This winter season, the Kulm Hotel St Moritz (www.kulm.com), the resort of St Moritz and Switzerland as a country are celebrating 150 years of winter tourism – and the Kulm Hotel is set to take centre stage as it played such a key role in its development.
It was just over 150 years ago, in September 1864, that the then owner of the Kulm Hotel St Moritz, Johannes Badrutt, made a bold bet: he promised the last departing summer guests, who were British, a free stay from December to the following spring, if their winter holiday in St Moritz was not as sunny and as pleasant as it had been over the summer. Tanned and full of enthusiasm, the guests returned to England the following spring (1865) and spread the word about their fantastic mountain winter at (what was then called) the Hotel Engadiner Kulm in St Moritz.
Previously, St. Moritz had only been a popular summer holiday destination: a place to which people, mainly British who comprised about 75% of the guests, flocked for relaxing spa, gentle walking and inspirational painting holidays. Badrutt, however, could see the potential to extend the holiday season through the winter and this he did with his wager, laying the foundations for the creation of Alpine winter tourism. The Brits returned year after year and soon found ways to entertain themselves in the snow: sledding from the Kulm Hotel onto the frozen Lake St Moritz (leading to the creation of the world-famous Cresta Run) and sliding down the mountain slopes on planks (the birth of downhill skiing).