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St. Moritz, Engadin - South-Eastern Switzerland


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Accommodation for this areaHOTELS/B&B
What do the symbols mean? don't miss scenic route Avoid if at all possible Sweepers Twisties Hairpins Town or Point of Interest Web Cam Available

One of the member states of Switzerland as we know it, Graubünden (The Grey Federation), is mostly German-speaking, but is also home to most of the rhaeto-romanic speakers in the country. link to Zernez photoNot unrelated to Latin, rhaeto-romanic is the fourth official language of Switzerland along with German, French and Italian. Outside Graubünden, little if any Rhaeto-Romanic is spoken, but there are still some speakers in small regions in the mainly Italian-speaking canton of Tessin (Ticino) and in the border areas of Austria.
The whole area has some brilliant roads, with a range of difficulties and surfaces. This area doesn't seem as concentrated as around Andermatt,and the passes aren't quite as extreme, but they are - on the whole - more fun to ride.

B29 Tirano - Berninapass - St. Moritz
Webcam N46?24.680 E10?01.853
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Fast sweepers on a wide road with great surface. This can be busy because of traffic heading for duty-free Livigno.
Up out of hot, sticky Tirano, you cross the border in to Switzerland (petrol's cheap here for some reason). You pass the lake and a few small towns - watch out for the railway running parallel to and often right in the middle of the road - some risky level crossings. It's quite fast and not too twisty. Out of the towns the road climbs gently on sweepers and a surface which stays superb all the way to St. Moritz. Up to the tree-line, then the road gets consistently tighter, but because it's a major road it's neither steep nor narrow. The section near the top is absolutely brilliant - fast tight bends which turn into huge, wide hairpins - just chuck the bike over and keep it there. Watch out if you're going really fast as some bends tighten a bit mid-corner.
The northern side is a lot straighter and damned fast, with great views of the mountians. Watch out for the one railway level-crossing - you'll take off if you're going over 30mph!
I like this road. Easy, fast and fun.
Check out the loony Norwegian's video at www.roadmc.com

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B28 Davos - Flüela pass - Susch Silver medal symbol
N46?45.186 E09?56.510
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An easier route then the Albula. Wide, a few bumpy bits near the top of the southern ramp, but otherwise an excellent surface.There are only a few hairpins but the road is twisty and convoluted, which is more fun in my book. The top is bleak and treeless. Superb ride and very enjoyable, it's even better as it's relatively easy to overtake. There are no stretches to get a good rhythm going, but there are no villages to slow you down either.
An easy pass.

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ss303 Gaviapass
2003-07-01

Webcam N46?20.728 E10?29.523
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South of Bormi?, and interesting pass.
We haven't ridden this pass for a long time so thanks to "Rickyval" for the update. Last year (2003) I found it had all been metalled. No ruts, no gravel- apart from normal amounts washed-down from the side

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B3 Silvaplana - Julierpass - Tiefencastell
scenic route avoid if possible N46?28.330 E09?43.659
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It doesn't really seem like a pass at all, it's too gently climbing. The nice wide road near the bottom of the south side at Silvaplana gets narrower nearer the top leading to a wide glacial valley. The northern side is good, especially since being mostly resurfaced in 1998 or so. They've finished the bypass at Tiefencastell, which is nice for the residents, but bad for us. This used to be the bottleneck, and originally the road was narrower and less well-built. I good ride. Now, the bypass means the road has been widened all the way, and it is now a main route over the mountains here. Where once it was an easy, picturesque ride, it's now jammed full of HGVs and caravans. Avoid this road and take the F?ela instead. Your bike will thank you for it.

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ss37/B3 Chiavenna - Malojapass - Silvaplana
don't miss scenic route Webcam N46?24.125 E09?41.726
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Aparrently, the only pass in the Alps with only one ramp. link to Silvaplana photosThe western side is nice, reminiscent of the Dolomites in it's tree-lined landscape. The eastern side descends gently into Silvaplana and to St. Moritz.

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E43 Messoco - St.Bernadino - Hinterrhein Gold medal symbol
don't miss scenic route Webcam N46?27.768 E09?11.379
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Pso. d. S.Bernardino: The southern side is one of my favourites. The northern ramp is steep, basically a series of hairpins until you reach the plateau at the top. Then there is a short stretch of twisties over the bleak green granite and bog landscape to the Refuge.
The southern side is mostly through the trees. It is not that wide, but has a great surface. After a short but steep drop from the top, the road levels out a bit towards miles of fast/medium sweepers leading to Mesocco. Most traffic takes the motorway.

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13 Sufers -Thusis
don't miss scenic route N46?39.741 E09?26.920
Rofla gorge, and Via Mala: Take the single-track road that runs alongside the 2-laned motorway. This turns into a road only used by locals and bikes. It's been mostly rebuilt and has now only a few roadworks and bumpy sections, especially at the Bernadino end up to Splügen. Then the surface quickly improves through the trees and along a lovely section of curves up to the picturesque, wild Rofla gorge. Mostly twisites and serpentines. At high speed some corners can catch you out here and on the Via Mala. Great fun. Watch out for the one place where the road throws you onto the motorway for about 50 yards. Don't get stuck on it! The Via Mala is a very deep and narrow gorge. Just before Thusis, take a break if you've got a camera. Watch out for tourists in the road!

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ss36 Spl?gen - Splügenpass - Chiavenna(I) s36
Hairpin Webcam N46?30.037 E09?19.754
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Splügen pass: The southern side is extremely steep.The hairpins are in unlit tunnels with poor surfaces. We did this in the rain and hated every second - I'm sure it's lovely when it's dry. "I hope never to go back there."
Well we ventured here again in 2003. Actually it wasn't as bad as we remembered it. The north (Swiss) side is a wide road and serpentines out of the little villlage of Splügen, then it narrows a bit through trees - snaking rather than twisting, then out above the trees on a long straight. Up a steep narrow set of hairpins on a very good surface to the Swiss border crossing.
Then there's a no-man's-land up more difficult narrow and steep hairpins and over the top to the Italian border. Watch out, the hairpins aren't signposted!

On the Italian side after the border the road continues up with fewer hairpins and a similar good surface. Watch out for cattle in the road. On the descent there are a few grim-looking villages and a few more hairpins leading to a fast road beside a reservoir. There are a couple of dark galleries before the village of Pianazzo. Turn right here to Chiavenna.
It's here that things get interesting. There are a large number of narrow galleries and unlit tunnels, some with bends in them or even hairpins. Previosly the road surface was very poor here but it has been improved somewhat.

Very difficult. A nightmare in the wet or dark (or both).

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Tiefencastel - Glaris/Wiesen - Davos Bronze medal symbol
don't miss scenic route Twisty Webcam N46?40.418 E09?38.148
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Davos is a long ribbon-setlement and can be busy. The rest of the road is low meadows-type scenery mostly medium sweepers and a few short excellent stretches where you can get a great rhythm going.
The surface is excellent all the way. The Davos end is fairly straight with some really kitschy little villages. Around Frauenkirchen it turns into sections of great flickable curves, twisties and a couple of hairpins.
Definitely a much better road than the B27 Sisch to St. Moritz road.

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Alvaneu - Berg?n - Albulapass - la Punt Chaumes-ch
scenic route Webcam N46?36.441 E09?45.386
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The Albulapass: starts from the Davos road in farmland in a valley, and has an almost constant set of corners until the gorge just before Bergün. After that the road gets worse. It ends up a very narrow, steep and bumpy road through the trees. The steep section is relatively short. This is a very varied pass road. Trees, rocks, hairpins and sweepers. Not to mention solitary cows in the middle of the road. If it's raining you'll be glad to get to the top. Difficult. The valley at the top resembles a Scottish glen.
It's worth a detour from the north side to ride up to Bergün and back down.

We haven't ridden the Albula for a while, and it seems it's got a bit worse. Morten Schmidt in Denmark has this to say from May 2003.
This road is so bumpy that even if you have super-human shoulder muscles and a perfect suspension on the bike (I have a Maxton-modded fork and Technoflex shock - muscles are another matter...) you would still not be able to enjoy it. By the time we had passed the bumpy section we were too exhausted to enjoy the good part. Simply not worth the effort, and most definately not worth a bronze seal, in our opinion. Wish we'd gone by Julier Pass instead and given that a try.

We'll be reconsidering our ratings in this area.

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28 Zenez - Ofen pass - M?stair/Sta. Maria
scenic route Sweeper N46?38.595 E10?17.187
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Mostly sweepers and fast straights you can keep up a high average speed here. There are a few tighter bits to slow you down but not by much. Unusual woodland scenery for this region. The surface is generally very good and there's little goods traffic, just tourists. Otherwise unremarkable.
The road is fairly level and only climbs at each end near Zernez and Müstair.
Fast, easy.
Morten's comments: One small aditional comment you could make about the Ofen pass (and other Swiss roads, but the Ofen pass in particular), is that this road was NOT made by the same people who paved the Dolomites! The Swiss curves can change radius 3 or 4 times through a turn, making them highly (or at the very least somewhat) unpredictable.
although we must admit we didn't find it any more so than most roads.

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ss38 Bormio - Stilfser Joch - Stelvio
don't miss scenic route Hairpin Webcam N46?31.716 E10?27.230
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Bormi? is the starting point for the Stilfserjoc/Passo del Stelvio - one of the most famous biking passes in the Alps - either the second or third highest pass in the Alps, unless you read the sign at the top which still claims it is the highest.
The western side is less steep and has a much better surface. It runs through pretty dreary scenery on the whole, but the road has been widened in places and mostly resurfaced (2001) and it is now a blinder! Wide, generally good visibility and only a few short bumpy bits - do slow down big time for the tunnels! They are unlit, wet, with corners and serious potholes. The old, steep bit by the waterfall has been completely remade with a great series of wide hairpins (see panoram photo). It is still steep in places, especially just before the top, where the Umbrail/Sta.Maria pass joins from Switzerland. The top is normally very busy - packed with bikes and a bit touristy.
The eastern side is a completely different kettle of fish. It is much steeper and is pretty bumpy as the ground shifts here a lot, and it can be closed for a few days after a snow storm, even in July. - If so you can normally get down the Umbrail pass and go round. This side has so many hairpins you lose count - I think about 48 in all on this side, 39 on the west side. Enough for you? Got a stick to shake?
Unfortunately, if you're coming up this side, the hairpins are nearly all blind and extremely steep. Coupled with the awful surface I think it's a nightmare. If you do this and can honestly say you enjoyed it then I take my hat off to you. I'd recommend going down the east side rather than up.
Anyway, if you're doing this on a weekend be prepared to be overtaken. However fast you think you are, the locals'll piss on you.

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28/ss38 Santa Maria - Umbrailpass - Stilfserjoch
2003-06-25

scenic route Hairpin Webcam N46?32.531 E10?25.273
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This shortcut into Italy from Switzerland starts in the little village of Santa Maria and climbs steeply through a densly wooded, narrow, bumpy section. The hairpins are very narrow and steep making it hard not to use both sides of the road and overtaking practically impossible. Once off hte climb there's a long relatively flat section running on the valley floor and up the side a bit (this bit is usually unmade). It isn't as bad as it sound, as it's well-packed, but do take care in the wet. Watch out here for Swiss customs officers, they lurk around here to try and catch smugglers.
After this the road gets an average tarmac surface again and climbs the last bit to join the Stilfserjoch just before the top.
On the whole, moderately difficult, but with some great high-ALpine scenery.

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Livigno - Lago di Gallo - (swiss border) - Ofenpass - Stelvio
avoid if possible Webcam N46?36.750 E10?10.783
A dusty road with lots of heavy lories. Dull, boring but at least it's a way out of Livigno. Which is nice.
The tunnel into Switzerland is single track, and controlled by traffic-lights and is a toll road, cost €5.16 / GBP 3.12 in 2001.

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ss301 Bernina pass - Forcola di Livigno - Livigno - Passo di Foscagno - Bormio
Webcam N46?26.443 E10?03.364
A duty free zone. You'll need your passport to get in from both Switzerland and often Italy as well. Get cheap fags and petrol here.
The Forcola di Livigno webcam is here
Dreary and treeless the valley has little to offer in the summer.There's too much traffic on either of the passes to make it enjoyable until you get to Bormio...
The Forcola di Livigno was closed in 2001, and the only other serious way in/out of the Livigno valley is via the single-track, traffic-light controlled Lago di Gallo tunnel to the north....

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Town logo Bormió
Webcam N46?28.214 E10?22.077
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...but then you get to Bormio and things start looking up. A pretty ski resort in the winter, it's still busy in the summer, and a number of hotels welcome bikers. It has a couple of good restaurants and a few bars - it's a small place and most of the evening life is centred on the old town centre and the market square. If you like wild mushrooms, Bormi? seems to be a local centre.
This is the starting point for the Stilfserjoch (Passo del Stelvio).

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