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Davos: a mix of business and pleasure

Boasting of scintillating snow and luxurious resorts, Davos has earned renown for its economic forums, exciting winter sports and delectable Swiss delicacies!

Davos – the very name spells the ultimate in Swiss luxury and I was fortunate to visit this stupendous Alpine mountain destination recently, courtesy a FAM Tour organised by Swiss Air that took us to Geneva, Basel, Zurich and of course, Davos.

We landed in Zurich Airport and from there drove all the way by road to Davos, passing through the magnificent Alpine panorama and the Swiss countryside. This 2.5 hour road journey will be forever etched in my memory as this was probably the most scenic road journey I have ever embarked upon. Swiss Air had made elaborate arrangements for our stay at Davos's outstanding Arosa Kulm hotel. The ambience was stunning with undulating views of ski slopes and snowy hiking trails that can be savoured right from your doorway. The hotel's outstanding location at 1835 meters, offers unobstructed ethereal views of the Grison Alps.
In the course of our urge to discover the hidden secrets behind the positioning of Davos as a frontline Alpine tourist destination, we were informed by the hotel's Resident Manager that twelve classic resorts belonging to the European Alpine region have joined together for better brand marketing - "Best of the Alps" (BOTA) - which includes Chamonix Mont Blanc, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Davos, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Grindelwald, Kitzbühel, Lech Zürs am Arlberg, Megève, St.Anton am Arlberg, St. Moritz, Seefeld and Zermatt. They signify the most prestigious summer and winter tourist destinations offering a range of accommodation options, from the homely hostel to the super luxury hotel.
Davos is not all nature. This bewitching Swiss town also offers a colourful cultural palette – often in quietly premeditated contrast to the more recognisable scenic attractions. Classical music resounds for two weeks at the Davos Festival and we were lucky to enjoy its "Young Artists in Concert," showcasing talented musicians from across the globe. There is also Cover-Festival of Davos-Klosters, which brings the biggest rock, pop and reggae bands to this snowy wonderland. And do visit the Kirchner Museum, a giant cube of a museum that showcases the world's largest Ernst Ludwig Kirchner collection.
Davos comprises two contiguous areas, each with a train station: Davos Platz and the older Davos Dorf. The evolution of Davos as an international high-altitude health resort (1860-1930), began in 1853 and is intimately linked with the name of Alexander Spengler. He was sentenced to death by the Germans for participation in the March Revolution of 1848 and sought asylum in Davos. As a qualified doctor, he quickly recognised the beneficial effects of its high-altitude climate and in 1868, Spengler and Dutchman Willem Jan Holsboer, together built the "Kuranstalt Spengler-Holsboer" health clinic. Later on, Holsboer also established the Rhaetian Railway and thanks to his pioneering initiative, the Landschaft Davos set up its first railway link with the lowlands way back in 1890. Thereafter, the development of Davos as a much sought after health resort was quick. Hotels, sanatoriums and villas sprang up from nowhere, almost overnight. If statistical records are anything to go by, at the beginning of the 20th century, 700,000 overnight bookings were recorded annually!
With the passage of time, visitors to Davos's many sanatoriums also introduced summer and winter sports to the town. The introduction of Europe's first T-bar ski lift at Bolgen and the construction of several mountain railway projects played a pivotal role in causing the ski boom at Davos. But newer scientific methods in treating tuberculosis soon led to a gradual decline in the number of patients coming to Davos, and the number of long-term guests in the sanatoriums dropped dramatically.
But then they started to come again, in droves, this time for the excitement of sports in this Alpine resort, both in winter and summer, as a result of which, those elegant sanatoriums were converted into contemporary hotels.
Unlike its little sister Klosters, Davos is more cool than quaint. What the resort lacks in Alpine prettiness, it makes up for with seductive skiing, including monster runs descending up to 2000m, and après-ski parties. Davos boasts of a long skiing tradition. During the early 19th century it was mainly the British, who together with the local people, introduced Alpine ski sports. The world's first ski lift became operational at Bolgen in 1934. This lift is now on display at the impressive Davos Winter Sports Museum.
Today, Davos is a wonderful example of old traditions blending with the new. Davos is a cross-country hot spot, with 75km of well-groomed trails, including classic and skating options, plus a floodlit track for starlit swishing. Cross-country skiing remains a perennial favourite in the Landwasser Valley. There is also a spectacular network of trails stretching from Davos Wolfgang rail station, flanking the lake towards Davos Glaris. The Flüela run, in particular, has been standardised by the FIS and serves as a traditional World Cup course for the world's top ranked cross-country skiers.
I was stupefied by the sight of Davos' ice rink. Europe's largest natural ice rink (over 18,000 mts), comes with an outdoor artificial ice rink and a state-of-the-art ice stadium that are much sought after venues. Davos hosts numerous prestigious competitions like the International Speed Skating Championships, the much-hyped HC Davos Ice Hockey Championship matches and the one and only Spengler Cup, which happens to be the most important international ice hockey event, held annually in Davos between Christmas and New Year.
The 97-km-long winter-walking path around Davos-Klosters offers an irresistible temptation to discover the Swiss countryside and there are also amazing trails for Nordic walking. Together, Davos and Klosters provide 700 km of marked hiking paths and 1300 km of mountain-bike tracks, including some challenging descents and single-track trails; see www.bike-davos.ch for routes, maps and rental outlets.
Summer water sports include wakeboarding, windsurfing and sailing on Davoser See (Davos Lake). Paragliding is also popular and you can try a tandem flight over the Swiss Alps.
Davos is full-on in winter but room rates can plunge by up to 30 per cent in summer. Zentrum Haus Davos offers low-cost accommodation with mountain views, only a few minutes from the town's ski lifts and Davos Congress Centre.
If you are a business magnate, Davos should be on your priority list. In the world of conferences, there is a saying that Davos is blessed with a special "congress climate".
Davos is the annual meeting point for the crème de la crème of world capitalism: at the World Economic Forum (WEF), the most highly acclaimed international congress.
Global chat fests aside, whoever knows Davos would testify to the fact that the après-ski is extraordinary, though Davos is a little less lively in summer. As an Alpine winter-sports resort, après-ski is king, with drinking spots both on and off the slopes. Refreshing drinks and entertainment are on offer at a host of Alpine ski huts that are close to the ski slopes, at rugged Swiss bars near the valley stations and in Davos town itself. Perched at 2560m at the top of Jakobshorn, Jatzhütte is Davos' wackiest après-ski joint. Those who dare to partially bare can soak in a 39°C (102.2°F) whirlpool framed by icy peaks. Or take your ski boots grooving to Mountain's Akt. DJs spin house and electro at the weekend at this funky bar. There's a great selection of beers from Kilkenny to Leffe. This beer garden becomes a snow bar in winter.
The Alpine resort also boasts eating options from budget to top-notch all over town. Expansive mountain views, a sunny terrace and Swiss grub like rösti and fondue await at Strela-Alp, a rustic haunt, 10-minutes walk from Schatzalp funicular top station. This is a superb spot to come for lunch. And pastries, beer-filled truffles and Bündner Nüsstorte (nut tart) will definitely lure the sweet-toothed to Schneider's patisserie.
Many visitors go to the cinema, followed by happy hours at the Casino. Do spin the wheel once, Lady Luck may be waiting!

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