Christmas is a great time to be in St Moritz and its not just for skiing. So often I have been to ski resorts just to ski and eat well. Don’t get me wrong the skiing in Sankt Moritz is fantastic and world beating. There is also more sunshine there than just about any other ski resort which is very welcome after weeks of grey skies in Zurich. But some times the smallest things are the best. Simply going for a walk in the snow is glorious. I got up early to take these pictures and had a pleasant walk on the half Island of Silsersee in Sils. It was a truly mindful experience. Walking on snow at minus 9 you can hear the crunch of snow under your boots. If you stop you can experience true silence as the surrounding snow absorbs all the sound. Just looking out across the lake to the sides of the great mountains is breathtaking. Slowly watching the sun come up over the mountains gives a great sense of anticipation. The early morning light is so subtle and has many different colours that normal daylight does not hold. But there is a small window of less than half an hour to literally see the world in a different light, with soft purple pink light reflects off the water and then it’s gone.
I also love the transitional nature of the water on the lake as small patches of ice float on the mirror surface of the lake. Most of the lakes in St Moritz are already frozen but here it’s like watching a giant slowly going to sleep. Even just watching the snow-covered trees is mesmerising. What I love is see the tree from a distance then slowly approach it observing how the ice and snow form on its delicate branches. Ice crystals refract the light in a way that no lights on a Christmas tree can.
On the white snow if you look carefully you can see the footsteps of animals. At the edge of the lake ice is forming in skirts. But the thickness of the ice is not yet strong enough to support the weight of human, the footprints show a daily traffic of smaller creatures that have discovered a new path to travel. Being there alone is like deep meditation, the chaotic world of the city disappears and the chatting monkey is silenced. I said to a friend the thing I love about being in the mountains is this sense that there is a much bigger force that will be around a lot longer than me. The question is though in what state will this beautiful place be in the future?
Many years from now, will these photographs be a distant memory of something that no longer exists?
This is the focus of my project Water the Essential. The goal is to raise awareness of water issues around the world. What exists now may not exist in the way we know it in the future. We have a responsibility for the next generation to preserve what we have and also to carefully manage our water resources. We also need to think of water as a universal key to our very existence and indeed everything that lives on this planet.
Thanks to the Hotel Hauser who are supporting the Water the Essential project
You can see my Photographic light boxes near the end of January at the Hotel Hauser. We are also supporting the Water Survival Box Charity, which provided clean drinking water and shelter in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters.
If you have a chance I highly recommend visiting St Moritz. The more I go there the more I want to stay and explore.
Vaughan James is a photographer and writer based in Zurich Switzerland