And so, as we stay on the frozen lake, we move our attention from polo to White Turf Racing. Last year was my first experience of this event and I am really looking forward to this Sunday when it kicks off again. What I hadn’t realised until recently is that the great skijoring event, which dates back to 1906, very nearly became a Winter Olympic sport . As it turns out it is pretty much only practiced here in the Engadine valley where it was first created!
You can just imagine two kids deciding to hang on to their horse’s reins whilst wearing skis… just for the fun of it. And that is sort of how it happened although the kids in question were young men. At the time this fledgling race followed a road from St. Moritz to Champfèr, and the participants did not start all together, but individually at one-minute intervals. Philip Mark, President of the Alpina Ski Club, and his Irish chestnut gelding, Blitz, were the fastest, taking 20 minutes and 22 seconds to complete the ten kilometre stretch.
Nowadays it is held on the 2,700 metre racecourse that doubles as the lake – you have got to hand it to the Swiss, they know how to innovate and they certainly challenge themselves!!
Neither do they mind recounting the time back in 1965 when no one ever got to cross the finish line, they all wound up in a tangle of hooves, reins and skis!
So watch this space for updates and do come along if you are in the area!