New, Improved Plan for BDG Restructuration Presented



The beleaguered local mountain railways company, Bergbahnen Destination Gstaad (BDG) presented another plan for restructuring and rehabilitation this April 2015. With the path to rendering operations economically viable still unclear, the company must again await approval from the voters.

This comes after an assembly in late November 2014, during which the proposed plan to secure a permanent solution for BDG was not approved and the voters officially sent the measure back to the City Council. Now, the Council has created another plan for restructuring and rehabilitation, which takes into consideration public feedback. Major changes implemented after a large outcry include keeping Wispile partially open rather than closing it completely. Rellerli, however, will close definitively by end 2018.

BDG has also confirmed renovating the Saanerslochbahn is indeed a must, and has maintained this proposal in their newest plan.

The three-year financial plan requires a total of CHF 56.3 million. Of this amount, BDG itself will provide CHF 5 million, the cities of Saanen and Zweisimmen CHF12.6 million in addition to their usual contributions of CHF 11.4 million, CHF 5 million from cantons Bern and Vaud, and the remaining CHF 10-15 million from private investors.

If all goes well and there are no further changes, formal application of the plan will go before voters at the company’s general meeting in June 2015.

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Drinking Water for Saanen Secured—Gstaad Must Wait


Photo: AvS



The Saanenland’s first new reservoir in 112 years welcomed its doors to visitors at an open house this month.  In operation since last November, the facility assures drinking water for Saanen itself, as well as the surrounding villages of Schönried and Saanenmöser. Yet Gstaad residents must still wait for a groundwater pump to be built at Saanen Airport before their drinking water supply is secured.


The Three R’s--Replacements, Renovations, Reserves

The project was supervised by Ueli Haldi, head of Wasserversongung Saanen (Water Supply Saanen), the government entity responsible for water supply.  It replaces the 1902 reservoir, which despite a 1940 upgrade was still deemed too old and out-of-date to repair.  A 1969 pumping station is also scheduled for renovation, as today’s requirements are simply too demanding.  Its future increased pumping power will slowly be integrated into the new reservoir system. 

With nearly 1000 cubic metres of reserves--four times the former capacity--the new reservoir also accommodates a growing need for fire reserves.  Only 240 cubic metres of water were previously held, an amount compliant with the Office of Water and Waste Management’s requirements but short of the 500-cubic-metre reserve required by Canton Bern.


High and Dry in the Saanenland

Summer 2014 was a dry one, and the Saanenland saw significantly less rainfall than needed.  October did not see much improvement either, and many of the “bises”or manmade canals to direct water were dry.  Despite a rainy November, levels still hadn’t returned to normal by the end of the year.

As the Gstaad region grows and prospers in the coming years, the new reservoir will play a key role in maintaining a healthy balance between water consumption and water supply. Saanen residents certainly won’t go thirsty in the near future. And Gstaaders? Construction is set to begin on the groundwater pump at the airport in spring 2016. In autumn 2017, Gstaad will also be assured an adequate supply of drinking water, come rain or shine.

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Incredible Season for Local Cross-Country Skier Natalie von Siebenthal

Nathalie von Siebenthal

Photo: AvS



Natalie von Siebenthal celebrated a successful winter season with more than 250 supporters at a local event held in her hometown of Lauenen in early April.

The local athlete is making a real name for herself in the world of cross-country skiing.  Highlights of von Siebenthal’s winter include 17th place at the Tour de Ski, and both gold and bronze medals at the U23 World Cup in Kazakhstan.  That was followed by placing 6th in the 10 km Skating and 23rd in the Skiathlon at the Cross-Country World Cup in Sweden.

Descended from a long line of farmers, the 21 year-old von Siebenthal’s father taught her to ski at a young age.  Von Siebenthal worked on the family farm until she took up professional skiing and joined the Swiss national team just two years ago. 

In addition to von Siebenthal’s professional applause, her fan club, started by family friend Ueli Zeller of Zweisimmen, now counts more than 140 members.

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Missing Skier Rescued by Air-Glaciers Saanen

An off-piste skier reported missing last Thursday, April 8 was rescued without serious injury.  The authorities were alerted when the man did not return home, and Air-Glaciers Saanen made their first search mission at approximately 8 pm that same evening.  The man, who had been skiing near Lake Lauenen, was found several hours later near midnight.  Luckily, the victim suffered only mild injuries and was able to return home after a brief stay in hospital. 

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Modern Saudi Artwork at Gstaad Gallery


Photo: Saqqarah SA



Famed Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem is set to show his works at Gstaad’s own Chalet Saqqarah in Winter 2015-2016.  Gharem’s work graced the local gallery’s walls last winter, and will be presented for one more season.   

Abdulnasser Gharem is a Saudi artist and former army colonel who is often hailed as the conservative country’s most provocative artist.  Gharem’s mixed media works include highly controversial religious, environmental, and political themes, featuring his signature ‘stamped’ texture. 

“We are thrilled to display Gharem’s works once more,” says Georges Marci, the art collector and dealer who founded Chalet Saqqarah as Gstaad’s first gallery in the early 1970’s. “His pieces represent the peace that he so desperately wants for the Middle East.”

Chalet Saqqarah and the Gharem exhibition will open in late December, by invitation or request only. 

Look for our Profile interview with Geroges Marci in a Winter 2015-16 issue of GSTAADLIFE.


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The Three Faces of Hom Le Xuan


Photo: Hom Le Juan



One thing Gstaad doesn’t lack is art or design galleries. When shopping for that perfect coffee table or bronze sculpture, there are a wealth of options on the Promenade. Yet only one artist combines the disciplines of interior design, interior decoration and landscape architecture. 

At Hom le Xuan’s gallery on the Promenade, something unusual graces the window display. A custom bathtub defies traditional boundaries. The display is like Hom le Xuan himself–beautiful, refined, with a touch of whimsy. The sculpted bronze bathtub will transform the bathroom of a local chalet into a real living area. 


Stand Up, Stand Out

Hom le Xuan’s works are tailored to seamlessly integrate into their surroundings, yet still manage to stand out. Strong materials and clean lines dominate his furniture. Many pieces could be mistaken for purely aesthetic objects of art. Yet, even Hom le Xuan’s sculpted bronze chairs hide an unexpected comfort, which is not often the case with such designs.

Hom le Xuan is a master sketcher, and has been drawing since childhood. Descended from an ancient royal Vietnamese family steeped in culture, he had the opportunity to pursue a career in the arts and architecture in Paris, where he makes his home when he’s not in the Saanenland.


The Nature of Design

Gstaad’s ‘Come up, Slow down’ motto fits right in with Hom le Xuan’s design philosophy. His gallery here is the first to present new pieces, with an avant premiere for local chalet owners.

“I literally come to Gstaad to breathe,” says Hom le Xuan. “I love the energy of Paris, but here in the Saanenland I refresh my batteries.”

An avid walker, he can often be seen combing the local trails both in summer and winter. Amongst the trees and flowers, Hom le Xuan says he feeds the “calm center”, which inspires his work. 


‘Homely’ Xuan

Limiting Hom le Xuan’s work to a single genre is mission impossible. 

“What I do is much more than add a final touch,” insists Hom le Xuan, “It’s a spirit that encompasses a complete lifestyle.” 

It’s this lifestyle that many of his clients lead. Most have several international bases, with chalets in Gstaad as well as homes in the South of France and apartments in Paris or London. Hom le Xuan is often asked to design and furnish them all. With projects in the UK, United States, France and Switzerland, Hom le Xuan is a busy man, sought after worldwide. Yet, he still takes time to smell the roses, or more appropriately, the rosewood.

So it comes as no surprise that Hom le Xuan is fast becoming a household name in Western Europe. His refined elegance, easy charm and excellent sense of humour have made Hom le Xuan something of a media darling. The December/January 2015 German edition of Architectural Digest lavishes praise on his designs 

As for those designs, here in Gstaad they're  for our eyes only, or rather, our eyes first. The gallery will host an exhibition of paintings by Themis Woellwarth-Lauterburg on February 3, followed by the vernissage of Hom le Xuan's new collection, featuring the spectacular bathtub, among other items, on February 17.

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Gstaad Yacht Club Winter Season


Photo and Text: Gstaad Yacht Club


The winter season is off to a great start for the Gstaad Yacht Club. Highlights include three sporting events, and a plethora of other activities are in store. 


Olympic Preparation for GYC Members 

GYC’s Matías Bühler and Nathalie Brugger of the Nacra 17 team continued their successful path finishing 3rd in the 2nd Olympic Test Event for Rio.


Regatta in Monaco

The GYC Otpi Team celebrated its 4th victory in Monaco January 15–18, 2015. 64 young sailors from 13 different countries, between 11 and 15 years old, shared their passion for sailing in Monaco. These keen sailors were able to reach maturity in terms of tactics and strategy. They sailed on Optimist vessels offered by the shipbuilder Erplast (each team brought their own sails). This year four new nations entered the competition: Algeria, Denmark, Finland, and Austria. 

The regatta started with strong winds on Thursday, when the teams sailed the first part of the qualification (Round Robin) on the sea. GYC’s team won six out of seven races and placed in the leading position. In contrast to the first day, there was no wind at all on Friday and no races could be sailed. Thanks to a great alternative program with ice carting, this day became a big success as well. The qualification was finished on Saturday in front of Monaco’s spectacular harbour. At the end of the “Round Robin”, GYC maintained its spot as number one.

After a moderate start in the quarter finals on Sunday (best of three) and losing against the Belgian team, success became possible once more. Two wins in a row brought the GYC team back and qualified for the semi-finals. Here they sailed and won against the Yacht Club of Aquitaine, qualifying for the final against the team of HSS Helsinki. In a tantalising final race, HSS Helsinki kept its leading position until the last mark, where the GYC team came from behind, beating them and winning the final.


"It was a really tight last racing day, and I’m proud of our hard work,” said GYC coach Antonis Drosopoulos at the prize-giving ceremony. “For 4th time in a row, GYC won the Monaco Optimist Team Race. Congratulations to all the teams for their effort.”

Pleased with the event itself, Drosopoulos commented further,“It was the best edition of this event, with the organising and racing committee doing a fine job despite difficult conditions. Yacht Club Monaco offered a high level and warm hospitality to us and we will be glad to come back for the 2016 edition!"


Future Racing Events

Spring and summer events are already taking shape. GYC is invited to the Gran Canaria Team Race in March together with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, the Royal Yacht Squadron, the Solent Daring Class, the Royal Malta Yacht Club as well as the Real Club Nautico de Santander.

In July, the club is invited to the 200th Anniversary Regatta of the Royal Yacht Squadron. Being the first reciprocal club of the GYC, it has steadfast intentions to send a delegation to the team race announced for all members under the age of 30.


World-Class Events

On the social side the Gstaad Yacht Club will organise, as usual, diverse events which guests of GYC members are wholeheartedly welcome to attend. 


Speaking of Which...

Andrew Winch, founder of Andrew Winch Designs, presents 30 years in yacht design. Based in London, Winch has won all of the industry’s most coveted design awards. Initially focused on designing luxury yachts, over time the company has added private jet, architecture and interior design to its specialities. 

Through the four years of organising, the Centenary Trophy in the Mediterranean the GYC has become a strong force in classic sailing. For lovers of classic yachts, later on this winter season Toby Walker will have a talk about the complete refit of the classic sailing C&N yacht “Orion of the Seas”. This will include a photo history of the rebuilding process and discussion about the perils and joys of bringing a classic yacht back to perfect condition.


Signings and Screenings

GYC is delighted to offer its members the chance to meet Yoyo Maeght, and for her to sign each guest’s edition of her book- “La Saga Maeght”. Later on in the season Natasha Fraser-Cavanossi and Ariel de Ravenl will present their book on Lou Lou de la Falaise.

Screenings of documentaries and other films include the unique opportunity to see award-winning IMAX documentary JERUSALEM narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch in mid-February. The event will be followed by a Q&A with producer George Duffield. Currently playing on IMAX screens worldwide, this documentary shows an exceptional vision of JERUSALEM.

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Le Rosey-Trained Local Photographer Presents New Exhibition


Photo: Marshall Vernet



"Silence Within Walls" Vernet-ssage 

Le Rosey alum Marshall Vernet is bringing his striking photographs to Gstaad just in time for the school’s 100th winter in the Saanenland celebration. 

Vernet was based for many years in Los Angeles, where he worked on feature films before turning his visual skills toward directing television commercials for prestigious clients worldwide. Now pursuing his first passion, photography, Vernet is back at his old stomping grounds in Gstaad. 

The photographer has released a series of highly graphic black and white works entitled “Silence Within Walls”. The series features photographs taken with Vernet's special technique, which adds density and contrast before being printed on cotton paper, giving the feel of a charcoal drawing.


Merci Le Rosey

In a sense, Vernet has the school to thank for his career as a photographer.

“The only formal photographic training that I ever had was through the photo club at Le Rosey,” Vernet admits. “My first few rolls were shot on campus in Rolle and Gstaad during my attendance from 1969–71, and many of them made it into our yearbook.” 

The Saanenland is just one of many places to host Vernet’s series, but it’s here that he feels the series is “coming home,” much like he did himself several years ago.

“I definitely caught the photography bug here in Switzerland,” says Vernet, at his quaint chalet that faces the Rosey campus on Ried hill. “It has been in the past three years that I officially spend my time (when not traveling and shooting) here in Gstaad both in-and between-season.”


Exhibition in Gstaad

The AIAR (Association Internationale des Anciens Roséens) has been a big help in promoting Vernet’s work. It's no coincidence that Vernet has chosen to host his exhibition during the Rosey alumni weekend to show his thanks to the organisation. 

“Silence Within Walls” was shown at the Milan Image Art Fair in Singapore this past fall, as well as in Paris at the art&miss Gallery in the city’s Marais neighbourhood. The Samasi Gallery on Gstaad’s Cheseryplatz will host Vernet’s photographs from February 12–27, 2015, Monday through Saturday from 3 to 6 pm and by appointment.

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Le Rosey Updates on New Campus Status



With the opening of several new chalets at the Gstaad Sports Centre, Le Rosey has a temporary solution to its growing problem of housing students.

While they await an official response to current objections at the cantonal level, the municipality of Saanen provided this opportunity to appease the school, whose current Ried campus is bursting at the seams.

“We’re really happy in the new chalets,” says Philippe Gudin, Director, Institut Le Rosey. “It’s a blessing that they were offered to us so quickly by the community–for this we are truly grateful.”


Trouble in Paradise

Yet despite their current satisfaction, Le Rosey is adamant that this is indeed a temporary solution and will not last indefinitely. 

“The chalets at the Gstaad Sports Centre will hold us for another two to three years, but not longer,” says director Christophe Gudin. “We need to have a single, modern campus where we can have sufficient space for housing.”

“The difference between school life in Rolle and Gstaad is quite shocking,” says Director Philippe Gudin, who will retire shortly, handing over the school’s management to son Christophe. “Our Rolle campus is state-of-the-art and is large enough to house all our activities like cooking, sculpture, art, music and gymnastics/fitness. Here in Gstaad we are struggling to offer students any congruity in their indoor activities.”


Approval and Appeals Timeline

The Erli project received an approval from the Canton of Bern last year, in spite of several  quite vocal objections. The opposition is spearheaded by both locals and national advocacy groups like Helvetia Nostra, which fear the project will blemish the Erli meadows and mar the area’s tranquil Alpine surroundings.

The opposition is now on its first level of appeal to the Canton, and a decision should be made before this April. If a compromise cannot be reached to reassure the opposition and have their objections rescinded, the first appeal to Switzerland’s Federal Court will be placed. If the answer were positive and the opposition decided to keep their objections and go for a second appeal to the Federal Court, another nine months to one year would be needed to reach a final decision. 

In this, the worst case scenario, a final decision for approval would not come until spring 2017, if it came at all. With an additional two years allotted for construction, Le Rosey’s new campus would not be operational until the Fall 2020 semester 

“All this said, we are confident that compromises can and will be reached,” says Philippe Gudin. “Le Rosey treasures its time here–and we are quite sure the Saanenland does not want to disrupt this mutually beneficial relationship, which has been going strong since 1916. 

The school, which has a large campus near Lake Geneva in Rolle, traditionally spends the winter in the Saanenland–bringing more than 600 total students and staff to the region, and providing a welcome
economic boost.

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Gstaad Palace Names New Director


Photo: Gstaad Palace 



Romuald Bour has been named director of the Gstaad Palace. Andrea Scherz, the third generation to run the family hotel, will remain general manager. 

“Romuald is my right hand man,” beams Scherz, whose grandfather acquired the hotel after WWII. “He understands the Scherz Family philosophy and demonstates it every day with his engagement in the business.”

The 37-year old Bour, who is Alsatian by birth, graduated from the Ecole Hotelière Strasbourg in 1992. He gained experience at luxury establishments in England and Austria before relocating to Switzerland. 

His is a classic tale of working one’s way to the top; Bour began at the Palace as a cashier in 1999, then moved on to positions as food & beverage manager and eventually assistant director. He continued his studies in Bern, obtaining a diploma in Hotel Management in Bern in 2011.

“Even after 15 years, I'm still proud to come to work every day,” says Bour, when asked what he enjoys most about the Palace. “Our co-workers and regular guests are like family, which gives the Palace its incredible, and very unique, atmosphere.”

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