The Cresta Run
St Moritz Tobogganing Club
The Cresta Run is the world’s first ice run. Created in 1885, it is the start of the ice sports culture from which the bobsleigh, bob skeleton and luge have developed. However, unlike these ‘junior’ ice sliding sports, the Cresta remains the amateur club sport that it was in 1885. Operated under the auspices of the St Moritz Tobogganing Club since 1887, it is no longer an Olympic sport and does not attract commercial sponsorship or live television coverage. The Club’s only aim is to enable its members to ride the oldest and most challenging ice run in the world.
The Cresta Run
The Cresta Run is a natural ice run, built with snow anew every year since the winter of 1884/85. It became famous because the Run was also watered, making it a single sheet of ice and creating the fastest ice sport in the world. It is approximately ¾ mile (1212 metres) in length with a drop of 514 feet (157 metres), as you can see from the Map of the Run. The gradient varies from 1 in 2.8 (thus also making it the steepest ice run in the world) to 1 in 8.7. There are two starting points, Top (located where the name would suggest) and Junction (about 1/3 of the way down, opposite the Clubhouse). As a flavour of the speed involved, the best riders will complete the ¾ mile course in just over 50 seconds from a standing start, crossing the finish line at around 80 mph – which, when your face is just a few millimetres from the ice, is likely to be the fastest sensation you will ever experience.
The Cresta differs from the other ice track disciplines in 3 key elements. First, as mentioned above, it is a private club run by and for its members – truly an amateur sport. Second, perhaps the most important difference is that the Cresta Run is not ‘over-banked’ like a bob track. That produces a requirement for the third key difference – steering. The bob track requires little or no steering input to remain in the track (although a ride without steering may prove uncomfortable!), while a Cresta rider who does not work hard to steer his toboggan will quickly fall: this is not a sport for the faint-hearted. The world’s first bob track was built in St Moritz as an offshoot of the Cresta, but with ‘over-banked’ corners to stop riders falling out. In equipment terms, the modern Cresta toboggan is fairly similar to the bob skeleton, from which it was developed. However, the need to produce big steering inputs makes the technique for riding the Cresta significantly different from any of the bob track disciplines. Indeed, Riding the Cresta is a unique challenge within the world of ice sports.
The Run has 10 corners, all of which are named. The most famous (notorious) is Shuttlecock. This left-hand bank, about half-way down the Run, sorts the men from the boys. If a rider is out of control (in other words, if his speed is greater than his riding ability at that point), he will fall out at Shuttlecock into a carefully prepared falling area of snow and straw.
Access to the Run
Depending on snow conditions (i.e. whether it has been cold enough to build the Run), the Cresta Run is open from just before Christmas until the end of February. At the start of the season riding is only from Junction, with Top riding starting in mid-January.
Although it is a private Club, and many of the RAF (and other Services’) riders are Club members in their own right, it is possible for non-Members to ride as temporary seasonal members, on the so-called ‘Supplementary List’. However, the Services only ride the Cresta within the rules of the SMTC, which include the following limitations:
a) Riders must be over 18
b) Women are not permitted to ride the Cresta Run.
c) Non-members may not ride on race days - except for the Inter-Services, of course!
The Inter-Services Championship is run by the Club specifically for the Services at the end of January every year. This race, and the training for it, is our reason for being there.