Skiing – the Myth of St. Moritz

Corviglia - from the cradle of winter tourism to home of championships

St. Moritz is without a doubt the world’s most high-profile snowsports resort. And it’s not just the altitude, dry climate, many hours of sunshine or the spectacular panorama that make the ski resort so unique: it’s the pioneering achievements that are so thrilling. Indeed, as a tourist resort, St. Moritz is able to look back on a significant history, and its magic never dulls, not matter how often that story is told.

Johannes Badrutt - the first winter pioneer

The first pioneer we ought to mention is a successful Engadin hotelier by the name of Johannes Badrutt, who boosted the summer season in the Engadin with lots of guests from England. His guests came from a country renowned for its rather damp and rainy climate. In autumn 1864 the hotelier was telling his guests that the Engadin is also blessed with plenty of sunshine in winter, but they found that hard to believe. And so Badrutt made a wager with his English guests that he would cover their hotel costs if they were not satisfied with their winter stay. And if they enjoyed the conditions, they could stay as long as they wanted. For the English guests it was a win-win situation – and so they readily accepted the bet, travelling to St. Moritz in time for the festive season in winter 1864/65. In fact, they enjoyed their winter sojourn so much they stayed on right through to Easter, returning home with a nice tan. So they became the first winter tourists of the Alps and, thanks to the ingenuity of Johannes Badrutt, winter tourism took its course.

A creative pioneering spark

News of the sun-blessed Engadin soon spread – and the ad men soon rolled up their sleeves too:

Warmed by the genuine glow of the mountain sun, you return to your daily work refreshed and tanned, invigorated and rejuvenated, toughened and steeled.’

With English tourists now arriving in St. Moritz in droves for their winter holidays, innovations were being launched almost every year to convey the sheer diversity of winter activities to the tourists. By winter 1868 the first English ice skating club had been founded in St. Moritz, followed by Switzerland’s first ever spa resorts, the first game of curling and the first curling club on the continent in 1880 and, in 1884-85, the construction of the legendary Cresta Run.

Listed below are a few of the other pioneering achievements of the 19th and 20th century.

  • 1928: first Winter Olympics held from February 11 to 19; 1928 Olympics affected by thawing conditions
  • 1928: an out-and-out success for Scandinavian competitors first and foremost
  • 1929: Switzerland’s first ski school in St. Moritz (Alpina)
  • 1930s: the golden age of skiing
  • 1910: Muottas Muragl, once used also as a skiing area
  • 1941: first Swiss youth ski camp in Pontresina
  • 1955: long postponed because of the Second World War, the Corviglia-Piz Nair cable car finally goes into operation, becoming the first cable car of the Engadin to travel beyond 3000 metres above sea level.

Ski World Cup and Olympic Mountain Corviglia

Among the biggest sporting events that have taken place on Corviglia are

  • 1928: Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz (the second ever Winter Olympic Games)
  • 1934: First FIS Alpine Ski World Championship held in St. Moritz
  • 1948: Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz (the first Winter Games after the end of World War II)
  • 1948: FIS Alpine Ski World Championship
  • 1974: FIS Alpine Ski World Championship
  • 2003: FIS Alpine Ski World Championship (at the same time the first major alpine event, which was mainly based on certified green electricity: Clean Energy St. Moritz)
  • 2017: Fifth FIS Alpine Ski World Championship held in St. Moritz

Ski Myth St. Moritz

The World Ski Championships in February 2017 were already the fifth Alpine Ski World Championships to be held in St. Moritz. No other place has been able to host so many Alpine Ski World Championships and Winter Olympics (1928 and 1948). The sporting legacy of Corviglia is enormous. The following video takes this myth into account:

Pictures of the Ski World Championships 2017

The History is alive

St. Moritz, with its local mountain Corviglia, looks back on a past that offers plenty of material for exciting stories. To bring these stories to life, the Engadin St. Moritz Mountains cable car company created the augmented reality app WINTEROLYMP. The digital experience unites tourism, culture and history in a combination of reality and technology.

At four stations, visitors can find out, for example, how Johannes Badrutt set winter tourism in motion, which personalities shaped the history of skiing in St. Moritz or how the famous bronze ibex reached the Piz Nair. Starting at the valley station in St. Moritz village, the interactive discovery tour leads via Chantarella and the Quattro Bar at the Corviglia mountain station to the ibex on Piz Nair.