My trip has ended and my mind is blown. What a brilliantly different experience I had in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this time around. Audi Canada brought me to the FIS Alpine World Championships to be on the other side of the fence; to receive a formal education in other aspects of this ski world and bring a select group of people further inside the race scene.
I can’t decide if it was the exclusive late night hors d’oeuvres in the Quattro Bar on the top of a mountain (privately escorted up by gondolas), or the bobsleigh run on the only natural track in the world driven by a Swiss Olympian bobsledder – which blew my mind (and my hair back) more.
Or was it watching the world championships as a spectator with 50,000 fans of a sport I love? It was contagious to root for the Canadians and Swiss alike – and a spectacular venue to watch athletes accelerate from 0 to 140 km/h in less than six seconds down a mountain. The first thing I did upon arrival was joining the festivities following Erik and Manny’s medals. These boys were brothers to me for the early part of my career and it was absolutely bonus to catch up on life while congratulating them on their worldly success.
The skiing at St. Moritz on this side of the fence was epic, as I knew it would be. There are 360 kilometres of groomed trails here in the Engadin valley. I was only very familiar with three of those. After this trip, I can say I skied most of the other 357 and am also overly proud to also say I’m no longer a heli-ski virgin. As an easterner, it took me a little longer to be introduced but I’m successfully addicted.
This valley offers the entire package. You can langlauf to Italy (cross-country ski), watch polo on a frozen lake, have squid risotto at the Kempinski and dance with the dead at the prestigious Dracula Club all in one day’s time. With a unique and treeless piste, you can stop absolutely anywhere along the side of the race course for a front row seat to witness the spectacle of alpine ski racing. The calm before the storm as a racer was always the course inspection. This was our 90 minutes to feel the entire track in our blood before the physical act was to be performed.
As a host this time around, I was able to take a small group of diehard fans and VIPs along the men’s downhill track (formerly women’s) before the downhillers came through. This transformation of my love for skiing was exemplified when I stood at the launch of a 60-metre jump. I used to take in the view as, simply, a point of focus to fly in the right direction. Now I was able to simply soak it in for pure enjoyment and appreciation. Over the weekend I was even able to head ‘over there’ (my past point of focus) and ski Corvatsch for the first time, an entire part of St. Moritz I had no time for in the past.
I managed close to 300 hugs over the course of the four days and feel grateful for the reminder of my worldly family. Many of us have associated St. Moritz with fur and moon boots. They wouldn’t be wrong. But in my four days in this beautiful valley, I was introduced to the cluster of the 13 towns that make up the Engadin valley and all their uniqueness and can sincerely highly recommend this gem.
Larisa Yurkiw is a retired Canadian World Cup alpine ski racer, specialising in the speed events of downhill and super-G.