Cheaper flights and new routes are just two reasons the ski season’s becoming a permanent fixture on the family holiday calendar. Fiona Klonarides spotlights five of the world’s top places to stay and ski – including The Four Seasons Vail and The Sebastian which both open this month – where snow, spas and chic chalets are all part of the seasonal ownership lifestyle.
In 2001 a 5,000-year old rock drawing depicting a man on skis holding a stick was discovered at Steinjkjer in Norway; in 1924, the oldest ski found to date was unearthed in a mire near Kalvträsk in Sweden. Far from being any old plank, experts carbon dated it back to 3200 BC. It seems as if we’ve been skiing, in some form or another, “since snow began.” It’s hard to prove exactly who the father of skiing as we know it really was, but modern day legend points to Scandinavia again – this time to a man called Sondre Norheim from the Norwegian farmlands of Telemark. Norheim supposedly invented the first bindings made of birch so that skiers could go further, faster, without worrying about their skis coming off. In 1870, Sondre Norheim took things a big step further by designing a short, curved, flexible ski made for easy turning in soft snow. In fact he was quite the skier himself, winning the first Norwegian national skiing competition aged forty-three in Christiania, now Oslo and there’s even a book about him on Amazon.com.
The St. Moritz story
The story of the ski resort, on the other hand, begins in Switzerland. In September 1864, St. Moritz hotel owner Johannes Badrutt made a bet with four of his British summer guests at the end of the summer. He invited them to return for the winter, assuring them that if they didn’t enjoy their snow-bound visit he’d cover the cost of their journey from London to St. Moritz and back. However if they liked the place in winter they could stay as long as they wished, as his guests. The deal was sealed and the guests returned, delighted with the generous terms of the wager. They came for Christmas and didn’t leave until Easter.