Ice-blue in the ice run
It is ice-blue and as swift as an arrow: the Bob Club Svizzera Italiana has been training with a four-man bob in Glacier Express livery since January 2016. Moreno Beti, club boss and head engine driver for the Rhaetian Railway, has made sure that young talents in his club are on the ice run totally in keeping with the Rhaetian Railway.
It is calm in the wood. The snow cushions the noises, of which there are not all that many anyway in Engadin. All the more surprising when a bob suddenly comes your way, virtually silent. It whizzes through the ice run of the Olympic Bob Run in St. Moritz-Celerina as swift as an arrow. The run is 1,722 metres long and the oldest in the world – and what is more, the only one made of natural ice. That is also why it is so quiet: the cold comes from the outside air, whereas cooling units have to be positioned under artificial runs.
English tourists had brought this winter sport to St. Moritz and founded St. Moritz Bobsleigh in 1897. They steered their bobs down the valley on the main road. Because this became too dangerous, the run was opened in 1904. It is more or less in exactly the same position today. The finish has, however, been lengthened because the bobs are a lot faster today than they were one hundred years ago. The fastest speed ever measured is 149 kilometres per hour – but for that, all conditions, such as the weather, solar irradiation and the state of the ice, have to be just right.
A bob for young talent
The Bob Club Svizzera Italiana also trains on the Olympic Bob Run in St. Moritz-Celerina. The club is actually based in Pontresina from where it acts as the bob club for all Italian- speaking Switzerland. The club is successor
to a bob club from Lugano that stopped functioning in the 1980s, explains Moreno Beti.
The head of the RhB engine drivers at the depots in Samedan, Pontresina and Poschiavo is club boss and it is thanks to him that the young talent can now train in a Glacier Express bob. Having taken a trip on the Olympic Bob Run in St. Moritz-Celerina, a colleague thought it might be an idea for RhB to have its own bobsleigh – and Moreno Beti set about making that happen. The first advantage is that his 15- to 25-year-old talents now train with this bob. "And the second advantage is that the Glacier Express now also has a bob that is a messenger for both RhB and the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn," says a satisfied Beti.
The quintessential adrenalin kick
Sabrina Dattilo, Product Manager for the Glacier Express and Bernina Express, also discovers similarities between the Glacier Express and the fast bob on its maiden voyage: the Olympic Bob Run is just as much a work of art as the route of the Glacier Express and a Glacier Express is the perfect thing to have on a natural ice track. It is clear to her that travelling in the new bob is a "quintessential adrenalin kick and just as unforgettable as a trip on the Glacier Express." When the red blanket was removed to reveal the new bob, a murmur went through the crowd. It is almost 3.5 metres long and weighs around 210 kilograms – and it shines in the same combination of ice-blue and red as the world-famous train.
Martin Galliker, former World Cup bob pilot, steered the RhB bob on its maiden run down the track that is built up every season of 15,000 cubic metres of snow and 7,000 cubic metres of water. Fifteen railway workers from South Tyrol come every year especially to do that. They construct the shell together, and then spread out across the run: they are each responsible for 100 to 150 metres of the run and ensure that this section is kept in perfect condition for the entire season. "Some of the rail workers have been coming here every winter for more than 30 years now," says Damian Gianola, Director of the Olympic Bob Run. He laughingly lets on that the railway workers have their own chef in the freshly renovated Sunny House who makes original 'South Tyrolean dumplings'.
Awnings for the bob run
There are hydrants around every 80 metres along the run to make things easier for the railway workers. Armed with snow shovels, they stand along the run and take care of their section. One of them is leaning on one of the posts that are rammed into the ground every few metres. They are for the awnings that have been hanging over the run since February. Otherwise the sun would cause the ice in the bob run to melt. Once the beginning of March comes, things have to wind down. This is when the otherwise cool Engadin really starts to get too warm; and it is no longer possible for luge toboggans, skeletons and bobs to travel down the run. The ice and snow slowly begin to melt – and in the summer, there is nothing left to see of the run. Until the magic starts all over again in winter.
The slowest express train in the world
The trip through the Swiss Alps is engrained on your memory: St. Moritz, playground of the rich and famous, the Swiss Grand Canyon in the Rhine Gorge, and Zermatt with the impressive Matterhorn.
From St. Moritz to Zermatt from CHF 150.50 incl. 3-course meal served at your seat.