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Snowed in and under, the ICE St. Moritz turned into a glamorous garage party

Driven from the frozen St. Moritz lake by massive snowfall, The ICE spontaneously held its concours in the nearby parking garage. And while we missed the winter action, the sight of the fantastic cars lined up for the jurors certainly saved our weekend.

It started with a few scattered snowflakes drifting through the crisp alpine air, but when we woke up in our rooms in the Suvretta House on Friday morning and looked through the window, the Engadine valley had been transformed into a winter wonderland. More than 60 centimetres of snow had fallen in 20 hours, blocking the mountain passes, partially isolating the region from the outside world – and making it impossible to access the frozen lake for the first day of The ICE St. Moritz. With the concours cars still waiting for the show in the nearby Serletta parking garage, the jurors simply started inspecting their classes in this ‘cave of automobile dreams’, discussing questions of heritage, engineering and design.

During the day, as the team were working frantically to get the village and track ready, there was still hope that The ICE would return to the lake on Saturday. But it just kept snowing – and on Friday evening, the organizers had to regretfully inform the guests that the whole event had been cancelled due to force majeure. So the jurors, drivers and many of the enthusiasts who had come to St. Moritz from all over Europe spent the day marveling at those glorious machines lined up in the Serletta garage. In the end, 400 visitors per hour were counted in the garage, and no entrant left before the Saturday evening dinner.

The high-profile jury included some of the most renowned specialists from the worlds of automobiles, art, architecture, fashion and design. Led by Marco Makaus, the jury featured – among others – the Italian journalists Massimo Delbò and Michele Lupi, aerodynamics expert Richard Adatto, Concours d'Elegance Suisse founder Mathias Doutreleau, Pritzker-Prize-Winning British Architect Lord Norman Foster, the artist, designer and philanthropist Rolf Sachs – and Classic Driver’s CEO JP Rathgen. 

With even more exceptional automobiles competing in five classes at The ICE 2024, the selecting committee’s work was harder than ever. Among the Racing Legends, the cars that stood out to us were a Marlboro-liveried Lancia Stratos and the famous Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 – known as “Red Pig” – reminding us of their period rally success, both machines could have certainly been repurposed as snow plows to clear the nearby passes. Meanwhile, our friends from La Squadra and Zagato had brought two Alpine A220 racers from 1968 – one long tail, one short tail – to promote the newly released, shape-shifting AGTZ Twin Tail supercar. Among the open-wheeled race cars, the Ferrari F1 “Sharknose” ranks highly as one of our all-time favourite monoposti – and racing legend Arturo Merzario tended to agree, as he did not leave the iconic Ferrari during most of the day.

Classic Driver readers will know that we have a soft spot for quirky concept cars, rare one-offs and almost forgotten prototypes, so we spent a lot of time inspecting this concours class. US collector Philip Sarofim and local petrolhead Richard Gauntlett had put a pair of skis on top of their otherworldly Aston Martin Bulldog, and it’s a shame we did not see it skate across the ice like an futuristic curling stone. Still, the most breathtaking concept car must have been the Abarth 1000 Balbiero Record car from the Pearl Collection – an aerodynamic prototype in the shape of a well-used soap bar with a fantastically low drag coefficient.

Last week, we already had the pleasure of a rendezvous with the funky Autobianchi A112 Giovani from the Lopresto Collection, but there was another quirky 1970s concept we had almost forgotten about – the bright green 1979 Fiat Aster 132 Zagato, a car you either have to love or hate. One of the cars we had always adored but never seen in real life was the Audi Quattro Group 5 prototype that Audi Tradition had brought to St. Moritz from their secret car vault. We hope to take a closer look at it again soon.

The most beautiful classic cars at The ICE can regularly be found among the ‘Barchettas on the Lake’ – and it speaks for their timeless beauty that they even gave the austere parking garage an air of glamour and elegance. Among our personal favourites was a sky blue 1950 Talbot Lago T26 GS and a very unusual, historically significant 1956 Talbot-Maserati 250 S Campana Special once entered in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The ICE had also attracted three outstanding racing horses – a 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza, 1956 Ferrari 500 TR and a 1956 Ferrari 857 Monza – as well as a significant Jaguar C-Type and XKSS. 

Meanwhile, some of the most desirable sports cars of the 20th century had assembled in the ‘Icons on Wheels’ category, some of them with very interesting stories to tell. While Simon Kidston is known in the concours world as selecting committee member and moderator of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, he had brought his personal Lamborghini Miura SV to The ICE – a car he has owned and driven for more that 25 years. Next to the graceful bull there were plenty of other Italian sculptures on wheels, including a beautiful Ferrari 225 S Vignale Barchetta and a Cal’ Spyder, as well as an adorable Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider. In the end, it was Fritz Burkard of the Pearl Collection who took home the ‘Best of Show’ trophy for his exceptional Delage D8-125 S – you can read about the car’s remarkable history elsewhere on Classic Driver.

On Saturday, Fritz Burkard also kicked off a spontaneous alternative event in the center of St. Moritz, inviting classic car owners to run down the infamous St. Moritz Bob run with their bobs – and drive up the hill again with their classic. The challenge once again proved that the St. Moritz hautevolée will always find a way to have some fun, even in the dawn of a ‘snowpocalypse’. Meanwhile, our sympathies were with organizers of The ICE, who had been working all year to set up another edition of the world’s most exciting winter car event. Mother nature has always played a part in the event’s history – but it’s not without a certain irony that while all eyes had been on the thickness of the ice after a mild winter season, the event eventually had to be cancelled due to too much snow. In any case, we enjoyed another glorious winter weekend in St. Moritz. And we cannot wait to return for The ICE in 2025.

Photos by Stefan Bogner / Curves Magazine