The ICE St. Moritz Is The World’s Coolest Classic Car Show

The International Concours of Elegance St. Moritz puts an icy spin on the classic car show format.

Lancia Concept at The ICE St. Moritz 2023
(The ICE St. Moritz)

All the ingredients of the perfect event were present—multi-million-dollar classic cars, an eclectic jet set crowd, and a beautiful ski town in the Swiss Alps. It felt like the setting of a James Bond movie. But the villain in this story was the weather. Pure white, beautiful and cold, the snow started falling the night before and didn’t stop for three days. 

The International Concours of Elegance St. Moritz, called by the double-meaning acronym “the ICE,” is a refreshing take on what’s become a stale format—the classic car show. Whether it’s the world-famous Pebble Beach on the beautiful Pacific Ocean, or the elegant Villa d’Este on stunning Lake Como, the only difference is the scenery.

A classic Maserati at The ICE St. Moritz 2023
(The ICE St. Moritz)

And while the garden party atmospheres and exotic automobiles are certainly complemented by their exclusive surroundings, these static events never evolve and therefore never offer a compelling reason to return. But the ICE is different.

You’ve seen the pictures before—glamorous people clad in fur coats watching horse races or polo games on a frozen mountain lake surrounded by snowy peaks, being served cocktails by tuxedo-wearing waiters on ice skates. That’s wintertime in St. Moritz—the town in Switzerland where winter tourism was first invented. And that’s the lake that serves as the ICE’s venue.

(The ICE St. Moritz)

What’s so unique about the ICE is that it takes place during a season and on a platform nobody would ever expect. Instead of manicured golf course grass, the canvas is smoothly groomed snow on ice. Instead of vintage automobiles sitting like sculptures on a lawn, the rare classics are doing what they were made for—driving.

Around the frozen lake they go in a dynamic exhibition that provides spectators the opportunity to see these functional artworks in action, hear the revs of their engines, and smell that intoxicating mixture of fuel and oil. At least, that’s how it’s been the first two years since the ICE officially debuted in 2022.

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing at The ICE St. Moritz 2023
(The ICE St. Moritz)

This year, as before, everything was ready on cue. The white hospitality tents sponsored by illustrious brands like Richard Mille, Loro Piana and Riva, sat erect on the frozen lake filled with cozy furniture, sheepskin rugs, heaters, and bars poised to serve endless hot toddies and cold champagne.

The lowest level of the town’s subterranean parking garage, built inside the mountain, was filled with dozens of precious and closely guarded cars ready for the next day’s show. Up above, the legendary hotels Badrutt’s Palace and Suvretta House warmly welcomed all the guests arriving from across the globe.

There was royalty (I was introduced to a prince from England), captains of industry (Norman Foster was a concours judge), former racecar drivers, important-looking people from the Emirates (they had mean-looking bodyguards), and the usual cadre of car aficionados that show up at special auto events no matter where in the world they take place. It was like an unofficial welcome party and excitement and anticipation filled the air. So did the snow.

A classic Ferrari at The ICE St. Moritz 2023
(The ICE St. Moritz)

The snowfall only added to the picture-perfect atmosphere that evening, so nobody gave it much thought. But in the morning, when we woke up to more than three feet of new powder—that was still coming down—we knew the subject of snow had graduated from a lovely garnish to a serious concern. 

It wasn’t long until the announcement was made that the 2024 ICE was cancelled for safety reasons. Municipal authorities determined the weight of the new snow on top of the frozen lake presented too much danger, and the biggest storm to hit in a decade was nowhere near finished.

Disappointed but not deflated, everyone involved in the event—organizers, entrants, judges, sponsors and attendees—enthusiastically gathered around the cars in the parking garage for an improvised celebration that lasted through the weekend and throughout the town by way of St. Moritz’s streets, restaurants, bars and hotel lobbies.

A classic Ferrari at The ICE St. Moritz 2023
(The ICE St. Moritz)

When it comes down to it, car shows aren’t really just about the cars. They’re about the people behind the cars—the designers, builders, drivers, owners, admirers and everyone in between—those who infuse these machines with soul. Like any shared interest, cars bring people together and provide community and camaraderie. 

And the ICE does this in a totally distinct and invigorating way. Better still, since it’s a relatively new luxury event it feels intimate, championed by the cognoscenti, and undiscovered by the masses. This “insider” status surely won’t last long but it won’t detract from it either. As with the weather, whatever the outcome, the ICE will always be a special victory.

The fourth annual ICE is scheduled for the last weekend in February of 2025 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. 

The ICE St. Moritz 2024 logo
(The ICE St. Moritz)

Contributor Jared Zaugg can be found at the intersection of lifestyle, motoring, travel and culture.