes twice the price you might pay at home, but that doesn't mean young travelers on limited budgets can't enjoy this beautiful Alpine area.

St. Moritz has a youth hostel, two student hotels and a variety of hiking, biking and cross-country skiing trails. Camping facilities are within a few miles of the village.

It's one of several resort villages on the shores of mountain lakes in the Engadine area of the Swiss Alps.

St. Moritz is linked to other villages by bus and by 75 miles of hiking trails, 100 miles of cross-country skiing trails and 25 miles of cycling trails.

You also will find more than 248 miles of downhill ski runs, skating, horse racing on frozen lakes, curling, ski jumping and bobsledding.

On the second weekend in March more than 10,000 cross-country skiers gather to compete in the 26-mile Engadine marathon.

During summer months there is fishing, sailing and windsurfing. On the first weekend in August more than 500 windsurfers gather for an annual competition.

Roomy Hostel

For lodging, the best bet in St. Moritz is the youth hostel. It is about a 25-minute walk from the rail station, but close to cross-country and cycling trails.

The 10-year-old building can accommodate up to 190 travelers. The cost per person for sharing a two-bed room is 21 Swiss francs (about $14 U.S.) a night. The rate to share a four-bed room is 13 francs (about $9 U.S.) per person.

One of the advantages of staying in the youth hostel is that for a fee of 2 francs you can use the kitchen facilities and avoid the restaurants. The hostel can also provide prepared meals at a cost of 4 francs for breakfast and 7 francs for lunch or dinner.

There are no age restrictions for lodging at a hostel, but you must be a member of the International Youth Hostel Federation.

The major disadvantage is its 11:30 p.m. curfew on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and a 10 p.m. curfew other nights.

Contact St. Moritz Youth Hostel, CH 7500 St. Moritz-Bad, Switzerland.

One-Star Hotels

If you want to avoid the restrictions of a youth hostel, try one-star hotels such as the Hotel Sonne. It is a five-minute walk from the youth hostel.

In summer, rates per person for two in a room would be 40 to 60 francs, including breakfast. During the winter, rates rise to 50 to 70 francs. You can make reservations through Swissair, even if you're not flying that airline.

Switzerland's student travel service (SSR) has two hotels in St. Moritz. You do not have to be a student to use them. The hitch with SSR hotels is that they require you to book for a minimum of a week.

The Hotel Bellaval is a two-minute walk from the rail station. It's open from December to April and June through October. Winter rates start at 51 francs per person a night in January, and rise slightly during peak holiday periods.

Hotel Stille is next to the youth hostel and the cross-country ski trail. It has 45 double rooms. Rates begin at 47 francs per person a night. Warning: In budget hotels, expect to share a washroom with other guests on your floor.

Half or Full Board

One of the major advantages of the SSR hotels is that room rates include half-board. For only 8 francs more you can have full board.

For details, contact SSR-Travel, Hotel Department, P.O. Box 8026 Zurich, Switzerland, or visit any SSR travel office in most major Swiss cities.

This summer a new 25-mile cycling route was unveiled. It begins in the village of Silvaplana, continues through St. Moritz and ends at S-chanf. Another trail leads from Bever to Spinas.

The path is unpaved and away from main roads. It's a gentle ride through the valley and takes you through forest areas and by smaller lakes such as Lei Marsh. The smaller lakes are warmer for swimming, and Lei Marsh has public barbecues.

Biking and Skiing

The brochure, "Bicycling in the Upper Engadine," is available from local tourist offices. It has a map, a schedule of alternative transportation services and details on bike rentals. Unfortunately, it is only printed in German. Copies are available from the St. Moritz tourist board.

Five-speed bicycles can be rented at the St. Moritz rail station for 12 francs a day. The bikes can be returned to any rail station in Switzerland.

Winter visitors will find that rentals for downhill skiing are at least 42 francs for skis, poles and boots for a single day. Cross-country ski rentals last year for skis, poles and boots was 18 francs a day or 74 francs a week.

You can reach St. Moritz by rail, and you can use a Eurailpass. However, more than 40% of Switzerland's rail services are privately owned and many of the smaller mountain trains are not included in the Eurail system.

While in the St. Moritz area, check with the tourist information office in the nearby village of Silvaplana. Its sports center offers free activities, including guided hikes on Thursdays.

For more information on St. Moritz, contact the St. Moritz Tourist Office, CH-7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland, or the Swiss National Tourist Office at 250 Stockton St., San Francisco 94108; (415) 362-2260.

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