Any sport played on a frozen lake in the winter has its perils. St. Moritz, with a surface area of .78km and a depth of 44m (1/2 mile surface and 144 feet deep) typically gets a solid pack of ice in the frozen months of January and February. Every winter there are polo matches on the frozen lake, and for three weekends every February, horse races are also held. The races are called “White Turf”, and have been run on the lake since 1907, bringing a special clientele of tourists to the lake for champagne and betting.
On February 9, the first of three weekends of scheduled races were regrettably cancelled after the first race when slippery conditions caused a horse wreck at the end. The first and only race that took place was raced over 800m instead of 1,300m because of the difficult race track conditions. The winner was ten-year old Lipocco from the Munich stable of John David Hillis. Nearing the finish, the jockey André Best managed to draw reserves out of the gelding, allowing him to win by one length against Zarras (Silvia Casanova) and The Art of Racing (Alexander Pietsch). Just after he had passed the finishing line Lipocco fell, which lead to a chain reaction with four further horses.
In addition to the high-calibre flying snow and hooves races, another spectacular attraction awaits White Turf visitors on the frozen lake; a surfaced submarine. The very clever and deceptively realistic installation by Swiss artist Andreas Reinhard accommodates a sushi, sake and champagne bar rising from the lake.
There have been mishaps when the frozen lake began to thaw. English cricketer David Gower parked his rental car on the ice in January 1990. Over night it broke through the ice and sank.
Racing dates still on ice: February 16, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Listed Cup Arabian Racing, and February 23
All Photos: Andy Mettler