Central Sporthotel Davos - 1874 - 2024
" A family affair " - 5 generations

150 years of tradition in the Grisons hotel industry

The Central Sporthotel is a place of encounters, joie de vivre and the desire to be pampered, celebrate and enjoy.

Even though the Central Sporthotel is already 150 years old, in 2024 we are not celebrating a historic building with Belle Époque architecture and creaking floorboards, but a traditional institution that has reinvented and renewed itself again and again over the past 150 years, just like Davos, where it stands in the pulsating heart.

Throughout the year, a small exhibition in the hotel lobby, to which everyone is warmly welcome, shows the 15 eras of its origins as a corn mill in 1870 through to the development of the restaurant, the emergence of the passer-by hotel, the construction with countless extensions of the vacation hotel and finally the demolition and new construction of the Central Sporthotel with over 120 hotel rooms and vacation apartments.

On the occasion of our anniversary, we would also like to draw attention to a special peculiarity and focus on the hosts of the Central Sporthotel.
It is and was not uncommon in the hospitality industry of that time and even today that the hotels were run by women, who ran the day-to-day business in the background, while their husbands excelled in the public eye in politics and in the community, in the development of Davos as a tourist destination. In the Central Sporthotel, however, the house was also passed on from the wives to their daughters or daughters-in-law, depending on the circumstances, which is why the family tree is somewhat confusing.

Patricia Guyan, hostess
5th generation Central Sporthotel

Davos, still a farming village in the 19th century - a Walser settlement - developed into a world health resort within a very short space of time thanks to the influence of German doctors, Dutch pioneers and smart locals. Enraptured by the unique landscape and the innovations of the zeitgeist, tourism also developed at breakneck speed.

It was as if everything had collapsed right here in Davos. The international upper class came for a cure. Followed by friends and acquaintances who wanted to lose themselves and discover the mountains and landscapes. The awakening trend of mobility to move around, to have fun, in short: sport. The inventions from the world exhibitions, coupled with the proverbial desire to shorten the long skirts, cut off the old braids and trim the moustaches.

On new paths - the pioneer

It all started with the grain mill on Tobelbach in Davos Platz, which Mathias Vetsch, our great-great-grandfather, inherited from his father.

As a young man, Mathias was already a mule driver and traveled over the passes, transporting sheep's wool cloth
to Tyrol and fetched grain from the Adige Valley to be milled in the local mill. While Mathias saw himself primarily as a mule driver and wine merchant, his wife Anna-Katharina, née Buol, who had grown up in an inn, began serving passers-by and renting out rooms for overnight stays. She ran the "Tobelmühle" inn, which was first recorded in the Davos tourist list "Fliegende Blättern" in 1874.

Anna-Katharina soon realized that renting out rooms to passers-by was more lucrative than the income from the mill, so she and her husband Mathias decided to convert the mill into a hotel for passers-by with a restaurant. The 861 kg millstone was simply walled in and served as the basis for the construction of the "Villa Tobelmühle" hotel for passers-by. Incidentally, the millstone was only rediscovered in 1983, when the Central was once again demolished and rebuilt.

To honor our roots and as a relic from days gone by, it has stood in the corridor to the dining room since this reconstruction.

Around 1890, Anna-Katharina died in childbirth. Mathias, with six children, some of whom were still small, was forced to remarry so that he had someone to look after the children. His second wife, however, lived in the Engadin, which is why he left the management of Villa Tobelmühle to his eldest daughter Margarethe, called Deta.

On course for expansion - the developer

In 1897, another extension was added, turning the Villa Tobelmühle into the "Hotel Tobelmühle". The hotel was now run by Deta together with her husband, Anton Stiffler.

The hotel was extended three times between 1904 and 1914. From old documents we can see that Deta conceived the idea, held discussions with the architect, signed resolutions and also carried out the financial checks. The hotel, which was rebuilt in 1904, was renamed the "Central Sporthotel" in consideration of Anglo-Saxon guests, for whom the word "Tobelmühle" was a tongue twister.
"Sporthotel" also because the hotel wanted to distinguish itself from the spa hotels that were still prevalent at the time. No spa treatments were offered here, as the guests were healthy and sporty; keen hikers in summer and enthusiastic winter sports enthusiasts in winter.

Meanwhile, artists, writers, politicians, pioneers and engineers met in Davos and agreed to invest in this place because they saw a flourishing future here. The war years 1914 - 1918 brought a slump, but the spirit of optimism remained in the air. Anton Stiffler was also one of the promoters and was on the board of directors of the Parsennbahn, co-responsible for the construction of the Strelabahn as well as the construction of the natural ice rink and the ice pavilion. He later moved into cantonal politics, where he also championed the interests of Davos, while Deta Stiffler-Vetsch managed the hotel.

On the move - the networker

Bernhard Stiffler, Deta and Anton's only son, showed early on that the role of host was tailor-made for him.

He was a gallant, handsome young man who got to know the world of the upscale hotel industry in various hotels in Switzerland and abroad and wanted to delight his guests. When he came back to Davos, he was full of ideas and willing to bring a breath of fresh air to the Central. At that time, however, the Central was still run by his mother.

His passion was the bar business, "Beni's Central Bar", was a popular meeting place in the mid-1930s, where he also met the love of his life, Hilde Elsässer. The couple married and initially ran the guild house "zum Kaiserstuhl" in Zurich.

Beni and Hilde also met the brothers Alois and Zarli Carigiet in Zurich. Alois, known for his beautifully painted children's books such as "Schellen-Ursli", came to Davos after the war, where he created murals in the Central Sporthotel, which can still be admired today.

During the famous national exhibition in Zurich in 1939, Beni and Hilde took over the "Bündner- und Jägerstube" on the Landi Wiese - now Mythenquai. Although shortly before the outbreak of war, this national exhibition was a time of unity and coming together.

During the Second World War, Beni and Hilde Stiffler-Elsässer took over the Central Sporthotel. Anton Stiffler had died and Deta gave her son and daughter-in-law a free hand.

When Beni Stiffler died young and unexpectedly, Hilde Stiffler-Elsässer took over the Central Sporthotel, following the example of her mother-in-law.

Hilde, the third generation, ran the hotel from 1954 to 1970 and was a charming hostess but also a strict patroness. She was to be found in the hotel every day until old age. Every guest was greeted personally. Hilde had a phenomenal memory for names and faces and was also keen to make and maintain contacts. She ran the hotel with great skill, managed it sparingly and invested the available funds wisely, while also looking after her three children, Toni, Reto and Maya, who also helped out in the hotel from an early age.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the time had come for Hilde to hand over the management of the Centrum to her children. Toni Stiffler, who was studying economics at the HSG St. Gallen, had no interest in running the Central and Maya Guyan-Stiffler had already devoted herself to family life.

So it was up to Reto Stiffler to continue running the Central and bring new momentum to the Davos hotel scene. He opened a "Dancing", later a disco, in the Central and, together with the legendary barman "Jean-Pierre", became a hotspot in Davos nightlife.

Although the 1970s are now regarded as a time of upheaval and change with the oil price crises, there was a real investment boom in Davos at this time, with a lot of building going on. This included the Davos Congress Center, which has been the venue for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum since 1971 and still is today, and thanks to which Davos is able to welcome numerous congress guests.

At the end of the 1970s, Reto Stiffler bought the Seehof and Du-midi hotels (now the Clubhotel) in Davos and, with his new role, increasingly bid farewell to the family-run Central Sporthotel. So the sceptre of the 4th generation passed to Maya Guyan-Stiffler, who gladly and with great motivation took over responsibility for the Central Sporthotel.

The new beginning - the innovator

In the summer of 1982, a fateful event occurred for the Central Sporthotel. During the renovation of the copper roof, a flammable paint solution ignited, leading to a devastating fire in the attic. The Davos fire department was able to extinguish the fire, but unfortunately the extinguishing water caused further extensive damage throughout the building. The hotel could no longer be run in this condition.

With the support of her husband, Jörg Guyan, who had made a name for himself as a real estate trustee and investor, Maya decided to demolish the Central down to its foundations and completely rebuild it.

The project was a major challenge in order to meet the demands of tradition and modern guest requirements. But the financial hurdles also had to be overcome first - the days of cheap construction were long gone.

The new Central Sporthotel was built for the 1984 winter season, with 92 double rooms, all with their own bathroom and balcony.

HC-Davos had also undergone a process of renewal with the construction of the ice rink cathedral in 1979, which changed the appearance of the town and is still the proud sporting center of Davos today. The first HCD team became Swiss champions in 1984 and 1985 and was always - and still is today - a welcome guest at the Central Sporthotel.

In the 1980s and 1990s, many sporting events were held in Davos, including the ultramarathon (K78) Swiss Alpine Marathon in 1986, which was renamed "Davos X-Trails" in 2021.

During these years, the Central Sporthotel welcomed many athletes and teams, such as Team Canada, which takes part in the annual Spengler Cup, as well as the Swiss national ski team, for altitude training and was thus able to give its name "Sporthotel" a new meaning.

In 1994, Maya Guyan-Stiffler had the hotel wing, which had not been renovated in 1984, completely refurbished with a new dining room, attic floor with suites, junior suites and rooms as well as the wellness area with indoor pool, saunas, steam bath, massage room and small fitness room. Here, too, she attached great importance to the details of the architectural coordination with the existing hotel.

Maya Guyan-Stiffler ran the Central Sporthotel very successfully with the hotel managers Rolf Jäggi and later Jean-Pierre Galey. She left the operational management to the two hoteliers while retaining responsibility for strategic planning and finances. One of her hobbies was advertising, especially for gastronomic events and themed evenings, unusual decorations and the seasonal house newspaper, which informed Central guests about Davos excursion destinations and insider tips, as well as always reporting anecdotes about Davos events.

Like her mother Hilde, Maya Guyan-Stiffler was a passionate hostess right up to the last hour. She was also to be found in the hotel every day, looking after the flowers and decorations. She chatted here and there with staff and guests and followed the course of business with great interest.
The pulsating hustle and bustle of the hotel was a big part of her life, even in her old age.

In a constant state of change - the manager

With the 2004/05 winter season, the fifth generation, myself, found my way home to the family business.

Of the three children from the marriage of Maya Guyan-Stiffler and Jörg Guyan, I was the only one to choose the hotel trade, while my two siblings Annigna and Georg studied architecture at the ETH Zurich.

After graduating from hotel management school in Lucerne and subsequently working in Switzerland and abroad, I took over the management of the Central Sporthotel a good 20 years ago.

When we were thinking about what my merits are as the 5th generation, my sister Annigna said that - compared to my predecessors, who ran the Central with great dedication, but rather emotionally - I would "manage" the hotel in line with modern business management.

Like my mother Maya, I have had a very dedicated hotel manager, Marcel Käppeli, at my side for 20 years. We run the Central Sporthotel together.

In addition to the complete renovation of our hotel rooms, in 2011 we also completely renovated and extended the "Haus Stiffler" - in keeping with the "family affair" - by the architectural firm Annigna Guyan (schockguyan architekten gmbh) and can now offer our guests 21 beautiful vacation apartments with hotel service in the "Central Apartmenthaus".

In the off-seasons in spring and fall, we have renovated the hotel lobby, kitchen, hotel roof, ventilation, indoor pool and for the opening of the 2023/24 winter season, our hotel bar will also appear in new, modern splendor!

"Tempora mutantur - times are changing", wrote my great-grandparents in the hotel brochure in 1910 when they presented the new Central to their guests. We can also say that "change is constant".

In addition to the many wonderful guests who have honored us over the past 150 years and with whom we have been able to share wonderful times, the employees of the Central Sporthotel should not go unmentioned.
For as long as I can remember, under my grandmother and mother and now also under me, our hotel has thrived thanks to these outstanding personalities.

Because what has been passed down unchanged from generation to generation at the Central Sporthotel is the desire to really offer something to our guests.


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