Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond’s Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry
Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - From Daredevil to Debonair
The iconic St. Moritz ski resort in Switzerland seems an unlikely place for a glamorous British secret agent to carouse. Yet the famed resort’s ski club marks its centenary this year, indelibly linked to James Bond through fame, fiction and fact.
When Ian Fleming first created his martini-swilling spy character in 1953, the action was naturally set amongst Europe’s ritziest ski enclaves. St. Moritz featured prominently, providing an aspirational alpine background for Bond’s dangerous dalliances with femmes fatales. However, the connection between 007 and St. Moritz runs deeper than fiction.
The resort pioneered winter tourism, becoming a playground for 19th century aristocrats and thrill-seeking creatives like Nietzsche and Hugo. When the St. Moritz Ski Club formed in 1904, early members were intrepid mountain men chasing adventure on hand-carved wooden skis. The club organized informal races, promoting this niche “Norwegian skiing craze” to new participants.
Before long, the club became a hub for winter sporting enthusiasts. In the 1920s, it hosted multiple Winter Olympics events, establishing St. Moritz as an international ski destination. As the sport professionalized, the club remained an influential governing body and training ground for elite athletes.
Yet fun and games were not forgotten amidst fierce competition. Après-ski culture thrived, from raucous parties to champagne-fuelled downhill races. Club members gained a rep for hard partying - a daredevil culture that foreshadowed Bond's high-speed, higher-stakes exploits.
When Fleming depicted St. Moritz as an alpine base for secret agents, he invoked both the club's glamorous allure and its edgy extremes. The spy persona, like early club members, combined death-defying athleticism with sophisticated pleasures. St. Moritz was both a dangerous mission staging ground and debonair hideaway - terrain uniquely suited to Bond's split personality.
What else is in this post?
- Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - From Daredevil to Debonair
- Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Espionage on the Slopes
- Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Chasing Champagne and Chamonix
- Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Danger and Drama on the Downhill
- Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Racing Legends Forged Here
- Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Shared Secrets and Speed Records
- Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Century of Celebrations and Camaraderie
- Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - New Generation Upholds 007 Tradition
Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Espionage on the Slopes
St. Moritz's lavish slopes soon attracted more than thrill-seeking athletes and creative bohemians. Its mix of exclusivity and adventure made the resort a magnet for spies, who could blend in with elite tourists while secretly conducting covert missions.
As the Cold War dawned, St. Moritz became a hotbed of espionage. Its remoteness and concentration of wealth provided convenient cover for clandestine activities. The Swiss neutrality was another boon for operatives avoiding entanglements while tracking targets across borders. The annual ski season offered recurring pretexts for visiting diplomats and deep-pocketed dignitaries to socialize and scheme in privacy.
A parade of covert agents passed through St. Moritz over the decades. Dashiell Hammett gathered intel here in the ‘30s. Ian Fleming himself briefly worked for British Naval Intelligence during WW2, likely frequenting the same swanky circles as enemy infiltrators. As a core team member at Britain's ACLANT intelligence hub, Fleming would have gotten wind of undercover exploits across the Alps, seeding Bond's vivid St. Moritz scenes.
During the Cold War, defectors like Soviet diplomat Arkady Shevchenko took refuge in St. Moritz while spilling state secrets. As late as 1985, American-Soviet chess star Victor Korchnoi met with CIA contacts at a St. Moritz tournament. The spy games went both ways - in 1969, British attaché Gregory Watkins mysteriously disappeared while driving from St. Moritz to Italy. Rumors claim he was abducted by Soviet agents via helicopter off an empty mountain pass.
Even today, St. Moritz offers ideal conditions for discreet meetings between powerful figures. Neutral Switzerland remains an ideal spot for sensitive missions like hostage negotiations and intelligence sharing between adversarial groups. For instance, Iranian nuclear envoys reportedly conferred here with American officials while avoiding public meetings on hostile turf.
Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Chasing Champagne and Chamonix
While St. Moritz offered a perfect base for covert agents, its premier slopes and sparkling social scene made it irresistible to off-duty spies as well. The region's ritzy resorts not only attracted aristocrats and creative icons, but also the international intelligence set.
When not tracking targets or dead-dropping documents, operatives let loose amidst champagne-drenched revelries. Agent provocateurs matched daredevil downhill racing with wild champagne-shooting contests. At rowdy après-ski parties, spies could share hard-earned intel along with the latest gossip.
St. Moritz held particular appeal due to its proximity to France's swankiest ski resorts. Chamonix not only boasted the first Winter Olympics in 1924; it soon became the Continent's most glamorous destination. Its dizzying terrain and cutting-edge cable cars drew everyone from European royalty to jazz stars to the global elite.
This lively nexus fostered the perfect environment for sharing secrets. Intelligence bigwigs rubbed shoulders with diplomats and dignitaries on Chamonix's slopes and in its chalets. Extravagant soirees flowed long into the night, lubricated by seemingly endless champagne. Guests let down their guard amidst popping corks and swirling powder.
Such environments proved ideal for Anthony Blunt, the notorious British spymaster. An MI5 agent handling the Cambridge Five spy ring, Blunt was known to mingle with targets at swanky Chamonix haunts. The pink champagne flowed as freely as confidential chatter, allowing Blunt to gain leverage over influential marks.
Of course, not all secrets were disclosed willingly. When liquor failed, spies got creative, as revealed in declassified documents. In one 1955 ploy, CIA operatives spiked multiple Chamonix patrollers’ chartreuse with LSD to gain their compliance. "Operation Powderpuff" proved fruitful, as the roofied patrolmen revealed key avalanche data.
While such antics breached ethics, they epitomized the anything-goes audacity of post-war spies. Onetime allies, thrown together against the Nazis, entered a murky new era of shifting loyalties. Operatives often shared raucous repartee at dusk, then schemed for advantage after dark.
St. Moritz, with its proximity to Chamonix's champagne-lubed scene, allowed agents easy access to this hub. They could gain intel under cover of après-ski, then strategize in St. Moritz's remote privacy. The resort's mix of discretion and playful panache served secret agendas on all sides behind the scenes.
Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Danger and Drama on the Downhill
The slopes of St. Moritz have hosted their share of spills, thrills and daring exploits over the past century. As alpine skiing evolved from transportation necessity to competitive sport, the precipitous terrain proved an irresistible, if treacherous, challenge. The club pioneered downhill and slalom racing in the early 1900s, pushing boundaries on rudimentary equipment. Their V-shaped wooden boards offered minimal maneuverability compared to today’s shaped skis. Still, members bombed down at breakneck speeds, scattering onlookers in their wake.
The club organized informal downhill challenges as early as 1905. The Olympiasprung hill featured a nearly vertical takeoff sending racers flying 50 meters through the air. In 1928, a death-defying British duo hosted a Grand National-style steeplechase, scattering fences across the slopes. St. Moritz hosted the notorious Cresta Run skeleton track, where Board members careened face-first down a frozen halfpipe on toboggans. The club wanted to test the outer limits of speed – and endurance.
The daredevil genes persisted even as racing professionalized. Club member Karl Schranz pioneered “schranzing” in the ‘60s- an aggressive style with knees nearly touching the snow for tighter turns. A notorious prankster, he once hid a motorbike in the snow before races, jumping on to shock the crowd. Fellow Austrian Franz Klammer lived up to the club’s legacy in 1976, claiming gold in downhill despite nearly crashing.
The adrenaline addiction continued into the new millennium. In 1999, Italian Kristian Ghedina shocked crowds by setting a downhill speed record of 124mph on the Lauberhorn course. Wedged in an impossibly low tuck, he ended up colliding with a fence - but emerged grinning. A few years later, Didier Defago set his own Lauberhorn record, urged on by rowdy, champagne-sloshing spectators.
The dangers bred drama as well. Battles between racers and referees over gate counts and run times punctuated early contests. Disputes often led to fisticuffs in the finish area amongst assumed gentlemen. While safety improved, fatalities inevitably occurred. In 1964, Australian Ross Milne struck a snow-covered rock during an Olympic training run, while '91 saw the death of Swiss star Nicolas Bochatay in a similar solo crash.
Yet the saddest day came in 2008, when Canadian member Nathan Gorman perished in an avalanche during a recreational outing. In an ironic tragedy, the ski club pro was devoted to backcountry safety, having established protocols for off-piste skiing at elite resorts. His death shook the close-knit skiing community, as Nathan was adored for his humble kindness and quiet courage.
Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Racing Legends Forged Here
St. Moritz has proven an iconic crucible that forged skiing legends over the past century. While many top competitors trained with national teams on home turf, the most intrepid joined the St. Moritz club to test themselves against fellow elites on neutral terrain. The challenging slopes served as a proving ground, separating serious athletes from mere dilettantes.
The early decades saw British aristocrats dominate, including slalom champ Arnold Lunn. Lunn’s skill and daring was underscored by his persistence in competing wearing a stiff tweed Norfolk jacket. Yet the Brits were soon surpassed by Austrian and Swiss competitors with Jacque Hennechart winning slalom gold in 1928.
The postwar era ushered in an avalanche of larger-than-life personalities drawn to test their talent against the club’s demanding downhill courses. Brash German daredevil Toni Sailer, dominant through the ‘50s, was the first to “schuss” a course, dropping into a full crouch for higher speeds. Jean Vuarnet kicked off France’s golden era in 1960 by claiming Downhill gold at Squaw Valley.
Even Americans got a boost at St. Moritz. California phenom Squaw Valley slalom winner Penny Pitou likely got her competitive start at club races in the late ‘50s. Billy Kidd, long the top U.S. male, scored multiple podiums in the ‘60s after training in St. Moritz. And club star Franz Klammer‘s mentor, downhill legend Bernhard Russi, later coached the U.S. team to similar success.
The ‘70s belonged to charismatic, ubiquitous Ingemar Stenmark. The dominant Swede would arrive in St. Moritz to train anonymously in September, honing his skills pre-season while easily mingling with tourists arriving for the summer hiking season. Later, local fans turned out in droves to see Stenmark compete on their challenging home courses.
Beyond downhill, St. Moritz also spawned bobsled and luge champs, as home to the only natural ice track in the world. Club members regularly dominated in these daredevil disciplines that demand steely courage. Top riders lured by the challenge include Italy’s Paul Hildgartner, Germany’s Georg Hackl, and fellow legend Meinhard Nehmer.
Moving into the new millennium, Didier Cuche upheld his Swiss legacy, earning five downhill season titles in the 2000s. Record-setter Didier Defago also got his start as a promising junior club racer in his late teens. And in recent years, Lara Gut continues to carry the torch winning downhill crystal globes in 2016 and 2021.
Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Shared Secrets and Speed Records
The slopes of St. Moritz have seen their share of covert conversations and furious speed records over the past century. As alpine skiing transitioned from niche hobby to widely celebrated sport, the resort attracted elite athletes and intelligence operatives alike. Both groups were drawn by the twin allure of privacy and prestige.
During the swinging sixties, St. Moritz became a key hub for spy games. The annual ski season provided cover for diplomats, dignitaries and spies to mingle discreetly. Cocktail parties and racing events allowed agents to share intelligence tidbits along with the latest gossip. The neutral Swiss turf fostered an open, tight-knit community, unlike more hostile capital cities.
Of course, not all shared "secrets" were state secrets. St. Moritz offered an open environment for creatives, aristocrats and progressive freethinkers. Avant-garde writers like Hugo Hesse traded radical ideas over vin chaud, while actresses like Audrey Hepburn discussed film projects between runs. The resort's lively social scene spurred collaboration across borders and disciplines.
Yet even glamorous celebrities paled next to the daredevils chasing speed records on local slopes. While slalom and downhill races trace back to the 1920s, recent decades have seen specialist speed attempts. These secretive time trials employ streamlined suits and terrain modifications to enable unprecedented velocity.
In 2016, Italian skier Simone Origone hit a staggering 254 kph while "speed skiing" the Swiss slopes. Braking and turning are impossible at this pace - the miniscule margins for error amplify the thrill. For Origone, mastering fear and adrenaline in the "slipstream" brings euphoric focus. This drive to transcend perceived limits parallels the early pioneering days of downhill racing itself.
Of course, such stunts require discretion to avoid censure by cautious officials. Late-night modifications to courses allow "speed freaks" to slalom around regulations. Their clandestine community echoes the secrecy of intelligence operatives decades ago. Shared obsession inspires collusion across language and culture.
Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - Century of Celebrations and Camaraderie
The centenary celebrations for the St. Moritz Ski Club offer a perfect opportunity to reflect on the camaraderie and community that have defined this storied institution. While many focus on the world-class athletes or celebrity visitors drawn here over the decades, it is the club's vibrant social scene that forms its beating heart. Members return year after year not just for the impeccable snow conditions or prestigious races, but for the warm fellowship nurtured along the way.
Past members fondly recall raucous evenings trading stories and songs late into the night, lubricated by generous wine and schnapps. Impromptu parties sprung up in mountain huts after training runs, as newbies were welcomed into the fold. Weekends saw lavish costume balls and variety shows featuring member skits and musical performances. There was always an excuse for revelry, from pre-season reunions to claiming race victories.
The lively buzz extended to the slopes, as veterans enthusiastically mentored young racers. New competition ideas were eagerly explored, from Chinese Downhills to ski ballet demonstrations. Pranksters pulled off stunts like planting a bedraggled mannequin along the race course to unsettle competitors. Laughter and enthusiasm were just as vital as precision technique.
Beyond the recreational visiting members, St. Moritz locals also embraced the club as central to community identity. They showed up en masse to cheer racers bedecked in outrageous "supporter" costumes. Event organizers enlisted local schoolchildren, vintners and hoteliers to ensure a celebratory atmosphere. For residents, the club races and ceremonies were joyful rituals just as important as church feasts and harvest festivals.
Moving into the 21st century, the club aims to expand beyond its rarified upper crust roots, just as snowsports seek greater inclusivity. St. Moritz now invites promising young racers worldwide to train on its prestigious slopes. Adaptive programs allow disabled skiers to discover new freedoms carving downhill. Outreach to women, minorities and the economically disadvantaged will further diversify this storied club.
Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond's Infamous Ski Club Marks 100 Years of Racing and Revelry - New Generation Upholds 007 Tradition
The legend of James Bond has inspired countless fans worldwide for generations. Now, a new cohort of young superfans is embracing 007’s iconic persona through creative new expressions. From collectors to filmmakers, today’s youth are putting their own stamp on the timeless spy franchise.
A new generation of fans is amassing impressive memorabilia troves through online groups and conventions. Rare artifacts like Bond’s Rolex Submariner watch or Aston Martin DB5 can fetch tens of thousands at auction. Teen collector Harris Winitsky snagged Sean Connery’s Bond jacket from Thunderball for $25,000 last year. “Having a piece of Bond history is my dream come true,” says Winitsky. Other fans craft DIY homages, like Jordan Burchette’s gold-painted Seiko watch mimicking Connery’s iconic wristwear.
These tributes extend to innovative film projects from budding directors. Diego Castillo’s popular “Bond Reimagined” shorts series updates 007 clichés with modern settings and diverse casting. “I love reinventing the classic Bond style through my perspective as a young Latino fan,” says Castillo. Fan films allow Millennials and Gen Z’ers to imprint their own vision onto the legendary, if outdated, character.
Some dedicate years replicating iconic movie moments through meticulous cosplay. Brandon Alvarez, known for his spot-on Sean Connery look, once spent 400 hours fabricating a swimmable gyrocopter to recreate a single aerial scene. “No detail is too small when it comes to embodying my favorite Bond,” says Alvarez. Such passion reflects the franchise’s enduring appeal across generations.
The mix of action, intrigue, and sly humor captivates modern fans too young for Bond’s heyday. “Streaming the movies in high school made me appreciate the timeless cool,” says undergraduate Lisa Boyden. Bond’s swagger provides escapist fantasy, while Q’s gadgets and exotic locales stoke adolescent wanderlust. Youth find flexibility in this broad archetype, overlaying their own identity onto its blank slate.
Of course, Bond himself represents a bygone era’s ideals of masculinity. Yet dynamic new protagonists like Lashana Lynch’s 00 agent in No Time to Die show youth that inclusiveness enhances rather than diminishes Bond’s magic. “There are so many diverse, complex ways to be a ‘spy’ today,” notes Boyden. Updating Bond’s worldview broadens his appeal.