Cresta Run

Maj Paul Chishick

Chairman Cresta

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.

Tpr Fairbairn just holds it in at Shuttlecock

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.

The Author starting from Top

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.

Last season showed some very competitive racing on the Cresta with the Army taking the Prince Philip Trophy. Surgeon Commander Potter, the Navy Captain and their fastest rider, sadly fell on his first course, which left the Army in a strong lead from the first course. Subsequent fallers from the Navy and Airforce went on to consolidate the Army’s lead, with their two Club Colours riders leading the way. Captain Tom Wythe won the Lord Trenchard (individual race) and the Auty Speed Cup with a time of 53.95. As some consolation, Surg Cdr Potter then stayed out for the club race at the weekend where he won his Club Colours, the first Navy rider to do so for the last decade, coming in the top 8 of a Club Colours race.

Pte Kinny Evans Riding from Top as the first Lady rider since 1929

In the Services’ Ladies race, the Army again took the individual prize, with Lt Hattie Colquhoun, a novice this year, winning the junction individual race. Pte Kinny Evans, one of the Army’s other riders, was also the first lady to ride from Top since 1929, having qualified during her time riding for the services this season. This is an incredible achievement and testament to the hard work of Pte Evans and her coaches.  This season, there will be a further Junction Ladies’ Team race with 3 riders per team, two to count.

Pte Kinny Evans                                       Services Ladies riders prizegiving

Training commences this season on Thu 16 Jan, when riders from the Royal Navy, Army and RAF will begin to arrive, and the Services’ competition will take place on Wed 29 Jan.  All three teams will have competitive teams, with the Army keen to hold on to their title.

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.

Services Teams’ Prize giving