St. Moritz

In this historic Swiss resort town, visitors are immersed in the wellspring of winter sports. By Everett Potter

A case can be made that the origins of modern winter sports lie in the Swiss resort and spa town of St. Moritz. In the late 1850s, Johannes Badrutt welcomed a steady stream of well-heeled British guests to his Kulm Hotel. They came in summer to hike and take the waters. But in winter he shut down for lack of visitors.

As the oft-told story goes, he wagered four of his best guests that they would love the winter in a town that claims 300 days of sunshine a year. He asked them to return with their families. If they didn’t have fun, he would pick up the tab. The Brits accepted the bet and ended up staying—and paying—until spring. They spread the word back home, at a time when first ascents of Alpine peaks were making headlines in London, and soon other sports-minded English families followed. Over time, more hotels opened and a host of activities were formalized, from skiing and ice skating to curling and taking death-defying descents on the Cresta run, the first skeleton course in the world. A winter sports capital was born...

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