The Cresta Run is the original ‘ice sport’ from which all other modern Olympic events were derived and is operated as a members club by the Saint Moritz Tobogganing Club (SMTC). The Cresta is a natural ice run, built from scratch every year from snow which is then iced; it has been this way ever since the creation of the Run in the winter of 1884/85. The Run starts in Saint Moritz and winds its way down a narrow valley to what was the village of Cresta, now called Cellerina. It is approximately 3/4 mile (1,212m) in length with a drop of 514 feet (157m). The gradient varies from 1 in 2.8 to 1 in 8.7. There are two starting points, Top and Junction. Riders from Junction begin opposite the Clubhouse, about one-third of the way down the Run. You have to qualify to ride from Top by riding under 48 seconds consistently from Junction. The Run has 10 corners, all of which are named. The most famous is Shuttlecock where, if a rider is out of control, they will almost certainly fall out of the Run; we all do! Fallers at Shuttlecock automatically become members of the Shuttlecock Club and are entitled to buy and wear the infamous Shuttlecock tie.
For experienced Cresta riders this time of year is known as, “the time of the quickening”. Suddenly and for no apparent reason you find the pit of your stomach tightening and a sense of general unease begins to pervade your thoughts until you realise it’s ‘CRESTA’ time, and then you put all that nonsense behind you and look forward to the stunning scenery in St Moritz, the camaraderie and shear adrenalin rush of riding the Run itself. The novices from each of the Service teams however, have no idea what they are about to do; their lives will never be same after that first ride down the Cresta Run.
The challenge facing all Service novices is simple, to qualify to ride from the Top of the run and become true Cresta riders. It takes most civilian riders 3 to 5 seasons to achieve this, some never do, but with the diligent and ever present coaching by the Team Captains and experienced riders the novices all invariably make it safely to Top where the ‘fun’ really begins! From Top, the anticipation of sprinting towards Church Leap, diving onto your toboggan and then ‘hanging on’ around all the twisting and turning bends as you hurtle from St Moritz to hopefully reach the ‘charming village’ of Cellerina is enough to warm anybody’s spirits….. it certainly raises mine even after many years of riding.
Cresta has a fearsome reputation and is certainly a sport that needs to be respected at all times but, rider safety is always paramount. The Run is controlled by the permanent staff of the SMTC who ensure the Run is clear and safe before every ride. Once in the run it is up to the individual rider to concentrate and apply what their coach has told them and make it safely to the Finish.
Training commences on Mon 22 Jan when riders from the Royal Navy, Army and RAF will begin to arrive, and the Services competition will take place on 31 Jan. All 3 teams have indicated that they will have competitive teams with the Army being firm favourites having taken the title for last 2 seasons. The inclusion by the SMTC of an inaugural women’s Service competition in the coming season is truly a welcome move.
Finally and particularly in this extremely challenging financial period, I must pay a substantial thank you to all of the Service’s very generous sponsors for their continued support which allows us to continue to take part in this amazing event.