Every February, the glamorous town of St. Moritz hosts the White Turf Horse Races. One of the top events in Switzerland, it attracts almost 35,000 spectators from all over the world. The setting cannot be more spectacular: the frozen expanse of the Lake St. Moritz with the majestic Engadine Mountains as a backdrop.
International jockeys on fine thoroughbreds race at a dizzying speed on the frozen lake three Sundays in February. The event has been running since 1907 and requires a minimum of 12 inches of ice on the lake. Although mild winters are rare in this part of Switzerland, once in a while the race are cancelled due to insufficient ice.
The jockeys compete for Switzerland's most generous race prize of almost half a million Swiss francs (about 490,000 USD). The racing programme is adapted to the winter conditions and includes a trotting race where jockeys ride in a sled and traditional-style horse races. However, the event’s highlight is, undoubtedly, the skikjöring race with male and female jockeys on skis pulled by thoroughbred horses along a 2,700-m-long track. Skikjöring is the only race of its kind in the world and exclusive to the White Turf event. The horses run at a speed up to 31 miles per hour with the skiers being able to control not more than 10 percent of the horses’ movements. Apart from daredevil courage, the race requires exceptional strength, skills in handling the thoroughbreds and high level of preparation. The jockey who collects most points over three Sundays wins a money prize and the title of “King of the Engadine”.
Apart from enjoying the races, there are many other things to do. You can enjoy a drink or two in a pop-up bar set up in a decommissioned submarine, browse temporary exhibitions in the tent city covering 130,00 square metres, gorge on hearty Swiss dishes, shop at gastronomic stands or people watch while sipping your champagne.
Photos via Flickr by: Lisa Mardell, Robert Varadi.