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White Turf: Our trip to racing on snow and ice

Updated: May 10, 2023



What is White Turf?


Staged at a luxury, temporary racecourse on the frozen St. Moritzersee lake, races switch between trotting, flat racing and the unique spectacle of 'skijoring' (where jockeys are pulled behind horses on skis). Founded over a hundred years ago, the event draws visitors from around the world, who frequently merge their weekend with a day skiing, or a trip to the world-famous Cresta Run, where toboggans slide down a 1.2 kilometre piste. Racing began up here in the early 1900s, with races staged on the road to nearby Champfèr. Today, stalls, a paddock and weighing room all form part of the lake's vast removable infrastructure.



What's the itinerary?


Flying into Zürich on Friday night, we book train tickets that take you through Chur to St Moritz (either on regular services, or in a panoramic car aboard the world-famous Glacier Express). With a day to yourself on Saturday, go skiing, or head to the Cresta toboggan run. On Sunday, the first race starts just before lunchtime; the last just after, around 2:30pm. With plentiful food and drink outlets on course, choose which side of the paddock you'd like to spend the day: in the general admission area, or in the hospitality zone, where a vast tent houses a free wine and oyster bar, and free champagne flows further down the rail.



What happened during 2023's edition?


As usual, 2023's action was spread over the first three weekends of February, with free-entry family days (featuring pony racing and amusements) on Saturdays, and the main event on Sundays (authorities estimate a total of 38,000 visited across the month). Valeria Schiergen (top German trainer Peter Schiergen's daughter-in-law) was crowned 'Queen of the Engadin', after her victory in the Grand Prix Credit Suisse (below), while fellow German jockey Rene Piechulek (who won the 2021 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe) also enjoyed a successful season, despite suffering a fall on the final day. This year's middle weekend also saw the retirement of three local skijoring legends, including Derek Thompson lookalike Lupo Wolf.



What about exploring St Moritz?


For centuries a centre of luxury and elegance, St Moritz lies at the heart of Switzerland's Engadin valley, populated by both German and Italian speaking residents. With a frequent local bus and train service (covered by a ski pass), travel around the valley is easy, and it means, when you're not skiing (or at the racecourse), you can take in the local picturesque villages of Celerina and Silvaplana. Alternatively, simply take time to enjoy the cafés, bars and restaurants of this resort capital, with all the brands you'd find on Fifth Avenue or the Champs-Élysées.

 

For 2024

 





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