The Season: Winter

The Skiing Party, Wengen, Switzerland by Sir John Lavery

For much of the nineteenth century, it was customary for Society to spend the winter months in warmer climes such as the Riviera, where the capricious weather of England or Russia was forgotten amongst the charms of sun, warmth and gambling. Some time during the mid-1890s, as the craze for outdoor sports gripped English and Continental society, a few intrepid sportsmen took up skiing. The sport was not wholly unfamiliar, as Switzerland was a somewhat popular destination for invalids and others on the European spa tour, but the concept of sports created solely for the winter season was largely unknown in England. Skiing, however, did not become overwhelmingly popular until the late 1900s, when Society discovered the Swiss Alps. To the horror of the French, wealthy Europeans and Americans deserted the Riviera by droves, to patronize such places as St Moritz or Davos or Caux, to learn to ski, to ice-skate, or to toboggan down the slopes. Almost overnight, the quiet invalid resorts nestled amongst the snowy downs of the Swiss Alps transformed into smart, chic places where society could mingle with their like against a background no different than that of Paris or Vienna.

Further Reading:
Switzerland in Winter by Will & Carine Cadby
The Exploration of the Alps by Arnold Lunn
Edwardian Promenade by James Lavery
Belle Epoque: Paris in the 1890s by Raymond Rudorff


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