Between St Moritz and Celerina in the Engadine is the Olympia Bob Run. If you fancy experiencing a force of 4G and careering upside down at speeds in excess of 135kph, this is one to add to the list. You ride in a four person bob sleigh with a professional driver and brakeman, and the brakeman does all the running so you don’t have to experience the embarrassment of having your bob go off without you. Furthermore you get all equipment provided, including a lift back from the bottom, a certificate and a glass of Prosecco.
What you will have to part with, however, for 75 seconds of adrenaline rush, is 250 francs. UBS have a deal at the moment if you bank with them whereby you can get a 70 franc rebate if you have 5 keyClub points – details here. You can book a slot online for the bob run here.
And if you are looking for something rather less frenetic. St Moritz is also a good place to combine winter sports with yoga. See Owning Yoga for details.
Little is written about the great poster artists of the middle of the 20th Century, so it is good to see that the outstanding Martin Peikert is the subject of a comprehensive book on his life and work written by Jean-Charles Giroud. The monograph includes 300 colour reproductions in a 32.5 by 23.5cm format across 208 pages, and is available for CHF60 from Patrick Cramer (www.cramer.ch, firstname.lastname@example.org). Unfortunately it is only available in French or German.
Martin Peikert was born in 1901 in Zug, Switzerland, to a family of architects. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva and worked as an advertising illustrator until he graduated in 1921. He then spent a couple of years travelling before joining Orell Füssli in Zürich in 1923. In 1927 he returned to Zug and worked as a freelance graphic artist and painter, before moving to Blonay in 1937. During this period he started establishing a reputation with his striking Art Deco inspired posters, although he was also active as a painter, illustrator, sculptor and logo designer. His logo of the Villars chocolate cow is particularly renowned, although it is his posters on which his reputation largely stands.
Peikert’s exuberant, witty designs were particular popular with the tourist sector and he was commissioned by clients in the Grisons, the Bernese Oberland, Vaud and Valais to create some spectacular designs.
In 1945 he moved to Vevey, returning to Zug in 1951 and dying there in 1975.
Sometimes the winds blow such a storm that the lifts are closed, or there isn’t enough snow or there is too much… anyway, we’ve all hit those no-ski days in the mountains and what is there to do? Most people seem to be content to play cards, surf the internet or drink the bars dry, but one of the great things about skiing or snowboarding Switzerland is there is always something else to do.
Most ski resorts in Switzerland have a history that predates the arrival of skiers, and as a result have a wealth of interesting things to visit. For example Engelberg has been a religious centre ever since the Benedictine Monastery was founded here in 1120 by monks who thought Mount Titlis looked like an angel, and hence the town is called “Angel Mountain”. Monks from the Monastery were the first to get to the top of Titlis, back in 1744. They probably didn’t notice it, but the Chinese Olympic champion gymnast Donghua Li spotted a Buddha shaped rock in 1996 from the top of Klein Titlis, and it has become a must see sight fro many Asian tourists since. The Monastery is open to the public and well worth a visit.
The Alps generally had a bad image until the Age of Enlightenment, when the impoverished and isolated Alpine communities suddenly found themselves visited by tourists who rejoiced in the majesty of the mountains. Not surprisingly it wasn’t long until many of them decided to climb to the top of them, not always with positive outcomes. If you are in Zermatt the wonderful Mountaineers Graveyard is well worth a visit.
Another group of summer visitors to the Alps were those suffering from various ailments that the mountain air could alleviate. Davos was amongst the most popular, and it was here that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whilst nursing his wife, popularised skiing. A number of resorts provided spas, and for me visiting an Alpine spa is one of the most enjoyable things to do on a no-ski day. Some resorts, such as Leukerbad, actually have extensive spa facilities in the resort.
Winter tourism really took off in St Moritz 150 years ago, and the diversions extend beyond the ski runs. If there is a whiteout up the mountains and visibility isn’t too clear, you can always try cross-country skiing. Other sports you will find in many parts of Switzerland include ice-skating, ice hockey tournaments, sledding, snowshoe walking, curling and even bobsleigh (in Celerina you can try it with a professional driver and brakeman).
You probably know that Switzerland has the densest and most extensive railway network in the world, but you probably didn’t know that every single ski resort in Switzerland can be reached by the fabulously reliable public transport network. Even the buses run on time, and link the lifts and railway stations such that you can step from one mode of transport to another without waiting. Resorts like Villars, Leysin, Champéry and Arosa have incredibly cute narrow gauge railways connecting them to the towns in the valleys. Just taking the train can be an end in itself, perhaps getting off at a stop along the way to explore an interesting village or town, rejoining a later train. And of course, the towns have plenty of other diversions that few mountain resorts provide – extensive shopping, markets, casinos, cinemas, museums and galleries.
But then again, you could just catch up on some zeds.