Davos – the very name spells the ultimate in Swiss luxury and I was fortunate to have visited this stupendous Alpine mountain destination a year back, courtesy a FAM Tour organised by Swiss Air that took us to Swiss destinations like Geneva, Basel, Zurich and off course Davos. I had heard of Davos being a venue for prestigious international conferences and I was wandering onboard the Swiss Air flight from Mumbai about what ethereal beauty this small Swiss town held for the global business honchos and the movers & shakers of the world that compel them year after year to head for Davos.
We landed in Zurich airport and from there drove all the way by road to Davos, passing through the magnificent Alpine panorama and the Swiss countryside. This 2.5 hour road journey is forever etched in my memory and this was probably the most scenic road journey I have ever embarked upon.
Swiss Air had made elaborate arrangements for our stay at Davos’s outstanding Arosa Kulm Hotel. The ambience here is stunning with undulating ski slopes and snowy hiking trails that can be savoured right from the doorway. The hotel’s outstanding location at 1835 meters, offers unobstructed ethereal views of the Grisons Alps.
Davos has indeed come of age as an international Alpine holiday destination and today this stunning Alpine town with its impressive set of congress resorts, relaxation avenues and a plethora of winter sport activities have catapulted Davos into a much preferred Swiss vacation spot.
In course of our urge to discover the hidden secret behind the positioning of Davos into a frontline Alpine tourist destination, we were informed by the Resident Manager that twelve classic resorts belonging to the European Alpine region have joined together for better brand marketing, Best of the Alps (BOTA) which includes Chamonix-Mont Blanc, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Davos, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Grindelwald, Kitzbühel, Lerch Zürs am Arlberg, Megève, St. Anton am Arlberg, St. Moritz, Seefeld and Zermatt. They signify the most prestigious summer and winter tourist destinations.
No wonder that the Best of the Alps resorts are considered to be the epitome of rich Alpine tradition and superb hospitality offering the discerning international visitors with a range of accommodation options ranging from the homely hostel to a super luxury hotel.
Davos is not all nature. This bewitching Swiss town also offers a colourful cultural palette - often in a quietly premeditated contrast to the more recognizable scenic attractions. We were lucky to appreciate The Davos Festival Young Artists in Concert that draws talented young musicians from across the globe. For the culturally inclined, a visit to the historic Kirchner Museum could be very rewarding. Here, the great collection of the renowned Swiss expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is carefully preserved.
The evolution of Davos as an international high-altitude health resort (1860-1930) began in 1853 and is intimately linked with the name of Alexander Spengler. He was sentenced to death by the Germans for participation in the March Revolution of 1848 and sought asylum in Davos. As a qualified doctor, he quickly recognized the beneficial effects of high-altitude climate and in 1868, Spengler and Dutchman Willem Jan Holsboer together built the Kuranstalt Spengler-Holsboer health clinic. Later on Holsboer also established the Rhaetian Railway and thanks to his pioneering initiative, the Landschaft Davos set up its first railway link with the lowlands way back in 1890. Thereafter, the development of Davos as a much sought after health resort was quick. Hotels, sanatoriums and villas sprang up from nowhere, almost overnight. If statistical records are anything to go by, at the beginning of the 20th century, an annual 700’000 overnight bookings were recorded!
With the passage of time, visitors to Davos’ many sanatoriums also introduced both summer and winter sports to this town. Renowned British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – architect of Sherlock Holmes – contributed a great deal on this front. With the introduction of Europe’s first T-bar ski lift at Bolgen and the construction of several mountain railway projects played a pivotal role in causing the ski boom at Davos.
Newer scientific methods in treating tuberculosis led to a gradual decline in the number of patients coming to Davos, and the number of long-term guests in the sanatoriums dropped remarkably, as a result of which, elegant buildings were converted into contemporary hotels. However, Davos gradually evolved as a medical research centre and today there are a number of research centres based in Davos. In the year 1969 with the construction of the magnificent Congress Centre, Davos truly established itself as a seminar and congress venue.
Davos boasts of a long skiing tradition. During the early 19th century it was mainly the British, who together with the local people introduced Alpine ski sport. The world’s first ski lift became operational at Bolgen in 1934. This lift is now on display at the impressive Davos Winter Sports Museum.
Very few visitors are aware of the fact that Davos was one of the first resorts to recognise the importance of snowboarding as a sign of the times rather than just a passing fad. In the early 1990’s, Davos had gained tremendous reputation as a Mecca of snowboarding, a reputation that has been reaffirmed with every passing year.
Today Davos is a wonderful example of old traditions blending with the new. Cross-country skiing remains a perennial favourite in the Landwasser Valley. There is also a spectacular 75 km network of trails stretching from Davos Wolfgang flanking the lake towards Davos Glaris. The Flüela Run in particular has been standardised by the FIS and today serves as a traditional World Cup course for the world’s top ranked cross-country skiers.
I was stupefied by the sight of Davos’ ice rink. Europe’s largest natural ice rink (over 18,000 m2) comes with an outdoor artificial ice rink and a state-of-the-art ice stadium that are much sought after venues for ice hockey, ice skating, speed skating, curling and ice-stick shooting. Davos hosts numerous prestigious competitions like the International Speed Skating Championships, the much hyped HC Davos Ice Hockey Championship matches and the one and only - Spengler Cup, which happens to be the most important international ice hockey event, held annually in Davos between Christmas and New Year.
If you aren’t a ski buff, there are numerous other wonderful options to spend your winter days. For instance, the 97 km long winter-walking paths around Davos-Klosters offers an irresistible temptation to discover the Swiss countryside and there are also amazing trails for Nordic walking.
I have seen many visitors to Davos try the snowshoe trekking, an innovative way to unwind in the Swiss Alps. Toboggan runs on Schatzalp, Rinerhorn, Madrisa and Parsenn totalling around 22 km of valley runs offers bewildering array of snow thrills.
Whoever knows Davos, would testify to the fact that the après-ski is extraordinary! Refreshing entertainment is on offer at a host of Alpine ski huts that are close to the ski slopes, at rugged Swiss bars near the valley stations and in Davos town itself. Many visitors also go to the cinema followed by happy hours at the Casino. A welcome change from the arduous time spent on skis or snowboard. So, who knows, Lady Luck may be waiting…
If you are a business magnate Davos should be on your priority list as a Conferencing venue. Today Davos has carved out a niche identity as a successful and competitive international congress venue. In the world of conferences, there is a saying that Davos is blessed with a special “congress climate”.
The most highly acclaimed international congress is the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) which has been held in Davos since 1970. Every year in the month of January alone, Davos is host to over 200 high-flying guests from the worlds of politics, business, science and civil society.
Come to Davos and go back with Alpine memories.