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 St 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 built this way ever since the creation of the Run in the winter of 1884/85. The Run starts in St Moritz and winds its way down a narrow valley to what was the village of Cresta, now called Celerina. 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. Fallers at Shuttlecock automatically become members of the Shuttlecock Club and are entitled to buy and wear the infamous Shuttlecock tie.
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 or more seasons to achieve this, some never do, but with the diligent and ever present coaching by the Service Team Captains and experienced riders, the novices all invariably make it safely to Top where the challenge really begins! From Top, riders sprint towards Church Leap, dive onto their toboggans and then ride all the twisting and turning bends as they hurtle from St Moritz to hopefully reach the ‘charming village’ of Celerina. Unlike other ice sports, it is known as ‘riding’ the Cresta rather than ‘sliding’, as Cresta Riders have to shift their body position, brake and physically steer around some of the corners, otherwise they will fall out.
Cresta has a deservedly fearsome reputation, however rider safety is always paramount and its reputation ensures that the Run is respected at all times by riders. 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 this season on Mon 21 Jan, when riders from the Royal Navy, Army and RAF will begin to arrive, and the Services competition will take place on 30 Jan. All three teams will have competitive teams, with the Army keen to regain their title after an extremely close race last year, having lost to the Royal Navy by 1.7 seconds. After last year’s trial of a ladies’ Services competition, the Club have now opened up the run to female participation in the coming season and there will now be an annual services ladies’ competition. This has been an historic change for the club.
Finally, I must say thank you to Lt Col Jamie Summers who has handed over to me after many years running Services Cresta; fortunately he does not move far, starting a new job at the SMTC! I must also pass on our thanks to all of the Services’ very generous sponsors, for their continued support, which allows us to continue to take part in this unique event.