A village full of exciting history

The political municipality of Arosa is one of the youngest established communes in Switzerland. On the 1st January 2013 the municipalities of Arosa, Calfreisen, Castiel, Langwies, Lüen, Molinis, St. Peter-Pagig and Peist merged to become the new municipality of Arosa.

History of Arosa

The history of settlers and the cultural heritage of Arosa however, are significantly older than the political municipality. The Schanfigg valley officially appeared for the first time under the name of „Scanavico“ in the year 765. The name refers to the farthest part of the valley at Frauentobel (between Peist and Langwies). There was only hunting and Alpine territory from this point onwards. Early documents refer to the existence of some villages in the anterior half of the valley, namely Lüen (in 1084), Castiel (in 1132) and Calfreisen (in 1156). The inner part of the valley became inhabited during the great Apline mass migration by the Wals people during the 12th and 13th century. Descendants of the Wals colony in Davos migrated across the Strela pass and settled in Fondei, in Sapün, in Medergen, in Langwies and in Arosa in the 13th century. In 1384 the settlers in Langwies started to build a chapel to serve the scattered communities in the valley. The main occupation of the local people in the late medieval times and long thereafter was Apline agriculture.

In 1530 the reformation started in the Schanfigg valley. All villages from Maladers to Peist were burned down in 1622 during the “Grisons Wirren”.

For many centuries the local people living at the inner Schanfigg valley mainly travelled via the Strela and the Durana pass to Davos or the Prätigau. This explains why the municipalities of Langwies (with 358 inhabitants) and Peist (with 237 inhabitants) represented by far the most populated settlements of the current Arosa community during the first census in 1850. In 1851 the village of Arosa politically belonged to Davos and only accounted for 56 inhabitants. This changed rapidly once the road from Chur to Langwies opened in 1875, followed by the opening of the road from Langwies to Arosa in 1890. The improved transportation access resulted in an almost overnight discovery of Arosa as a tourist destination during the end of the 19th century. Already in 1877 Arosa saw the opening of its first guesthouse and in 1888 the German physician Dr. Otto Herwig built the first Sanatorium. Arosa’s first heydays started in 1900 as the resort gained popularity with people looking for a cooler and peaceful location during the summer months. It was still early days for winter sports. Nonetheless, the local population rose from 61 to 1,071 people between 1870 and 1900 and even reached 3,466 inhabitants by 1930.

Traffic access to Arosa saw another significant improvement with the construction of the railway section Chur-Arosa between 1912 and 1914, a daring project at that time, and the direct road development from Chur in 1927. Although all villages along the Chur-Arosa route benefited from improved accessibility, they did not record significant population growth and Apline agriculture remained the main source of income.

The world economic crisis in the 1930’s as well as the Second World War caused setbacks to Arosa as a tourism destination. However, they were also catalysts for change towards a winter resort. A stay at a sanatorium became more and more obsolete with the developments in modern medicine, on the other hand a rising popularity in winter sports helped to offset the slumping demand during the summer. Arosa had its first three ski lifts in place before the war; hence the resort was well prepared for the sudden boom in winter sports following the war. Health spas and sanatoriums were swiftly transformed into winter sports hotels and more ski lifts were built. 1956/57 saw the opening of the impressive Arosa-Weisshorn resort lift. The number of guest beds and nights increased steadily. At the same time the local population grew to 3,781 inhabitants in 1996.

Not only Arosa, but also the other villages along the Schanfigg valley started to benefit from the booking winter tourism. In 1953 the tourist office of Langwies put forward a request to the municipality of Arosa at that time for the approval of a ski lift from Pirigen to Mattishorn. At the beginning of the 1960’s stakeholders in Langwies founded the Ski Lift Company of Parsenn-Fondei. The company built two long ski lifts in Innerfondei which both needed to be operated by diesel generators in the absence of grid electricity. Due to access difficulties from Langwies and no possibilities to cooperate with other resort lifts, the company had to file for bankruptcy in 1967. The idea to operate a ski area in Hochwang had been floating around since the 60’s. However, it took a good two decades for the idea to materialise. In December 1984 the Hochwang ski area opened its lifts and it is still operational today.

In full awareness of the differing historical development, demographical and economical structures the former municipalities of Arosa, Calfreisen, Castiel, Langwies, Lüen, Molinis, Peist, St.Peter-Pagig and Tschiertschen-Praden together initiated the project „Fusion Schanfigg“ in 2010. The aim of the project was to establish a base for a collective and forward-looking municipality. While the municipality of Tschiertschen-Praden decided to withdraw from the project, the inhabitants of the other communities approved the merger on June 17th 2012. As a consequence the new municipality of Arosa was officially inaugurated on January 1st 2013.

From the past to the present