The Sport of Kings in the Swiss Alps
Many ludicrously dangerous alpine sports were born in St Moritz during the early 1900’s; there seemed no end to the sporting eccentricity or derring-do of the wealthy alpinists who hung around the exclusive resort. Perhaps the social scene was as ferociously competitive as the sport, and unless you invented a potentially fatal crowd-pleasing action sport – luge, skeleton, bobsleigh – then the party invites dried up.
We thought we’d heard of them all but then flicking through a Debretts diary of events we came across White Turf. Thoroughbred horses galloping across the frozen lake at St Moritz whilst ‘riders’ on skis cling onto reins at the rear. Surely this is insanity? But no – not at all. Just terribly, terribly swanky– not a North Face jacket in sight – gorgeously colourful and fantastically photogenic.
The event begun back in 1923, was first termed skijoring and was nothing more than 13, possibly well refreshed, gentlemen, who cared more for thrills than safety, gadding about on horses and skis.
Today the White Turf programme extends across the first three Sundays in February, and includes flat races, trotting races – with sleds, and the skijoring. It attracts sponsorship from Credit Suisse, BMW and American Airlines and climaxes with the Grand Prix of St. Moritz on Sunday 17 February, which with a prize of 135, 135 Swiss Francs attracts international riders and first class horses.