(Kingston, Ontario, Canada)
Although I have been to Switzerland a total of 20 times, I have not been there since starting this blog in early 2014. My only Swiss posts have been travel flashbacks to earlier trips. Happily, that is going to change in early 2018, as I will be returning to Switzerland for an extended ski safari.
Switzerland is an expensive destination and simple economics dictated that I ski elsewhere for the past several winters. However, I have found a way to make this work and will be skiing in both Wengen and Lenk this winter.
Why Wengen? You may have heard of it as a stop on the World Cup ski circuit: the famous Lauberhorn piste is a real test of both daring and endurance. However, I chose Wengen this year because of the great experiences I had in the Grindelwald-Wengen-Murren region (a.k.a. “Jungfrau Ski Region”) between 1999 and 2011 with the ski camps for the Swiss Abroad.
The Organization for the Swiss Abroad (“Auslandschweizer-Organisation”, or “ASO” for short) organizes ski camps every year for Swiss citizens who are living abroad. I attended many of these camps and met lots of people who continue to be great friends. In fact, my current ski posse arose from the ASO camps. Some of us have been skiing together for 20 years!
The ASO camps feature a LOT of skiing, in addition to other sports and cultural activities. It’s a great way to connect with one’s Swiss roots…and become a much better skier. The camps tend to move around each year: I attended camps in resorts such as Splügen, Scuol, Arosa, and Grächen. However, I attended at least five such camps in Grindelwald and Wengen.
This winter, I will have the opportunity to take up-to-date photos of the riotous scenery around Wengen. I will also be playing the role of guide: with all that experience, it will be a pleasure to show one of my Canadian friends some of the many highlights of these iconic mountains.
And the highlights are many. There is the brilliant chocolate cake at Wengernalp. There is the black-rated “007” ski run from the top of the Schilthorn (and its rotating restaurant), made famous by James Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. The black-rated pistes called “Oh God” and “Black Rock” that lead down from Eigergletscher also offer unforgettable challenges…partly because the scenery is so distracting! Above Grindelwald, you can watch an Alpine Ibex watching you from an impossibly high and inaccessible peak.
It goes on and on. There is the astonishing 2km sheer vertical rock face of the Eiger, which rises to a height of 3,967m: I can think of no more intimidating mountain in the world. To me, it is even more impressive than the adjacent Jungfrau, which rises even higher to 4,168m (13,675 feet). There is the car-free village of Wengen, perched on top of a cliff that plunges down 500 metres to the valley below. There is the “Tipi” at Kleine Scheidegg, where I have eaten many a sun-dappled picnic lunch outdoors…but where I am determined to have one of the freshly cooked pizzas and sausages.
I am really looking forward to revisiting some of these past highlights, as well as discovering new ones. To accompany today’s post, I’ve unearthed some archival photos of my Swiss Abroad ski camp experiences from 1992 to 2002.
Stay tuned for more on Swiss skiing…and on my evolving plans for the rest of 2018!