History and name
The city was first mentioned in medieval Latin documents as pontem sarasinam in 1137. In 1237 it was mentioned as de Ponte Sarraceno and in 1303 as ponte sarracino. Some historians translate it as The Bridge of the Saracens and see in it a reference to a tenth-century Arab invasion of the lands that later became Switzerland. It is essential though to have a bridge to use the Bernina pass and it would make sense to build this before the confluence of Ova da Bernina and Ova da Roseg due to the amount of water to cross.
Pontresina has an area, as of 2006, of 118.2 km2 (45.6 sq mi). Of this area, 16.7% is used for agricultural purposes, while 8.8% is forested.
Before 2017, the municipality was located in the Oberengadin sub-district of the Maloja district, after 2017 it was part of the Maloja Region. It sits in Val Bernina, which is the highest altitude valley that branches off the Upper Engadin Valley. The municipality includes the highest mountain of the canton, Piz Bernina. Other high summits are Piz Zupò and Piz Palü. Pontresina is a noted tourist destination in its own right, but is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor St. Moritz.
It consists of the old village sections of Laret, San Spiert as well as Giarsun and the new sections on the mountain slopes (including Muragls).
Nearby glaciers include the Morteratsch Glacier and the Roseg Glacier. The Morteratsch has a ski lift and a long run down the glacier and the glacier is an economic mainstay of the town. The Roseg Valley has a groomed cross country ski trail along its length.
Pontresina has a population (as of 31 December 2017) of 2,195. As of 2008, 29.7% of the population was made up of foreign nationals. Over the last 10 years the population has grown at a rate of 3.9%.
As of 2000, the gender distribution of the population was 50.2% male and 49.8% female. The age distribution, as of 2000, in Pontresina is; 165 children or 7.5% of the population are between 0 and 9 years old.
In Pontresina about 62.6% of the population (between age 25-64) have completed either non-mandatory upper secondary education or additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule).
Pontresina has an unemployment rate of 1.26%.
From the 2000 census, 1,055 or 48.2% are Roman Catholic, while 713 or 32.5% belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church. Of the rest of the population, there are 40 individuals (or about 1.83% of the population) who belong to the Orthodox Church, and there are 56 individuals (or about 2.56% of the population) who belong to another Christian church. There are less than 5 individuals who are Jewish, and 27 (or about 1.23% of the population) who are Islamic. There are 10 individuals (or about 0.46% of the population) who belong to another church (not listed on the census), 158 (or about 7.21% of the population) belong to no church, are agnostic or atheist, and 132 individuals (or about 6.02% of the population) did not answer the question.
Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks German (57.7%), with Italian being second most common (16.1%) and Portuguese being third ( 9.0%). Until the 19th Century, the entire population spoke the Upper-Engadin Romansh dialect of Putèr. Due to increasing trade with the outside world, Romansh usage began to decline. In 1880, still 45.7% of the population spoke Romansh as a first language, decreasing to only 33.61% in 1900. The Romansh language continues to decline without an interruption (1941 26.7%, 1970 16.22%, 2000 7.94%).
Pontresina railway station is a fair sized facility positioned to the west of the town which serves a wide area and a youth hostel. Several bus lines of the Engadin Bus company also serve the area and there is a chair lift for skiing in the winter months, and walking in the summer months. The area has road links to the neighbouring, larger town of St Moritz.
Pontresina has an average of 97.8 days of rain per year and on average receives 799 mm (31.5 in) of precipitation. The wettest month is August during which time Pontresina receives an average of 104 mm (4.1 in) of precipitation. During this month there is precipitation for an average of 10.7 days. The driest month of the year is February with an average of 31 mm (1.2 in) of precipitation over 10.7 days.
Heritage sites of national significance
The Church of S. Maria, Grand Hotel Kronenhof and the Spaniola tower are listed as Swiss heritage sites of national significance. The old parish church and currently a village church of S. Maria is a late-Romanesque structure. The church has several significant paintings on the walls. The tower and north and west walls are from an earlier church, most likely from the 12th Century.