St Moritz History
Until the mid-19th century, St. Moritz was an agricultural village with few hotels. Vacationers came only in summer, considering the mountains too cold and dangerous in winter. Hotels shut down between September and June.
Then in 1864, Kulm Hotel owner Johannes Badnutt made what became a historic bet with a group of English summer guests. The first chill of autumn was in the air, and his visitors were preparing to return home.
Badnutt tried to convince them that winter in St. Moritz was more agreeable, even warmer, than in London. He invited them to stay at his expense for the
entire winter, even offering to pay their way home.
Four of them did stay, not only for that year but also for many winters thereafter. Their enthusiasm soon brought others, and St. Moritz, International Winter Resort, was born.
But long before St. Moritz was a successful winter playground, it was an important health center. Archaeological evidence on view at the local Engadine Museum indicates that people came here to drink and bathe in its mineral waters as early as the Bronze Age – more than 3,000 years ago. Its springs, across the lake from the main village, are among the richest in carbonic acid in Europe. When bathing, the carbonic acid is absorbed through the skin, stimulating circulation.
Health pilgrims began arriving in significant numbers after the first guesthouse was built next to the spring in 1832. By 1859, 450 guests could be accommodated. After World War I the health spa fell to second place as skiing became St. Moritz’s main attraction.
The Olympic Games were held here in 1928 and 1948, as well as many other major world championships, and several popular winter sports got their public boost here. In 1884, Cresta Run, the first man-made sledding course, was built at St. Moritz. Here, too, you’ll find the world’s only races of horses pulling skiers and the first bob-run on natural ice.