In winter, two horses bring
guests into the Val Roseg on a
sleigh following a timetable
service. At the reins: Werner
Wohlwend from the Engadin.
Gentle neighs and the muffled sound of hooves on compact snow hang in the winter air. A large sleigh pulled by two sturdy horses glides along almost silently. The man holding the reins is Werner “Wohli” Wohlwend: coachman, businessman and horse lover. He has more than 50 horses on his farm, and he knows them all by name. The impressive stable offers a wide variety of adventures to guests in the valley, and ensures that the horse omnibus into the Val Roseg runs punctually to timetable, in summer and winter alike.
Werner grew up in Pontresina – just a few hundred metres from his horse farm today. Here, the horses are galloping on the white meadows, whinnying and scattering the snow with their hooves. The sun’s first rays are emerging from behind the Piz Albris, illuminating the flurries of snow and the horses’ breath, bathing the scene in a magical light.
This is how winter days begin on Werner’s farm. Today he has already been up and about for quite a while. His day Snug and warm: a starts and ends with a tour of the horses, checking that all is well. He stops here and there to give an affectionate pat or stroke: he has a very special connection to his animals. “I love the horses’ honesty,” he says. “I just have the feeling we understand one another.” Werner always liked animals, but it is thanks to his wife, Gina, that he developed such a passion for them. So much so that both of them now work with horses professionally – he as coachman, she as riding instructor.
Pure horse-drawn sleighs – without any wheels, that is – hardly exist in the Engadin any more. “For me, it’s a question of history and tradition,” says Werner. “And I definitely want to maintain them.” At the same time he admits to a personal penchant: “I love driving the sleigh in winter,” he says, “but I actually prefer driving a coachand- six in summer.” Managing a team of six horses, negotiating climbs and tight corners, is no easy business: and it is precisely this challenge that appeals. “I’ve researched in books how the old stagecoaches used to do it,” Werner says. As for his rides with guests, he appreciates the convivial time spent together, and enjoys cracking the odd joke, too.
The sleigh stands ready. Werner spreads
out the soft furs and woollen blankets:
guests should feel nice and cosy on the
ride, he says. “On request, we also offer
punch.” In winter, the thermometer can
sink as low as –20°C, but this in no way detracts from the experience; if anything,
it makes the atmosphere all the more
magical. “That’s why it’s worth doing a
sleigh ride even when it’s bitterly cold,”
Today, Napoleon and Nero are the horses – two sturdy creatures used to the cold – pulling the sleigh into the Val Roseg. With its snow-blanketed forests of larch and Swiss stone pine trees and its spectacular mountain backdrop, this alpine valley fully deserves its reputation as one of the finest in Switzerland. The starting point for this ride is immediately beside Pontresina railway station; from here, a lane twists up the valley, following the Ova da Roseg river.
The horses maintain a lively pace through the snow-covered landscape. Passengers with a sharp eye – and a little luck – may even spot chamois or red deer along the ride. And when Werner stops his sleigh, guests realise for the first time just how peaceful it is in the valley: “Winter here in the Val Roseg is idyllic,” he says: “pure tranquillity.”