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Twinned in a touristic masterstroke with Aspen, Colorado, DAVOS isn’t so much a resort as a full-blown town, way up at 1560m. The antithesis of a peaceful Alpine ski village, it’s a bustling honky-tonk of a place, famous for its toothpaste-fresh air and its consistently excellent snow cover. The town has been attracting skiers for generations and recently gained new life (and hipness) with the seal of approval of Switzerland’s snowboarding cognoscenti. Originally a health resort, Davos’s high altitude and long hours of sunshine eased the suffering of tuberculosis patients from around the world: by 1900, there were almost three-quarters of a million overnight visitors every year, long before winter sports were even thought of. The consumptive Robert Louis Stevenson completed Treasure Island while resident at a Davos sanatorium in 1882; three decades later, in 1912, German novelist Thomas Mann visited Davos and was inspired to write his celebrated The Magic Mountain. The funicular lines serving the slopes above Davos were constructed around 1930, since when the town has blossomed into one of the world’s best-known winter-sports destinations. In summer, the snows recede to reveal a surrounding of lush countryside and Davos takes on a new lease of life – not least because hotel prices plummet.
Davos in winter. (©_Switzerland Tourism)
Yet another hat worn by the town is that of a major international conference venue: in the last week of January each year, presidents, prime ministers and assorted mega-suits of the World Economic Forum meet at Davos under the gaze of the world’s media to discuss global cashflow and set the financial agenda for the year ahead, regularly sparking anti-capitalist demonstrations in the process.