St. Moritz: Birthplace of Winter Tourism
By Athena Lucero
On the summit of Corviglia Mountain and overlooking the Swiss village of St. Moritz, I'm greeted with the bluest of skies, a smiling sun and a treeless snowy landscape as smooth as a white carpet. The thought of skiing the slopes of the world's first winter resort is nothing short of a dream. Standing 8,156 feet above sea level and overlooking snow-covered peaks makes me feel on top of the world.
The sun I speak of when I exit the funicular is the logo of St. Moritz, a registered trademark since 1937. In 1986, "St. Moritz" was added to the logo, making it the first geographical location on the planet to own a trademark.
Then I learn the backstory to St. Moritz from long before it became a discreet winter hotspot for royals, the well-to-do and celebs from Charlie Chaplain, Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock and Brigitte Bardot to the Kennedy family, Robert De Niro and Kate Moss.
With more than 300 days of sunshine each year ,St. Moritz, tucked into the Upper Engadin Valley high in the eastern Alps near the Italian border, began attracting wealthy British visitors during spring, summer and fall.
But in 1864, Johannes Badrutt, owner of a 12-room mountain inn called the Kulm, made his famous bet with skeptical British guests to return the following winter. If they weren't happy, he would pay all their travel expenses. If they liked it, they could stay for as long as they wished. They came that winter - and stayed until spring.
Word spread about St. Moritz and more families escaped Britain's bleak weather, launching the opening of the first tourist office in Switzerland and the start of winter tourism in the Alps.
The Kulm expanded, installed the country's first electric lighting in 1878 and the first telephone in canton Graubunden in 1889. By 1896 the first electric tram ascended the Alps.
St. Moritz's "champagne climate" inspired innovative British guests to invent outdoor recreation at the Kulm, giving birth to the Cresta Run (a skeleton racetrack built from scratch each year) and bobsledding (also known as tobogganing). Soon the formation of the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club and Cresta Club, still active today, brought intramural sports -- and competition -- to the Kulm. The developments were transformational.
By 1880 St. Moritz hosted Europe's first curling tournament and in 1882 the first ice-skating championship, followed by the first bob race and first golf tournament in the Alps. Switzerland's first ski school opened. Two Winter Olympic Games (1928 and 1948) and five Alpine Ski World Championships took place here. Then came Europe's first Snowboard World Cup in 1987 and the first Polo World Cup in the Alps in 1989.