If you have been to St Moritz, you’ll certainly know about the extensive and varied skiing in Corviglia, Corvatsch and Diavolezza. What you might not know about is the host of other activities on offer. I took a trip in February to discover just a few of them.
The resort has twice hosted the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948 and is also the birthplace of British winter tourism over 150 years ago. In 1864, Johannes Badrutt made a famous bet with British guests staying at his Kulm Hotel during the summer to come back in the winter and if they didn’t like it, he would reimburse them for the cost of the trip. The guests came for Christmas and stayed till Easter (those were the days!) and the rest, as they say, is history.
The long British love affair with St Moritz is evidenced across the resort including the famous Cresta Run which dates back to 1884; just one of the many ways the Brits passed their winter visits. The Cresta Run isn’t open for women at this point in time (hopefully soon) but if you want to experience this kind of heart-stopping thrill you don’t need to walk any further than the Olympic Bob Run across the road. This is a somewhat more recent activity, having opened in 1903 and is the only natural ice track that still hosts races each year. The course is 1,772m and, accompanied by a professional pilot and brakesman, you can hurtle down at speeds up to 135 kmh. We had our ‘bob baptism’ on a beautifully sunny day in February and our pilot Franz and brakeslady Caroline made us feel completely safe before we set off.
The centrifugal force as you go through each bend was extraordinary but the overriding memory for me is the unmistakable noise of metal on ice. Even though it was all over quite quickly it’s an experience I will never forget.
The next day we were blessed again with sunny weather -a bit of a rarity this winter. We set off to try ski joering – skiing behind a horse attached with a rope and handle a little like water skiing. Back in the day, this was one of the ways ladies would use to get around the town of St Moritz for shopping excursions (wearing skirts). Encouraged by this story, (and unencumbered by skirts) we were all eager to take a turn. And it was great fun. The horse’s rider started us off slowly and by the end we were racing each other across the frozen lake. This is a great way to spend a morning or an afternoon of your holiday and the next day we were lucky enough to see how the professionals do it.
St Moritz’s White Turf horse racing is just one of the events, including cricket and polo, held on the frozen lake each winter. White Turf is held over three weeks and as well as traditional races also has a ski joering race which we took a keen interest in as new experts. Local reigning (or should that be reining?) champion Valeria Holinger romped home, pretty in pink and winning me a few Swiss francs.
The race course itself is impressive, with stands and hospitality tents. I had a magical view of the course from my room in the Kulm Hotel sparkling white in the sunshine. And being down on the course felt remarkably like racing at home, with possibly just a few more fur coats. Our final race was the perfect end to a perfect weekend with outsider Nimrod winning me enough for a celebratory drink on the train back to Zurich.
Kate stayed at the Kulm in St Moritz and travelled there from Heathrow with SWISS and from Zurich to St Moritz by train with Swiss Travel.
Swiss International Air Lines
SWISS offers more than 180 weekly flights from London City, Heathrow, Gatwick (seasonal), All-inclusive fares start from £74 one-way*, including all airport taxes, one piece hold luggage and hand luggage, plus meal and drink. SWISS also transport your first set of ski or snowboard equipment free of charge (excluding hand luggage only fares and subject to availability). For more information visit swiss.com or call 0345 601 0956.
Swiss Travel System
The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and destination. Prices are £112 in second class and £182 in first class.
The Swiss Travel Pass is the all-in-one ticket to travel by train, bus and boat on an all inclusive basis from 3-15 days. Prices from £172 in second class. Plus each ticket offers free admission to more than 500 museums nationwide and half-price on the most scenic Swiss mountain railways.
For the ultimate Swiss rail specialist call Switzerland Travel Centre on 00800 100 200 30 or visit www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk.