Thursday, January 25, 2024

End of an Era

 We traveled to Klosters to ski, but also for a "pilgrimage." We were there to say a last goodbye to the last remaining flying Granny who died in June last year. Sue Mills had skied there for over 50 years at first with friends then with her late husband and then when her daughter Jane married a mountain guide, me.

Looking out over Serneus towards the Austrian border.

It was in her 60’s that she had a renaissance and together with a group of likeminded women she formed the  "Flying Grannies."  Possibly the most famous group to ever grace the Klosters slopes.  They aquired their name because they use to do quite a lot of heliskiing in other parts of the alps too. Yet Klosters was thier spiritual home.  Mind you they were never seen on the pistes only off the  pistes.  [Pistes were too icy and there were too many people who might crash into them they said.]

My wife Jane and I drove from Chamonix and  met Bill and Henny at the famous Wynegg Hotel. The only place Sue and the flying Grannies ever stayed.  Sadly it was not possible for Mary, Sue's forth child to make the journey from Hong Kong where she lives.

This is what -Vanity Fair magazine wrote about the Hotel Wynegg:

The hotel was famous for as much for its formidable owner but also its list of famous guests.

Ruth Guler (1930-2015) was a Swiss skier and hotelier who ran the Hotel Wynegg in Klosters, which regularly hosted members of the British Royal Family. Guler was born and raised in Klosters, and inherited the Wynegg from her parents. She learned English at a British language school and found work as an au pair before taking on the management of the hotel after her father's death. 

She was the only female at the local ski school in the early 1950s, during which time she regularly participated in secret upper-class events. Guler also enjoyed watching the racing at Royal Ascot. She was friends with royalty, particularly Charles Ill as the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana who also liked staying at the Wynegg.

Guler was known for her no-nonsense approach to hotel man-agement. The playwright Robert L.Joseph described her as 'diva-like.

She kept the facilities at the Wynegg basic and ensured rigid discipline. Guests arriving with snow on their boots would be reprimanded and told to brush it off outside. On several occasions, she threw drunk guests out into the street, at another time, she refused to give a newlywed couple a double bed, saying *You are not here to sleep; you are here to ski". 

Socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson said Guler ran the hotel like a boarding school, throwing guests out of bed at 8 am and saying "Come on, get up!"

Though royalty stayed at the Wynegg regularly, she treated them no differently from any other guests, saying that "otherwise, they'd tear the place down". 

She loved the British sense of humour and the, particularly its eccentric-ity, and despite her stern demands Ruth was popular with the regular guests including the royals.

 In 2013, due to ill health, Guler retired from managing the Wynegg, leaving the running of it to three locals, a popular choice in Klosters.

She died on 10 February 2015, having never married, and without children.

«The legends of Ruth are legendary. Stavros Niarchos timidly asked for a telephone in his room. "And why would you want to ring anyone up?" In 1958 an article appeared in the Daily Mail headlined "Duke of Kent Stayed at the Cheapest Hotel in Town". So did the King and Queen of Norway, Sir Alec Issigonis (inventor of he Mini) and Tony Snowdon. They were all ticked off just the same, particularly Lord Snowdon, who chucked Peter Saunder's bedding out of the window into a snow drift.»

So naturally this is where we stayed.  Mind you the new owners have made some changes.  Like rewiring the whole place and sympathetically making renovations.  It also now has the best restaurant in Klosters.

Yet the most important reason for being in Klosters is that it has the finest lift accessed skiing of any resort in the alps and possibly the world.  It is consistently , significantly better skiing  than anywhere else I have ever skied.  Partly  because the best off-piste is hard to find without a Mountain Guide who knows the terrain well.

Once again it did not dissapoint.  On our first day the snow was good, but then it snowed overnight and the skiing the next day was sensational.  We opted to ski Sue's favourite run through the widely spaced trees in the Chalbersaas woods on the north facing slopes above Klosters.  We saw no one and enjoyed untracked powder snow.

  Sue would have been delighted that we were able to replicate her perfect skiing.

Jane Bill Henny emerging from the Chalbersass woods

We were also lucky enough to explore the whole area and enjoy wonderful skiing.

1 comment:

jeff said...

What better way to say goodbye to a special person than a pilgrimage back to a place she loved.