St Moritz, Switzerland
So which is the world’s most famous ski resort? Opinions remain divided and a truly international poll of public opinion has not yet been carried out. North American candidates would possibly be lead by Aspen with Vail and Stowe in contention or even the modern number one, Whistler. In Europe there’s St Anton, Kitzbühel, Chamonix, Val d’Isère and perhaps half a dozen more, but given a mix of the ski world and the general public, wouldn’t St Moritz come out top? Whether or not it is the best well known for the correct reasons is debatable, it’s famous for being the playground of the rich and famous and for being a touch expensive, both of which remain largely true. On the other hand it’s not well known for having great skiing, which it does. Some may also imagine it to be a quaint Alpine village, which it isn’t, although the lakeside setting in the Engadin Valley is stunning. It is also not generally reported that, although a genuine traditional settlement, St Moritz is a high altitude resort with an excellent snow record and glacier skiing. Finally it should be mentioned that whilst many other famous names from skiing history have contented themselves to rest on their reputation, St Moritz and the Engadin Region have invested heavily in state of the art lifts and are now served by a host of high speed detachable quad and six seat chair lifts. Oh and the sun shines 322 days a year, Switzerland’s sunniest spot. St Moritz can claim to be the birth place of winter sports holidays. In 1864 the owner of the Kulm hotel bet some English tourists a free stay if they dared to spend the winter there. They took him up on this proposition and the rest is history. St Moritz was reported in The Times of London a few years later when a guest recorded with surprise the flowers in the hotel window boxes on Christmas Day. By 1910 around 2000 guests spent the winter in the resort, most from Britain. Skating remained the most popular winter sport until the 1920s, with skiing dismissed as a serious sport by the locals, but then came the 1928 Winter Olympics and a new mountain funicular railway, followed soon after by Switzerland’s second ski lift. The fifth Winter Olympics were staged in the resort once again in 1948. Later the rich and famous who flocked to St Moritz helped to develop the possibilities of glacier skiing on the Diavolezza glacier and later heli-skiing. In fact the resort can claim a long list of ‘firsts’ from opening Switzerland’s first tourist board in 1864 and switching on the country’s first electric light in 1878 to staging the first ice skating, curling and winter sports championships in the 1880s and even Europe’s first golf tournament in 1890. St Moritz was the first resort to register its name and logo, in 1987. Finally, it must be noted that St Moritz’s fame as a health resort does pre-date winter sports by several millennia. The first settlements are known to have existed here 3,000 years ago and the resort was also one of the world’s earliest spa centres, well known as such by the time the Romans rolled in in 15 BC.
Skiing & snowboarding
St. Moritz’s local mountain, the Corviglia, sets trends, stages World Cup races and in the year 2017 even the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. But it also offers mouth-watering cuisine at gourmet restaurants beside the piste.
Early risers swear by the White Carpet – the first ride up to the freshly prepared pistes at 7.45 am, when the Marguns gondola and the Chantarella funicular begin operation. By 8 am, the other lifts are running, too. In the early morning light, you can be up on top of the Piz Nair (3,057m/10,030ft), surrounded by panoramic views, as well as 100 kilometres (60 miles) of World Cup-quality runs and the Corviglia Snow Park, with its 30 obstacles. The Paradiso piste on Corviglia focuses on skiers and snowboarders consciously slowing down and enjoying the sport to the full. It includes special quiet zones for relaxing, and Yoga on Snow can be practised either independently or under expert guidance. The variety of options on offer is what makes the Corviglia so special; St. Moritz’s local mountain is one of the most famous snow sport areas in the world, celebrating a champagne climate like no other.
Guest ride down the channel of ice
The bobsleigh run in St. Moritz is the only natural ice bob track in the world – and a living legend. You only have to take a thrilling bob “guest ride” to find out why
A pilot in front, a brakeman behind, and in between, two guests – all riding a narrow bobsleigh without suspension, feeling every bump and groove in the surface of the ice. For the first hundred metres (110 yards), you can still admire the scenery and the smooth shape of the ice canal built from scratch every year – the only natural ice bob track in the world. Soon, however, the forces acting at each curve push the riders ever deeper into their seats. At the “Horse Shoe” corner, the bob’s effective weight has increased five-fold, and as it hurtles past an applauding crowd it continues to accelerate until it is racing to the finish at a speed of up to 130kph (nearly 85mph). After 75 adrenalin-filled seconds, the ride is over – and the guests are full of respect for the intrepid riders. A particularly spectacular experience is a guest ride in the evening, when the bob run is floodlit.
Top Events – in the media spotlight
The events held on and beside the frozen Lake St. Moritz are firm fixtures on the calendar of international high society – and a spectacular show for one and all. From mid-January until mid-February, it’s show time in St. Moritz. Everyone who is anyone turns up – along with thoroughbred racehorses from all over Europe. The sight of them thundering along the white racecourse with their jockeys at the legendary White Turf races is one of the many highlights of a scintillating season. The world’s press and assorted celebrities arrive at the latest for the polo tournament, the popular Gourmet Festival attracts food lovers from far and wide, while the Cricket on Ice draws players from warmer climes to compete on the snow. After the White Turf races, British sportsmen continue to provide an electrifying atmosphere at the Grand National on the Cresta Run. In between events, the perfectly prepared pistes up on the Corviglia ensure that no one gets bored.
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