Lake

Looking out onto a dream. Anyone who talks of the very beginnings of horse racing on snow in St. Moritz invariably uses such words as daring, intrepidity and pluck. Totally and utterly foolhardy they were, those thirteen men who, on 1 March 1906, convened, together with their horses, at the Postplatz in St. Moritz and battled out a race to Champfèr and back. For they were not comfortably seated in a sled, but stood unsteadily on skis and allowed themselves to be pulled along over the 9,950 metre stretch by riderless horses tearing along at full gallop. Thus skijoring – a term derived from the Norwegian “snörekjöring” (driving with ropes) – was born and with it, the White Turf of St. Moritz. Although it was to be more than 80 years before this Anglicism became a metaphor for a modern-day sporting and society event, the seeds of an exclusive tradition had been sown.

Already the following year, the first official horse races were held on the frozen St. Moritz lake, this time in the form of skijoring and “trotting races using racing sleds”. At the same time, the initiators of the alpine turf founded the St. Moritz Racing Association at a meeting held in the Kulm Hotel. In 1908, an event with six competitions was held on which spectators could place bets at the tote; two years later, it had already been extended to three racing days per winter. Over the years, the programme was further expanded to encompass flat racing (1911) and steeplechasing (1922); however, an attempt to complement the winter meeting with a summer counterpart failed.

The first phase of the St. Moritz horse races came to an end with the outbreak of World War II. However, they were relaunched in 1952, and since the beginning of the 1990s have been promoted under the name of “White Turf”, a modern-day happening that meets the very highest of sporting, social and commercial requirements. Together with his team, Rudolf Fopp - who took over as President of the St. Moritz Racing Association in 1992 and since 1998 has presided over the newly founded White Turf Race Association, which is responsible for organising the races - has risen to the challenge of continuing to showcase this extravagant, alpine, equestrian sporting event, which is renowned far beyond the Swiss and indeed European borders, in the new millennium.

Thanks to the Grand Prix of St. Moritz, which since 1993 has been staged as a listed race and which at CHF 150, 150 boasts the highest prize money for a horse race in Switzerland, thanks to the Skijoring Trophy, the Grand Prix trotting race and the various supporting competitions, and thanks to all the multi-faceted trappings that come with the event, a mixture of both exclusive and down-to-earth, alpine-rustic Swiss components – thanks to all these things, White Turf is unique, unparalleled, sometimes even unreal. Or, as a visitor to the Engadine once philosophically put it: “It is as if we were looking out onto a dream.”

Corinne Schlatter