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Dispatches

Super Bowl economics; sampling sweet nothings in Massachusetts; Chinese craft beer with a local kick; St. Moritz’s seriously slick horse race; superhero fashions in Manhattan

ST. MORITZ, SWITZERLAND

SNOW PONIES
A prestigious horse race trades dirt for flakes

Every February in St. Moritz, snow-chained Bentleys jockey with Ferraris and Range Rovers for parking behind the caviar-and-champagne marquees of Europe’s winter glam capital. They’re lured here by a singular spectacle: thoroughbred horses from across the continent storming around a frozen lake, kicking clouds of snow into the faces of the jockeys towed behind them like frozen water-skiers.

St. Moritz’s annual White Turf race is a celebration of skikjöring, a sport that was invented here almost 100 years ago (the name comes from a Norwegian term meaning “driving with ropes”). At first the race followed a road from St. Moritz to Champfèr, with contestants starting at one-minute intervals, but it moved to an oval track on the lake after the inaugural run. It became more hazardous as a result: With 12 horses pulling skiers behind them, the turns — especially the first one, right after the horses bolt out of the gate in a pack — are particularly perilous. At one race in 1965, not a single skier crossed the finish line.

Skikjöring is dangerous,” says Swiss jockey Franco Moro, as he straps on a pair of skis and watches his chestnut gelding get its spiked shoes checked by the stable owner. “I’ve seen many injuries and know how to read the race. If a nearby horse looks like a front-runner, rather than risk injury I let him pass and overtake him later when he starts tiring.”

While Moro finished first in last year’s event, he recalls another race in which his horse stumbled and then somersaulted. “My skis narrowly missed him, and fearing the worst, I dropped the reins,” he says. Undeterred, the horse got up, shook off the snow and, no longer encumbered by Moro, rocketed up the track toward the front of the pack. Toward, but not past. “He came in second,” the jockey says. —CINDY-LOU DALE

CULTURAL VOCABULARY
A guide to curious words and gestures from around the globe

China
Extending the thumb and index finger means “eight.” The Chinese can count to 10 on one hand, since numbers 6 to 10 are based on Chinese characters.
Chenyin: You may be doing this if you’re counting on your hands: “muttering to oneself.”

Brazil
Think someone’s full of it? Tap the bottom of your jaw with the back of your hand to tell ‘em so. That means “not true” or “idle chat.”
Dedo-duro: In some circles, this means “loudmouth”; in others, “snitch.”

India
To beckon someone, the “come hither” finger curl won’t work. Instead, extend your arm, palm down, and make a scratching motion with your fingers together.
Dhadkan: You might hear this in a Bollywood film — it means “heartbeat” in Hindi.

Italy
If someone is trying to deceive you, show that you’re onto him by moving your nose side to side with your index and middle fingers.
Serenata: This word for “serenade” also means “nighttime burglary.”

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