Hamish McRae: Gliding away from the economic gloom
Saturday 07 February 2009
Davos has just had its week in the headlines, as even the most desultory consumer of news must have appreciated. But now the annual razzmatazz of the World Economic Forum is over; the captains and the kings – or at least the moguls and the prime ministers – have departed, and Davos is back to skiing.
Actually the slopes do play a role in the event; last Saturday was designated sports day. I did not see Gordon Brown on the piste – not quite his thing – but there were several business leaders out there, showing they believe in the poet Juvenal's dictum mens sana in corpore sano. Indeed, had the world's bankers spent a bit more time in recent years trying to achieve a healthy balance in their lives they might have made fewer duff loans.
The Davos/Klosters complex is a huge ski area, and during the Forum week the slopes are remarkably clear. So between writing columns about the unremitting economic gloom in the cavernous conference centre, I managed a few runs in the blazing sun outside. My companions were participants who had been running serious sessions there but who also felt that the corpore sano side mattered too.
There were two high points. One was the long run down from the top of the Parsenn train at Weissfluhjoch to Klosters, a vertical drop of nearly 1,500 metres. There were fast, well-groomed reds above the tree line and then a long and completely clear red through the trees into the resort itself.
The other was the even longer 13km run down the valley, also starting from Weissfluhjoch, but this time right down to Küblis at 810m, a vertical drop of some 1,850m.
You start on wide open reds, the only issue being to let go early enough on the steep bits to pick up the momentum to get up the inclines at the end. Then you wend through the trees, still on a fast red. Finally you glide on a mixture of paths through pine forest and across Alpine meadows down to the village, to take the train (hourly and covered by the lift pass) back to Davos. It was a totally deserted and extraordinarily beautiful antidote to economic mayhem: Juvenal was right, even if the Romans had yet to get round to skiing.
Hamish McRae is Chief Economics Commentator for The Independent. Davos is in the far east of Switzerland, most easily accessed from Zurich airport; the train journey takes 2 hours 37 minutes (including two changes), for a one-way fare of SFr55 (£32).
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