I watched two embarrassed St Bernard dogs pad through the snow yesterday, each with a pink copy of a famous financial newspaper tied under its neck. The dogs should have stuck to the usual barrel of brandy. Davos needs it this year.
On the surface, the World Economic Forum remains an ostentatiously exclusive event in a drab Alpine town, where icy side roads lead to shuttered Edwardian villas and every hotel has blacked-out Volkswagen Phaetons parked outside. Yesterday morning Swiss and Turkish security guards came close to blows over who should guard a VIP; the night before Vladimir Putin's motorcade engaged the Chinese premier's in limo-lock. If, as everyone says, the corporate bashes are more modest this year, the downgrading has only gone so far. "Last night was not exactly sombre or sober," Tony Blair pointed out yesterday.
Perhaps it was the party at the end of the universe. Just as a neutron bomb destroys life while leaving structures intact, so Davos goes on, while the culture that supports it is dead. As collective belief was what propelled this global elite, one person's self-importance feeding another's, the mood has been broken as badly as the banks.
Alarm is not the same as contrition, and few people here will admit to have done anything personally wrong. The boss of JP Morgan Chase, James Dimon, is an exception: "I take full blame, yes. God knows some very stupid things were done."
But he can say that with the confidence of a survivor. The failures have gone into hiding, or not come at all - no Lehman Brothers this year and fewer oligarchs. Oleg Deripaska's face stares blankly out of the delegate guide, but if he has come, he has not been seen.
Political leaders, too, are cautious, worried lest they are accused of partying while unemployment soars at home. British ministers have been cutting their teams and the order has gone out from Conservative central office: "Not a Tory ski will touch the snow."
But the biggest absentees are the Americans: the Obama White House too new to travel. That adds to the sense of a changing world - the big political stars this year are from China and Russia.
There is no real sense of collective guilt, or serious consideration of what to do next, other than rebuild the world that has just been lost. Davos has the air of a crash inquiry into an airline that intends to keep on flying. One hero, alone among thousands, suggested that the bankers should simply be jailed until they give the money back.
The problem with that is that most of them have no money to return. The ocean on which the global boom floated has evaporated.
At a session on charity yesterday, Blair, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Richard Branson watched a video with a voice-over that declared "the world economy is collapsing" - and invented a horrible word to describe the effect, "philanthrocrisis".
The shock is real, the grief has hardly begun, but no one in Davos seems to think that means they should be less important or less rich. Yet for many the modesty is a temporary veil, to be worn until the good times return.
It is hard to tell who has really suffered, and who is only pretending. In a dark corridor at the centre of the concrete congress building billionaire surnames still flash past on white badges. This is a town where the men have the telltale signs of the seriously rich. Their hair has been blow-dried into implausible waves and layers; coiffures disciplined, even if the markets are not.
Late into the night in the main Belvedere hotel the networking went on. The snatches of conversation are telling: "A couple of years back they asked me to be secretary of the New York Fed" ... "Larry Summers emailed me late last week to say he isn't coming" ... "They shut down our projects last week, bang, bang, bang ..."
The absurdities of Davos are endless: the computer registration system on which delegates email each other in a kind of fatcat Facebook; the screens showing rolling business news ("Korea says dog cloning to be made cheaper", one declared yesterday). And Blair's disembodied voice floating out of a speaker, still mouthing the buzzwords of globalisation.
Perhaps in the small private meeting rooms, each with four white leather chairs and a potted palm, a solution will be found to financial implosion. But three days in Davos do not offer hope. What no one wants to admit is that perhaps there is no solution - only decline.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017