Each February, the rich and famous descend upon Switzerland’s St. Moritz, not just for the slopes and après-ski but for one of the world’s most exclusive horse races, held on ice.
The luxury resort has a nearby airport that caters to private jets. Visitors can be seen being taken around by helicopters and Ferraris. However, wealthy guests are starting to think about the climate crisis.
This is because The White Turf Race the only such event in the world held on a frozen lake, is under threat. It is held on a vast expanse water directly beneath the Swiss resort. Due to global heating, the lake has begun melting.
St. Moritz: It was originally built as a ski resort Britons. It has been a popular destination for extreme snowsports since then, including the Cresta Run, a fast-paced toboggan race, to skijoring, where you stand on skis while being pulled along by a horse on the frozen lakes.
The White Turf is a tradition that has been held since 114 years. It attracts spectators, musicians and caterers as well as horses and their trainers. Until now, no one thought anything of riding horses, ice skating and dancing over a frozen lake—the ice was always known to be steady and thick.
Last weekend, 7000 people from all over the globe flocked to the lake to witness the race. But organizers watched in horror as water “pushed up” under the ice, putting the races in jeopardy.
The race organizers claim they have had to reduce the weight of attractions as the climate warms and the lake melts. This includes telling luxury kitchens serving oysters and lobster not to bring too many equipment.
White Turf runners were horrified to see the VIP tent crack under the ice. It had to be taken down and rebuilt on thicker, more stable ice. Because of melting ice in some parts of the lake, the race had to be cut short this year.
A spokesperson for White Turf said: “With enough ice and not too much snow on Lake St Moritz, everything seemed perfectly prepared for this year’s 114th edition of the White Turf. The races were canceled due to water intrusion from below at the finish area over the past week. All racing events—flat and trotting races as well as skijoring—were shortened to 800 meters. Since the starting boxes were not in use either, all races were started with the flag.”
Due to this, only four horses participated in the main race of day. They were competing for a prize amount of 20,000 Swiss Francs (about $11,600). Due to the shorter distance, all of the Swiss trainers turned down the race. Echo Beach, who fell after the race started, was later found to have suffered an injury to his aorta after intense exercise.
Although the races continue on the ever-growing ice, the White Turf is being joked about by visitors as a swimming race. The race’s future is in doubt as the winters heat up.