For over 160 years, the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz has enjoyed an excellent reputation for Swiss hospitality. Thanks to its founder, the hotelier Johannes Badrutt, St. Moritz and the Kulm Hotel were already the best-known places in the Swiss Alps in the 19th century. A legendary bet led to events that made the Engadin the cradle of winter tourism.
A history of innovation
Winter tourism – the result of a bet
In the autumn of 1864, the story goes, Johannes Badrutt sat by the fire in the Kulm Hotel in St. Moritz with four English holiday guests. He enthused about the St. Moritz winter idyll – a snow-blanketed landscape basking in sunshine with mild temperatures during the day. “A paradise on earth.” The Englishmen did not believe him since they knew the dark, cold English winters all too well. This conversation led to the legendary bet: Badrutt suggested that the four should return in December, and if they did not enjoy their stay, he would reimburse the travel expenses. The Englishmen returned – and stayed until Easter. Badrutt won his bet, and winter tourism was launched.
Birth of modern winter sports
The news of winter holidays in the snow spread like wildfire, and more and more English people came to spend holidays in St. Moritz. In the 1890s various enterprising winter guests were keen to develop new sports using ice tracks – and so skibobbing, skeleton bobsled, and cresta emerged. Soon, competitions for all these sports were held in the vast Kulm Park. The Winter Olympic Games of 1928 and 1948 were opened here. True to tradition, the Kulm Hotel is today still home to the historic St. Moritz Tobogganing Club and Cresta Club, and the hotel hosts the Olympia Bob Run St. Moritz-Celerina every year. True to form, the newly renovated Kulm Country Club will be the setting both for the opening ceremony and the medal ceremonies at this year’s 5th Alpine World Ski Championships.
First electric light in Switzerland
A man keen on innovation, hotel founder Johannes Badrutt liked to surprise his guests. In 1878, Switzerland’s first electric light illuminated the Grand Restaurant in the Kulm Hotel. Having seen the lighting at the world exhibition in Paris, Badrutt returned with ample impressions and built a small power plant at a cost of around 11,000 Swiss francs – a considerable sum at that time. The success of Badrutt’s bold endeavour led him to start various cultural entertainments in St. Moritz. Consequently, noblemen and personalities from the world of business, politics and culture came from all over Europe not only for the sporting activities but also to enjoy masquerade balls and the intriguing entertainment Laterna Magica.
Badrutt’s pioneering spirit lives on
From the end of the 19th century until recently, Badrutt’s descendants have restored and expanded the Kulm Hotel. Today, this historic St. Moritz establishment is owned by a finance company, which continues to foster the heritage under the aegis of the Niarchos family. The family, with the help of directors Jenny and Heinz Hunkeler, are leading the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz into the future with the care and commitment that the hotel’s founder Johannes Badrutt would expect.