Skiing – the Myth of St. Moritz

The winter sport destination in the Engadin.

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.

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.