By the end of the 20th century, winter sports were commonplace all over the world.
France, with its affordable, purpose-built complexes, and North America, served by increasing numbers of low-cost flights, were putting traditional resorts to the sword.
In Austria, Ischgl struck back by starting the vogue for open-air rock concerts to open and close the season. Rather than pay mega bucks to celebrity musicians to lower the tone, the Swiss holiday resort of St. Moritz developed its lake instead. Horse racing on ice began in 1907, but there was scope for sporting festivals of other kinds. Cricketers and show jumpers have their competition weeks in January, but the high season polo tournament, sponsored by global brands such as Ralph Lauren and Cartier, is the most glamorous of all.
On a late winter morning, I pick my way through the tented village towards the stadium. Flags flutter, logos glint, kids learn basic polo swings on mechanical horses and champagne corks pop. From the stands, I watch the Deutsche Bank team take on Cartier, a cautious encounter on a pitch made treacherous by new snow. Oliver Hipwood, born into one of Britain’s leading polo families and the best player on the Deutsche Bank team, is just back from the Snow Polo World Cup in Tianjin.
“The weather’s usually better here than in China, but not this year.” he says wryly. “On the plus side, there’s a special atmosphere and we’re royally entertained for a week in the Kempinski. St. Moritz is kind of cool.”
Do your friends often come to you for travel recommendations? TRVL is a peer-to-peer booking platform that enables you to tailor-make trips for your friends (and earn up to 10% per booking). TRVL is free, sign up today.