1. The rise of the resort
Libis (Herbert Libiszewski), Wallis, 1949. Lithograph in colours. Sold for £11, 250 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
Hans Schilter (1911-1988), STOOS, 1957. Lithograph in colours. Sold for £1, 875 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
The first ski holidays began in the mid 1800s, with the British upper classes quickly adopting the sport as one of winter’s most fashionable pursuits. In 1905, the sport made a tentative Olympic debut as an ‘unrecognised’ event and by 1914, Swiss resorts provided 215,000 beds for eager ski tourists.
For four-time Olympian Chemmy Alcott, skiing has been a passion since childhood: ‘I’ve always loved skiing. I got my first skis when I was three years old. It’s always been about alpine skiing — I love how it’s about searching for speed and pushing yourself. The slopes are my office.’
Today, ski resorts have spread across the globe, allowing Alcott to train throughout the year: ‘Come July, you go down to the southern hemisphere — Chile, New Zealand, Argentina. When I tell people I’ve done seasons in Australia, they don’t believe they have mountains there — but they’re really good!’
2. A winter tan
Carl Moos (1878-1959), St. Moritz. Sold for £23,750 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
Erich Hermès (1881-1971), Winter in der Schweiz, circa 1938. Sold for £6,250 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
Hailed as the birthplace of winter tourism, St Moritz celebrated the 150th anniversary of its first ski season last year. But while the resort ranks among the world’s most popular today, Heinz E. Hunkeler, General Manager of St Moritz’s historic Kulm Hotel, is well aware of how difficult that first season was.
‘In the autumn of 1864, Johannes Badrutt, the owner of what is now known as the Kulm Hotel, made a bold bet,’ says Hunkeler. ‘He promised the last departing guests of summer a free stay — from December to the following spring — if a winter holiday in St Moritz proved less sunny and pleasant than their summer holiday.’
The bet paid off. Tanned and full of enthusiasm, guests returned home and spread the word about their fantastic mountain winter. Early activities included sledding from the Kulm Hotel onto the frozen Lake St Moritz — leading to the creation of the world-famous Cresta Run — and sliding down the mountain slopes on planks of wood.
3. Chalet chic
Jules Abel Faivre (1867-1945), Sports d’hiver Chamonix, 1905. Sold for £6,000 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
Alo (Charles Hallo) (1884-1969), Chamonix-Mont Blanc, 1924. Sold for £6,000 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
At the beginning of the 20th century, ski resorts such as Chamonix had begun to attract an increasingly fashionable clientele: white bonnets were considered particularly chic, and poster designs suggested flowing skirts would prove no hindrance to ambitious jumps.
The rise of the stylish skiing set brought with it a growing demand for well-designed, luxury accommodation. Chalet design developed as a field in its own right, with challenging environmental conditions pushing architects and interior designers to create increasingly innovative structures.
Jonathan Tuckey, whose eponymous company specialises in ski architecture, believes the best chalets are old buildings ‘updated to meet the demands of the modern world. This need not be limited to radically altering the interior alone. Adding minimal glass extensions to an old chalet, or flooding the interiors with mountainous views and light can be a very striking way of altering these old buildings.’
4. The first winter Olympics
Anonymous, VIIès jeux olympiques d’hiver, Cortina, 1955. Lithograph in colours. Sold for £1,000 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
Ludwig Holden (1874-1949), Germany 1936, IVth Olympic winter games, 1936. Lithograph in colours. Sold for £1,875 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
In 1924, the International Ski Federation was founded, with the first Winter Olympics following shortly after. The development led to an increased interest in winter sports, with serious enthusiasts flocking to resorts such as Cortina — which, in 1930, advertised sports including ‘ski, skating’ and ‘jumping leaps’.
For Britain's number one female Alpine skier Chemmy Alcott, the games are ‘always a rollercoaster: the Turin Olympics was the best I ever skied. I was ranked about 100th in the world and until the last bit I was in 3rd position. At Sochi last year, just six months after I last broke my leg, I managed to come 19th and was less than two seconds off the leader, so that was another incredible performance.
‘You can’t get complacent when things are going well because you’re always trying to push yourself. In sports like skiing, there’s such a thin line between success and disaster; it’s about enjoying every moment.’
5. Deadly mountain ranges
Wehrli Gebrüder, Zermatt, circa 1927. Photograph, offset lithograph in colours. This work was offered in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
Emil Cardinaux (1877-1936), Zermatt, circa 1908. Lithograph in colours. Sold for £17,500 in The Ski Sale on 21 January 2016 at Christie’s in London
Far from the comfort of ski resorts, mountain peaks provided a perilous alternative for turn-of-the-century thrill-seekers. In 1865, the Matterhorn — looming intimidatingly in this rare photographic poster — was the last of the Alpine peaks to be climbed.
An initial expedition led by Edward Whymper ended in disaster, with four climbers falling to their deaths. Six subsequent attempts also proved unsuccessful, with the Matterhorn — nicknamed the ‘King of the Alps’ —said to be ‘unclimbable’.
In 1862, John Tyndall became the first to scale the south-west shoulder. Today, Jonathon Spitzer (of Alpine Ascents International) leads tourists on guided ascents: ‘Towering 3,000m over the town of Zermatt, the Matterhorn is a technical undertaking for any climber. Covering 60-degree, icy slopes, most climbs take five to seven hours, and are extremely physically demanding — but it is an amazing experience, and its beauty is surreal’.
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