Need for speed: feeling the thrill on the Cresta Run

Once upon a time on an enchanted mountain, a group of toboggan enthusiasts decided to build the Cresta Run, which would soon become the most iconic and epic ice run the world had ever seen. The year was 1885, and it took them almost nine weeks to complete. A legend was born. The British man behind the building of the Cresta Run, Major Bulpett, was also the founder of the prestigious St. Moritz Tobogganing Club (SMTC), a legendary institution that will celebrate its 130th anniversary in 2017.

The club today

The club numbers 1300 members from all over the world. Like many social clubs, members are elected from a list of qualifiers called the »Supplementary List«, which is open to men only, but it wasn’t always that way. In the past, many women coasted down the Cresta Run, with a certain Mrs. J.M. Baguley the last lady to ride the Cresta in a race on 13th January 1925. These days, women are allowed to race once a year in the Ladies Event – by invitation only.

The years following the building of the Cresta Run witnessed many changes to this thrilling, popular sport. In 1887, a Mr. Cornish established a new trend by adopting the now traditional head-first position, an idea that caught on so fast that in a mere three years all athletes were imitating him. Toboggans, too, changed dramatically, becoming more and more like the ones we use today: it was a fast-changing sport in a rapidly changing world, and, as such, it fascinated the town and people of St. Moritz.

The first race to take place on the Cresta Run was the Grand National, held on 16th February 1885 against Davos, a race which celebrated its 100th staging in 2010, becoming one of the longest-running events of its kind. Three more major cups have been added since then: the Curzon (1910), the Morgan (1935), and the Brabazon Trophy (1966).

A very special run

What makes the Cresta Run so special is that it’s a natural ice run, built from scratch every year just like in the winter of 1884/1885. It starts in St. Moritz and zips down a steep, narrow valley all the way to what used to be the village of Cresta, now part of Celerina. The run is about 1.2 kilometres long with an impressive drop of 157 metres, which makes it quite fast and pretty thrilling! The Cresta has two starting points: «top», which is suitable for experienced riders only, and «junction», about one third of the way down the run. It also features 10 curves, the most infamous being »shuttlecock«, where riders risk losing control and flying off the run. Those who do automatically become members of the tongue-in-cheek »Shuttlecock Club« and are even entitled to wear a special tie!

Giving it a try
Non-members, too, can experience the thrill of the Cresta Run: beginners can choose a practice session and see if tobogganing is for them, while Supplementary List riders can ride on designated days of the week. Please find more information here, or contact our concierge.