No, it isn’t normal: lying stomach-down on a metal tray with runners and throwing yourself head-first down a twisting channel of ice in pursuit of the adrenalin fix that accompanies speeds of up to 140 km/h. But normality and routine are rare to find in the Engadin winter, allowing a jolly flamboyance and British nonchalance to set the tone at the Cresta Run.
This cheerful attitude dates back to the early days of tourism, when the winter event calendar boasted few attractions. “Dance evening in the hotel”, “Horse-drawn sleigh ride in the morning” and “Five o’clock tea” were rather tame for the first English guests, who preferred to pass their time with all kinds of high jinks. They found it a capital idea, for example, to hurtle down the icy road from St. Moritz to Celerina on flat sledges. This idea soon became a popular sport, and in 1884 a group of British guests built the first separate ice track for racing. As speed was everything, this original version was already an open ice channel with curved walls of ice that allowed thrilling banked turns. Soon, the flat toboggans reached speeds that had the worthy local farming folk shaking their heads in disbelief. After all, the motor car had only just been invented, the aeroplane was still a fantasy and steam locomotives reached speeds on test runs of “only” 112 km/h.
"We Swiss saw tobogganing as a children’s pastime until the English came and made a men’s sport out of it. Now they have gone even further and made the sport into an art.” Peter Badrutt, 1850–1907
“No Woman No Cry”
When skeleton was presented as a new discipline for the first time at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz/Celerina, the international sporting community raised the Cresta Run to the status of Olympic competition venue. Five years later, after tremendous progress in terms of both technology and popularity, the annual general meeting of 1933 took a step backwards: the club announced all of a sudden that lying face-down on the toboggan was bad for women’s health, and declared the Cresta Run an exclusively male domain. This rule was overturned only in 2018; now women, too, can once again risk their necks rocketing down the run – a total distance of 1,212 m with ten corners, gradients of up to nearly 40% and speeds of up to 140 km/h, with their nose just a few centimetres above the surface of the ice!
No risk no fun – is that your motto in life, too? Then don’t miss the chance to experience a thrilling ride down the Cresta Run: book a place on a “practice session”. After the notorious “death talk” – a verbal presentation in the clubhouse in front of a skeleton, outlining all the possible injuries a rider might suffer – you are ready for the adventure of a lifetime!