The words “black ice” send a shudder through the average motorist. In St Moritz, Switzerland, over the past few weeks, however, black ice has been the cause of excitement.
December’s usual weather freezes the lake and covers it with snow, turning it into St Moritz’s winter playground.
But this year, for the first time in 10 years, the waters have duly frozen but the snow has stubbornly refused to settle, turning the 0.78km² lake into a vast sheet of black ice.
To everyone’s delight, it’s now one enormous skating rink. Parents pull their children on sledges, passing teenagers playing games of ice hockey and figure skaters practising their spins. Between them people stroll on the ice – only a little cautiously, as the pockmarked surface has plenty of grip.
What’s really strange and not a little disconcerting is the lake’s dark sheen, through which you can see fissures and swirls of frozen water. On the lake’s north-eastern edge, the ice peters out as the water rushes into the rivers of the Engadin valley. Occasionally a whale-like sound drifts through the air, reminding everyone that the water beneath never stops shifting.
But snow is forecast this week, which should soon put an end to the ice hockey games and slippery strolls. That will be good news for the organisers of the winter events that characterise Switzerland’s chicest ski resort. The St Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow, which is held in late January, needs nicely packed snow, as do the horse races, cricket matches and gourmet festival held on the frozen lake over the winter.