Swiss winter fun

19 11 2010

Now that the first snowflakes have fallen in the lowlands of Switzerland, many of my Swiss friends are making plans for the six months of the year when a grey fog the consistency of cream soup descends upon Zurich. What do they do? Head to higher ground of course. Where the sun shines and the danger lurks.

While I too look forward to enjoying good couple of crisp, clear days above the fog-line in the picturesque mountains during this, my sixth winter here, I now know where I’m capable of holding my own, and where I should just not bother to try. Having grown up in the tropical sunshine of Southeast Asia, I will never be a snow bunny, no matter how much money I spend on the accessories.

Nice try, Evelynn.

Analog to Swiss Summer Fun a few months ago, here are a few of the astounding and crazy things that the locals enjoy paying good money to do during the winter. For more information on any of these, or to create your own wild winter adventure, check out the Swiss Tourism Website.

Alpine skiing – A world cup race on TV is kindergarten compared to what Swiss skiers are capable of on their slopes. No wonder helmet sales are up by something like 500 percent every year.

Cross-country skiing – The skis are much thinner and exponentially more unstable requiring exponentially more strength and coordination to stay upright. And Swiss people don’t just go out for a Sunday ski-stroll. Nonononono. When Swiss people strap on their cross-country skis, they end up doing things like this.

Igloo-building – And here I thought this was just for semi-nomadic native peoples in northern latitudes. No, the Swiss have a thing for building igloos, too. A winter weekend in the mountains is not complete unless you spend part of it constructing your own accommodation and then sleeping in it. Believe me, this is nothing for claustrophobics or folks who chill easily.


Please don't try this at home unless you're an architect.

Ski jöring – For the truly insane. Instructions: Attach skis to feet, attach self to galloping horse.

HA! Yeah, right!

Tobogganing (winter version) – Nothing against some harmless sledding down the slope behind your house. But we are talking serious, professional-grade tobogganing here, on near-frozen tracks many kilometers long, almost vertically down the sides of mountains, while sitting on rickety, unsteerable wooden sleds invented in 1883. This sport is generally done late at night (i.e. in the dark), helmetless, and only after an illegal amount of alcohol has been ingested.

This was an activity at my company’s “Rookie Camp,” a sort of basic training for new employees I attended a few years ago. It was scheduled for 11 p.m. and the toboggan run was a sheet of ice. After narrowly missing a large fir tree in the first turn, and then flying out of control, twisting a knee and landing on my butt in the snow in the second turn, I decided my long-term health was more important than any dumb rite of passage. So I walked the rest of the way, all the while keeping eyes in the back of my head and diving for cover numerous times to avoid others who careened down behind me. At the base, hours later, I found out that one member of the group lost control of his sled, flew off the side of the mountain and ended up in the hospital with a concussion and a gash over his eye.

Peanuts, my Swiss colleagues said. Anything less than a crushed vertebrae gets no sympathy.



2 responses

19 11 2010
Ironic Mom

The latest winter sport I’ve taken up for the past 4 days is driving on hills covered with ice without winter tires.

But my favourite winter sport is snuggling in a chair by the fire with a mug of tea, a blanket, and a book.

20 11 2010
Evelynn Starr

Now that last one sounds like a winter sport I could get used to.

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