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A Brief History of Snow Sledding in Europe

 

Vintage SledDid you know that the "Sport" of Sledding started in the Alps? In 1883 in Davos, Switzerland, an Australian student named George Robertson won what is reputed to be the world’s first international sled race. He outslid 19 other competitors from England, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States on a four kilometre stretch of road from St. Wolfgang to the town of Klosters. The term "Davoser" is still used today to describe the Traditional Wooden Sled, Sledge or Toboggan. Our "Tracker" Sled is based on this Classic Design.

In the nearby Swiss Valley of Grindelwald, another version of the Traditional Wooden Sled was developed. It had a looping "Ram's Horn" feature in front providing a better grip for riding while seated upright. This type of sled is still referred to as a "Grindelwalder". Our "Bighorn" sled is based on this Classic Bentwood Design.

In the winter sports town of St. Moritz in 1884, British Major William Bulpett, with the backing of winter sports pioneer and Kulm hotel owner Caspar Badrutt, constructed "Cresta Run", the first sledding track of its kind in St. Moritz. The track ran three-quarters of a mile from St. Moritz to Celerina and contained 10 turns. In the early days of competitive sledding, the predominant style was "luge" racing (lying on one's back). The "head-first" style was first used in the 1887 Grand National competition . By 1890 all competitors were riding head-first. This style of sledding became known as "Cresta" racing.

Cresta RunIn 1892, the original "Davos" style sled was transformed by an Englishman named L. P. Child. Many thought the the newly designed "bare-bones" sled resembled a skeleton. For this reason the sport of individual "head-first" sledding eventually became known as "Skeleton" racing. The Cresta Run is still used today and is one of the few tracks now dedicated primarily to Skeleton style sledding. When the Winter Olympic Games were held at St. Moritz in 1928 and 1948, the Cresta Run was included in the program, marking the only two times "Skeleton" racing was included as an Olympic event before its permanent addition to the winter games in 2002.

 

Bobsled Davos 1910"Bobsledding", with multiple riders, was also developed in Switzerland in the late 1800's. The larger sleds got their name because early racers thought they could get more speed by bobbing their bodies backward and forward. Originally two Skeleton sleds were joined to make a single bobsled. This meant that they were equipped with four runners, much like the four wheels of a car.

The first organized Bobsledding competition was held on the Cresta Run on January 5, 1898, with five-passenger sleds. (Two of the passengers had to be women.) Speeds on the mountainside became dangerously fast, so an artificial bobsled run with a gentler slope was built at St. Moritz in 1902.

The popularity of the sport led to the introduction of Bobsled racing to the Olympic Games in France in 1924. The Luge competition was introduced to the Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 1964.

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davos vintage posterTravel poster created in 1918 by Emil Cardinaux for the Swiss Alpine winter sports resort village of Davos.


As Switzerland became a popular travel destination at the turn of the century, the need for promotion arose. Emil Cardinaux created the first "modern" poster, his 1908 Matterhorn. It stunned the public with its rich coloring and grand simplicity. For two decades, the Swiss continued to create beautiful illustrated posters for their ski resorts, thermal spas, and alpine retreats.

Davos , 1918

height: 4 ft. 2 in.
width/length: 3 ft.

Emil Cardinaux. (Swiss, 1877-1936)

 

 

Alpine Sleds... Traditional European sledding equipment for kids of all ages!