First winter guests in Davos
Two German visitors, Hugo Richter and Dr. Friedrich Unger, arrived in Davos on 8th February to recuperate in the mountains and thereby became the first winter guests in Davos. News of their successful recovery quickly spread throughout Europe and was a contributing factor to the rapid growth of Davos and Klosters. In those days Davos only had two hotels - the Hotel Strela built in 1854 and the Kessler's Kulm Hotel which was built in 1864. Today, together with its neighbouring village of Klosters, Davos is a large, modern and thriving resort.
First natural ice rink at the Kurhaus
The first natural ice rink was created by J.W. Holsboer in 1869 in the garden of the Kurhaus, known today as the Arkadenplatz. Over the following years, a number of smaller ice rinks were built but they were ridiculed by the pampered guests who refered to them as "puddles". In the winter of 1880/81, a 6,500m2 ice rink was built on the site of what is the natural ice rink today. A pavilion for spectators and a restaurant were also built close by. Davos Ice Skating Club, founded in 1880, took over the running of the ice rink.
In 1869, Georg Stifler renovated the Commissari Sprecher House, built in 1289, to become the "Hotel and Pension zum Seehof". A new extension was added in 1876 and the hotel was known as Kurhaus Davos-Dörfli. This district of the village grew in popularity when Georg Stifler became the Municipal Mayor. In 1888, he carried out further modifications and extensions to the hotel and after his death aged 44, the hotel was handed over to the Kurhaus Davos Corporation - thereby the influence of J. W. Holsboer was also extended over Davos-Dörfli.
Early attempts at curling in Davos probably took place around 1872 but the first recorded curling season was in the winter of 1888. The Belvédère Curling Club was set up in 1892 with the first President being the Englishman General R. M. Haig, a respected member of the British colony in Davos. Elizabeth MacMorland, the "grande dame" of the English district, had acquired the first curling stones from Scotland for the game.
The Kurverein Spa Association created a toboggan run below the Kurhaus in December 1879 with the construction of two runs – one for climbing up and one for sliding down. Prior to this, visitors tobogganed on the slopes around the Hotel Belvédère and Buol but with the risk of sledging right onto the Promenade! Visitors had great fun on the three-kilometre long snow-covered post road to Klosters.
A toboggan race with unique local charm was held for the first time in Davos in January 1882. The idea was met with enthusiasm and led to the first International Toboggan Race on 12th February 1883. 21 athletes took part,12 of whom were Swiss, and the course was set once again on the main road from Davos to Klosters. An Australian and a local man won the race in a time of 9 minutes and 15 seconds. J. A. Symonds acted as referee and the prizes were presented by Elizabeth MacMorland.
The Davos Toboggan Club was founded on 7 February 1883 on the occasion of a toboggan race that sent participators from Davos down to Klosters. The club’s history features various highlights. Switzerland’s so far only World Champion title holds Elisabeth Nagele. The Schärrer bob team won gold for the club at the World Cup in Lake Placid and several Swiss and Grisons champions were also brought up by the Davos International Toboggan Club. Today’s club still practises tobogganing and promotes young talents.
In 1883, the German pharmacist, R. Paulcke had a pair of telemark skis sent to Davos as a Christmas gift for his son Wilhelm, who went on to become a snow and avalanche researcher. The skis generated great enthusiasm and a local wainwright produced more skis based on the same design. The boys eagerly skied on the upper meadows and in the Dischma Valley but when the Paulcke family traveled back to Germany, this new and fun discovery of telemark skiing was forgotten until another pair of skis appeared in 1889.
When the first skis arrived in Davos from Norway in 1885, the local Davos cobbler Franz Heierling produced the first ski boots based on the Norwegian 'Lauper' boots. From 1934, the company has specialised in tailor-made ski boots, and produced the first ski boots with clips in 1953. Following ongoing growth and development combined with innovations, and in cooperation with different license agreements with sports companies, the name Heierling is still synonymous today with top-quality ski boots. The company is now run by the 4th generation of the family.
«More than Mountaineering»; this is the slogan of the Swiss Alpine Club SAC. Its Davos section, founded in 1886, thus almost 130 years ago, is one of the largest sport associations in the Davos Klosters region. It were amongst others the founders of the Davos health resort such as Hugo Richter, John Addington Symonds and Willem Jan Holsboer, who gave the impact to found such a SAC section in Davos. Besides various mountaineering activities, the Davos SAC section also ensures Alpine rescue services and operates the two SAC huts Kesch and Ela.
In the winter of 1888, the New York spa guest Stephen Withney introduced his new bob-sleigh for the first time on the road from Davos to Klosters. The bob-sleigh was built in Davos and consisted of two low sleds – called "Americas – flexible and held together by bars. Withney was not allowed to race with this model. However, he was not discouraged. He put the rear sled to one side and won the race lying on his stomach on the front section of the sled. This was regarded as the birth of the skeleton bob.
In March 1889, the Davos Toboggan Club decided to organise two different toboggan races as only traditional toboggans were permitted to race in the Symonds Cup. However, all types of toboggan were permitted to enter in the new race. The first prize was the Symonds Shield. It was not clear at the start of both of the races, whether participants should toboggan sitting up or lying down. The Symonds Shield race was held on the Buol Ice Run.
Tobias Branger, who had built a toboggan on skis in the 1870s, saw a pair of skis for the first time at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1878. In 1889 he arranged for a pair of skis to be sent from Norway. Together with his brother Johann, he taught himself the technique of skiing. To avoid being ridiculed by their neighbours, the two brothers would practise in secret. After many tumbles and much disappointment, they found themselves able to ski down ever-steeper slopes. In the winter of 1890, the two dared to embark on a tour of the Strelaalp.
The railway line, constructed in 1882 over the Gotthard Pass, produced an economic slump in the Grisons. To counteract this, W.J. Holsboer planed a narrow-gauge railway from Landquart in 1886 – financed, amongst others, by three financiers from Basil. The section between Landquart and Klosters opened in October 1889. The section between Klosters and Davos opened in the summer of 1890. The "Rhaetian Railway" ran three times daily and it took 2.5 hours to travel from Landquart to Davos bringing a huge increase in visitors to the region.
In the winter of 1891/92, the natural ice rink created in 1880 was extended from its original 6,500 m2 to 16,000 m2. The Pavilion for spectators and guests was rebuilt two years later. The ice rink was further extended and, by the turn of the century, covered an area of 25,700 m2. It was split into three sections after the First World War: the large ice rink, an open ice hockey arena and the English Ice Rink. The large natural ice rink today still covers an area of 18,000 m2 making it the biggest ice rink in Europe.
In March 1883 the Branger brothers undertook the first major ski tour over the 2,445 metre high Maienfelder Furka Pass to Arosa. One year later the Branger brothers took Arthur Conan Doyle with them on the same tour. They practiced their skiing technique for weeks beforehand. The tour took around seven hours. Doyle reported his adventurous experiences in English magazines. The articles were the first to be written by a British person about a ski tour and it created a lot of interest in Great Britain.
The Davos International Ice Skating Club (ISCD) was founded in 1894 following the first major international ice skating competitions in Davos. Two years after its inception, the ISCD successfully applied to the International Skating Union (ISU) to be included in the world governing body of skating. Davos has proved itself as an outstanding venue for a number of different World and European Figure-skating and Speed Skating Championships. The ISCD World Championships have been honoured twice with a Swiss postage stamp.
In March 1895, British visitors Graham, Steele and Danday and the German Baron Hermann wanted to try out the ski tour from Davos to Arosa but they had very little local knowledge. Graham and Hermann gave up but Steele and Danday continued and overnighted exhausted in an alpine hut in the Casanna Pass. The following day, despite being frozen, they dragged themselves downhill and reached a village – Küblis. This pioneering act of finding a ski tour through the Parsenn region to Küblis greatly advanced the development of skiing in Davos.
116 years ago, German visitors introduced Bavarian curling to Davos where in 1898 Switzerland’s first Bavarian Curling Association was founded. Initially, this sport was primarily played by farmers and craftsmen and this way turned into a popular winter sport.
The General Assembly of the Schatzalp Lift Association was held in June 1898, prior to which the construction of Schatzalp Sanatorium had been decided. The Board of Directors consisted of investors from Basle and Chur and Willem Alexander Holsboer, the son of Willam Jan Holsboer. On 25th December 1899, after only one and a half years of construction, the Schatzalp funicular railway started operating. The carriages, with three closed, one open compartment and two driver's cabs, had a capacity for 36 people.
W.J. Holsboer had the idea of building an exclusive closed sanatorium on the Schatzalp, to meet the most discerning demands. The Schatzalp Sanatorium opened on 21st December 1900. The design, size and amenities transcended anything that had previously been built. The introduction of new medication surprisingly quickly heralded the end of tuberculosis treatment. Convalescence treatment ended in 1951. The building has been run as a mountain hotel since 1954 and in 2008 was honoured with the "Historical Swiss Hotel" award.
Opening of the toboggan run from the Schatzalp to Davos
Shortly after the construction of the Schatzalp funicular, the Davos Toboggan Club set about constructing a toboggan run from Schatzalp. The toboggan run, opened in 1900, covers a difference in altitude of 300 meters and in 1905 the first skeleton race was held from the Schatzalp. The crisis years around the First World War almost brought tobogganing to a standstill. Guests no longer came in the same numbers to Davos and there was a lack of financing to organise races and maintain the runs.
One year after the Davos English Ski Club was founded, eleven Davos locals, led by Bartli Caflisch, founded a second ski club, the Ski Club Davos. At the end of its first year, the new club had 62 members. The two clubs worked closely together and benefited greatly from this cooperation. The natives provided mountain guides for tours, while the English offered ski instruction. Today Ski Club Davos is Switzerland's largest ski club.
Construction of the toboggan run from the Schatzalp to Davos
The Schatzalp toboggan run was expanded into a bob-sleigh run in 1907. The lower station of the Schatzalp funicular railway, and the carriages, were converted for the conveniece of transporting the bob-sleighs. Bob-sleigh races continued to be held on this run. Admittedly bob-sleigh racing and skeleton racing survived the war years but came to a stop in 1932. The Schatzalp would soon be sought out by enthusiasts of a new populist sport – skiing.
The first ice hockey club in Davos was founded in 1918 for schoolchildren and visitors. The Hockey Club Davos was founded in 1921 on the initiative of dentist Dr. Paul Müller. In 1926 the HCD won the first Swiss National title, and four more followed in 1927/29/30 and 1931. Following various spells of hard times, promotion and relegation, HCD has played uninterruptedly in the National A League since 1993. With 20 Championship titles and 15 Spengler Cup wins, HCD can look back on a unique history of success.
Dr. Carl Spengler, son of the founder of the resort Alexander Spengler, donated a hiking cup for an ice-hockey tournament in 1923. This was firstly to promote the HCD, but also as a peace project for the post-war period. The composition of the participating teams changed over the years: The initial 15 teams were joined by various foreign teams and in the 1970s more and more national teams took part in the tournament. Since 2010, games have been played in a new mode, which now permits a second Swiss team alongside the HCD.
The history of the Parsenn Derby started in 1924 with a race from the Parsennfurka to Küblis. Before the Parsenn funicular was completed, all participants had to climb up to the Parsennfurka on foot. Up until 1942, participants could choose their own 13 kilometre-long route down from the summit of the Weissfluh.The Parsenn Derby was one of the most important races in international downhill racing until the formation of the modern Ski World Cup in 1967. Today, the competition primarily attracts ambitious amateur racers and former professionals from around the world.
Opening of the 1st section of the Parsenn funicular railway
In the winter of 1931, the Parsenn funicular railway started operating between Davos village and Höhenweg. A year later, the section between Höhenweg and Weissfluhjoch was added. The funicular railway had a capacity of 350 persons per hour. The capacity of the railway was doubled in 1937 with the major boom in visitors. The 1st section was comprehensively renewed in 2002 when the track was widened and its speed increased. Today it transports 2,200 persons per hour and in 2010 the 2nd section was also refurbished.
Bolgen lift: the world's first t-bar lift
At the start of the 1920s, anyone taking ski instruction would only spend six minutes skiing in every hour – the rest of the time was spent climbing up the hill! For this reason, the passionate skier and Zurich engineer Ernst Gustav Constam developed a tow-cable system and applied for a patent for it in 1930. It was 270 metres long with a 60-metre difference in height with J-shaped single T-bars. The world's first T-bar lift, and also Switzerland’s first ski lift, opened on 24th December 1934 on the Bolgen in Davos.
In 1942 the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, Davos-Weissfluhjoch, was founded and moved into the institute building on the Weissfluhjoch under the guidance of Dr. E. Bucher. In 1996, its headquarters moved from the Weissfluhjoch to the village of Davos. Around 130 researchers deal with research and scientific services in the fields of snow, natural hazards, alpine habitats and integrated risk management. The Institute is especially well-known for its avalanche bulletins.
The Congress House, built in 1969 by the architects Gisel and Meisser, was extended in 1979 with the construction of Building B, and in 1989 by Building C to become the Congress Centre. In 2010, the Basle architect Degelo created simple order from the tangle of construction in the building complex and at the same time, allowing in plenty of light and offering views over the Kurpark and the surrounding mountains. The trademark of the new building is the honeycomb ceiling of the Plenary Chamber and the imposing entrance foyer. Today the building can house events for up to 5,000 people.
The young economics professor Klaus Schwab had the idea of initiating a European Management Forum in Davos. Held for the first time in 1971, the event was renamed the "World Economic Forum" in 1987 and, as a result, established itself as one of the most important congresses with over 2,000 high-calibre participants from the worlds of business, society and politics. The Annual Meeting of the WEF carries the "Spirit of Davos" out into the whole world and has become an event with an outstanding international charisma.
Cross-country ski trails were prepared by machine for the first time in Davos in 1971. In 1974 international athletes who trained in Davos, spontaneously organised a race. Davos International Cross-country Ski Days were rated as an official World Cup race for the first time in 1980 (Davos Nordic). The Davos Cross-country Ski Club was founded in 1976. Today, the network of trails in Davos Klosters extend to over 100 km of ski trails for all levels of difficulty and include a night cross-country trail and a dog trail.
The ice sports area, designed by Krähenbühl Architects, officially opened on 26th December 1981. The building with its wooden construction is regarded as one of Europe's most beautiful ice hockey stadiums with a particularly ambitious interior design. The gable height is 30 metres. In 2005 a new, modern northern stand was built with the "Nordside" restaurant, VIP rooms and sponsors' areas. The capacity of the stadium is 7,080 spectators. The ice rink was renamed the Vaillant Arena on 1st January 2007.
E. L. Kirchner lived in Davos from 1918 until his death in 1938. Davos and its surroundings inspired him to create a large number of important works; the architecturally unique Kirchner Museum opened in September 1992. It was the first major contract completed by architects Annette Gigon and Mike Guyer. The Davos Kirchner Museum offers visitors the unique experience of seeing Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's art in the place where it was created.
In 1997 the Swiss Sports Secondary School, Davos opened with 37 students. The Davos Sports Secondary School is a small independent school that has the sole aim of offering young people who compete in sport at an elite level a school education. A number of prominent athletes, who have competed at the highest level at World and European Championships, started their sporting careers at the Davos Sports Secondary School.
Davos Tourist Office merged with Klosters Tourist Office in 2008. Since 1st May 2008, the two resorts have marketed themselves jointly under the slogan "Destination Davos Klosters" and present themselves as a large, modern and successful holiday resort.
The Davos – Ischalp cable car opened in 1954 and the cable car up to the top of the Jakobshorn was completed in 1958. In the summer of 2014, the 1st section of the Jakobshorn cable car was replaced by a new modern cable car and also the building of new valley and top stations. The brand new cable car can transport 100 people, thereby doubling its capacity and improving passenger comfort.
In 1883 the first sled race took place on the road between Davos and Klosters. In honor of the pioneers of this sports former Olympic and World Champions drove on Bob and Sled from past and present times on the road from Klosters Vereina to Klosters - Pioneers' Horseshoe included!
On March 28th / 29th about 100 runners participated in the first ski patrol race from Davos to St. Moritz. The participants accomplished in two stages over 56.9km and 5110 meters of altitude. The winning time of the team Flütsch ski touring team was 7h 10min 28sec. The first edition was a successful closing of the 150th anniversary winter and a great collaboration between the two destinations of Davos Klosters and St. Moritz.
Inventions, discoveries, adventures and successes. Passion, visions and pioneering spirit. All this has made Davos Klosters what it is today. Like our forefathers, we are facing the future with a pioneering approach. Now. A true holiday classic ultimately wins over visitors with its rich past, but above all with its timeless presence that promises a first-class future. Story to be continued...