Reader's Page -- Wispile à la Llama


Reader's Page--Your Vision of Gstaad

I never get tired of hiking the Wispile.  It delivers all the beauty of wildflowers in bloom, pure, fresh alpine air, and even the occasional llama. The steep hike takes around two hours, but the less intrepid can take the cable car up to enjoy spectacular views of Gstaad village,
Glacier 3000, and the waterfalls of Lauenensee.

Thanks for everything, Gstaad – I wish everyone the very best in the future!

– Andrea C., a Canadian who enjoyed photographing the nature and beauty of the region while she lived here. Find more of her photos on Instagram @Maisonlorenzbach

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Perfect Landing -- Gstaad-Saanenland Airport Gets a Much-Needed Makeover


Image: Jaggi & Partners

By Alexis Munier


Saanen Airport is set to become the jewel in the crown of Switzerland’s regional airports. With a total renovation and construction project underway, the site will host one of the most modern small airports in the country.

The remaking of the only airport in the Saanenland is not up for debate–the airport must be renovated to ensure optimal safety. Residents will say goodbye to decrepit facilities and dated infrastructure of the original airfield, which and was built by the military during World War II for defense purposes in the early 1940s. In 1986, the runway was rehabilitated; in June 2011 the airfield was bought by the FGGS (Airfield Cooperative Gstaad-Saanenland). The FGGS is responsible for bringing this current project to life.

Designed to Fly
Architect Elisabeth Wampfler of local firm Jaggi & Partner led the total redesign, which features several important upgrades. “The building faces south so we can use solar energy for some of the airfield’s light, heat and electrical needs,” says Wampfler. An attention to safety also marks this design.

“The infrastructure for air operations will be concentrated on the north side,” says FGGS President Walter Egger, explaining that currently, some workers have to cross the runway to exit the airfield. “This will reduce the dangerous runway crossings.”

In addition to repaving the runway, a grand, new structure will be built to host airfield’s terminal and hangars. To the left of the terminal, two hangars for helicopters will be used by Air Glaciers and the handful of businessmen who commute this way to Geneva each day. To the right, three hangers for aircraft will feature rotating storage units, allowing for pilots to park airplanes on their own without additional help.

The terminal building will consist of two floors and a large observation deck. In addition to a customs declaration area and waiting room, management offices will be located on the ground floor. Air traffic control will occupy the next level. Visitors will be able to access the observation deck, built on the structure’s flat roof.

Great care has been taken to design structures which respect the airfield’s natural location. The project’s supervisors say it will be easy on the eyes and fit in nicely with the surrounding landscape.

Blue Skies Ahead
Naysayers don’t have much to fret about–the renovation is not expected to increase air traffic. Only 8200 flights are permitted per year, a number designated by the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation, which oversees such quotas.

“The flight total estimate is 6560,” says Egger, “which is well within the legal limit.”

The High Price of Modern Aviation
Despite the benefits of renewing the aiport’s infrastructure, it doesn’t come cheap. The price tag: total of CHF 30 million. Two-thirds of the cost will come from private donors, while the remaining CHF 10 million has been pledged by the municipality of Saanen.

The search for potential donors is currently underway. FGG Boardmember Marcel Bach says he has several verbal promises and hopes to have signed letters of intent by the end of the year. Bach says that once funded, the project will be self-supporting.

Heinz Brand, Saanen Councilman, confirms the CHF 10 million contribution to come from Saanen, but admits public institutions like the other municipalities and cantons should contribute as well.

“The Saanenland lives from tourism,” says Egger, when asked about the need for such infrastructure. “The airport is vital for this reason.”

As a destination for upscale visitors and wealthy part-time residents, Saanen needs an airfield which can handle the influx of private planes.

Gstaad Saanenland Tourism supports the project wholeheartedly, Director Martin Bachofner told the group of 80 attendees at an information seminar in May.

“Tourism in Switzerland faces enormous challenges," says Bachofner. “Switzerland has always been a high-priced country…to remain competitive internationally it must invest in power and infrastructure.”

Time to Fly
The FGGS group has an ambitious timeframe–the building application will be filed in June, and the financing is expected to be secured by next year. The project will go before the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation, which is charged with either approving or rejecting it. According to Egger, if everything goes smoothly, construction will begin in 2016 and the entire project will be completed by 2018.

What do you think? What do you think? (Comments 9)

Chalberhöni Project Begins Last Phase


Photo: AvS



While all of Switzerland saw heavy rainfall this spring, the Saanenland was particularly badly hit. The region’s streams roared with high water levels, and Chalberhönibach was no exception.

The stream is finally beginning the last phase of a complicated rehabilitation project, which was deemed necessary after it was badly hit in the devastating storm of summer 2010 that caused millions of francs in damages.

After the 2010 storm, steps were taken to prevent future destruction near Chalberhönibach, which runs from the enclave of the same name down to Gstaad. At a total cost of CHF 5,8 million, an overflow dam was constructed to hold back 10,000 cubic metres of sediment, and the bridge and road were reconstructed as well. The improvements were expected to ensure Chalberhönibach remained in its streambed; yet May's rains tested its capability.

This spring, Chalberhönibach swelled to just 5 to 10 centimetres below the Oeyetli Bridge, and in the several places in the upper basin of the dam, flooded over. It also flooded over near its mouth on the Saane, dredging up 300 to 400 cubic metres of rubble and sediment. At this stage it is unclear which communities will be responsible for the price of the clean up. As a precaution, several roads were closed in the area. With the easing of the rainfall and the removal of any rubble complete, they were all reopened.

All in all, the rains caused a scare and some clean up, yet the situation could have been much worse. Fortunately there were no injuries or damage to any buildings.

“We are lucky that in spite of the intense rains, there were no serious consequences,” says Christian Brand, head of the Fire Department.

Brand noted that even after rainfall stops there is a danger of flooding. “It takes approximately 5 to 7 hours for the water levels to fall,” he informed.

The complex plans for the last phases of the Chalberhöni project were made public and any objections filed by May 15.  They showed several changes to the area are due, including moving the road northward and rebuilding the Oeyetli Bridge about 10 metres closer to the Saane. The Rübelidorf Bridge will also be reconstructed.

With any luck, the work will commence this fall, and reach completion before any further storms cause irreparable damage.

What do you think? What do you think? (Comments 4)

Goodbye Gstaad Grand Slam--Hello Gstaad Major


Photo: AvS



The best beach volleyball players will be in Gstaad this year for a very special tournament–the newly christened Gstaad Major.

This year’s event marks a change in structure, with organisers bidding the former Gstaad Grand Slam goodbye and welcoming the new event, which is sponsored by Swatch, in its place.

From July 7–12, a full programme of games is scheduled, as well as side events which are notoriously popular.  Highlights include a wrap-up concert July 12 by Swiss pop star Stephanie Heinzmann, and a dance party until the wee hours of the morning July 7–9 with some of the hottest international DJs.

Full schedule at:

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Letter from the Editor--June 26, 2015


Photo: Frank Müller


Sunday in the Park with Georg

It may not be the fastest method of transportation, yet nothing beats a lazy afternoon in an old rowboat.

But for those of us who are more biscuits than biceps, a parasol, picnic, and good book, or dare I say, copy of the new and improved GSTAADLIFE, may be just the things to bring along for the ride. That and a strapping young lad to manage the oars while you glean through our pages and catch up on all the local news you’ve missed.

Watershed Down
April and May are traditionally the quiet months of spring in the Saanenland. But while the off-season saw visitors draw to a trickle, fierce storms left the region soaking wet. Although the rains were welcome after a relatively dry winter, some streams were bursting at their seams. Be sure to read our article on Chalberhöni, which sustained tens of thousands of francs in damages, and–despite a rehabilitation project–still needs work in order to secure its basin.

Flagship Design
Elisabeth Wampfler walked the plank two decades ago and left the Saanenland to pursue studies in architecture and urban planning in Lausanne. Now Wampfler has  returned to become one of the region’s shining architectural stars. Ironically, she’s now working on projects here that are larger than anything she tackled in the big city. From The Alpina to Le Rosey’s new campus to the Saanen airport, Wampfler proves that even small towns have room for big ideas.

Speaking of the airport, we have a full page on the upcoming redesign of the Saanenland’s only runway. With a complete overhaul and reconstruction in the works, the project is one of the largest Switzerland has even seen for a regional airport. Word has it there will be something for everyone at the new facility–from the technologically innovative rotating hangar for private planes to an observation deck from which to watch the well-heeled guests fly in.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat
This summer, GSTAADLIFE continues to sail along. Like in all seasons past, the magazine presents several new features.

I’d like to welcome you to our Reader’s Page at the forefront of every issue. Send us your favourite photo of the Saanenland, with a short description and bio, and we may just publish it in an upcoming issue. Congrats to Andrea C., who snapped this photo when she happened upon a family of llamas at the top of Wispile, which is only slightly rarer than catching a glimpse of another famous Lama in these parts.

Bert Inäbnit, who graced our cover two summers ago, is a nature enthusiast and wildlife expert. In a debut series entitled Flora & Fauna, Inäbnit will explore all manner of living creature in the Saanenland. With translation help from GSTAADLIFE’s very own Markus Iseli, we’ll bring Inäbnit’s
extraordinary photographs and profound knowledge of local creatures to you in upcoming editions.

Change of Crew
It’s with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to columnist Mandolyna Theodoracopulos, who generously graced our pages with her acerbic wit and controversial commentary. A mere “thank you” is not enough to express our gratitude, and we wish Mandolyna well, wherever the tide may take her.

However, we are thrilled to welcome back a familiar face–Diana Oehrli–to GSTAADLIFE. Some of you might remember her work here several years ago as Editor in Chief. Now, Oehrli joins our team as a columnist, sharing her views on timely local topics. As a half-American, half-Swiss writer who has lived in the United States, France, Switzerland, and beyond, Oehrli’s unique perspective will have you falling for her hook, line, and sinker.

From Stem to Stern
This issue is packed with stories and images to rock your boat, no matter where you may put down anchor. Here's to wishing you a Bon Voyage! as you row merrily down a Saanen stream to the summer of your dreams.

What do you think? What do you think? (Comments 4)

Stand Up Paddling Hits the Saanenland


Photo: ZVG


Although it's a landlocked nation, Switzerland boasts more than 1,500 lakes and is affectionately called "Europe's reservoir."  Here in the Saanenland, a multitude of water sports awaits, from river rafting to swimming.  The Arnensee is an ideal local spot to try out the newest craze, Stand Up Paddling (SUP).  It's the fastest growing imported water sport since windsurfing became popular in the 1980's.  

Stand Up Paddling requires the participant to stand on a wide board and paddle with one oar.  The board is large enough that balance is not an issue. SUP is safe and enjoyable for adults and children of most ages, and provides an excellent workout.  

Boards may be rented from PURE Snowboard Shop Gstaad for either a half or full day.  




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Strong Franc Contributes to Decline in Gstaad Tourism


While the latest report released by the Swiss Federal Statistics Office did not bring good news to the tourism industry, the numbers could have been worse. 

Between the late snow and strong franc, the industry knew it was in for trouble.  The season began however, with strong bookings in December and January, which were made mostly before the franc’s sudden climb in January.  February continued the winning streak in bookings, profiting from the school holidays that fell during the month.  March however saw a 22.5% decline in overnight stays mainly due to the lack of interest in short-term rentals.

In summary, from the period November 2014 to April 2015, overnight stays dropped 1.5%. This may not be good news, however such a minimal decrease is not expected to have a severe impact on the region’s tourism industry.

Shopping however had a higher decline, with 26% of shops surveyed by Gstaad Saanenland Tourism reporting a decrease in sales compared to the previous year.

Russian guests, who are a common sight in the Promenade’s high fashion boutiques, dropped by 31% this season.  On the other hand, trips by British tourists increased 11.2%, the equivalent of 1131 extra visitors.  According to the Federal Statistics Office, euro-zone guests, for whom cost here increased 15% due to their weak currency, were particularly absent.  More specifically, Germans were twice as likely to abandon Switzerland holiday plans, to the tune of 14.5%.

Despite last winter's minimal decline in tourism, the Saanenland is at the mercy of the strong franc. Local hotels and services must hope that the beauty and charm of the Swiss Alps continue to attract tourists no matter the vagaries of the currency markets.

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Polo Celebrates 20th Anniversary in Gstaad


Photo: Polo Club Gstaad, Text: GSTAADLIFE, @PoloGstaad

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Hublot Polo Gold Cup, Gstaad’s beloved polo tournament.  Alongside beach volleyball and tennis, the four-day event makes up the holy trinity of sports events in the Saanenland. 

Held from August 13-16, the tournament will proceed in high fashion with jubilee events including a Swiss-themed special show on Sunday afternoon, just before the final match.  Some of the world’s most elite polo players will be competing this year, namely Olavo Novaes (BRA), Handicap 8.

Other notable programme highlights sure to dazzle the event’s 6000 annual visitors include the traditional Players’ Parade through Gstaad on Friday afternoon. On Saturday and Sunday, the VIP tent will welcome the cooks of the Gstaad Palace Hotel, who will prepare a sumptuous feast for guests.  

With free entry for all, the polo remains an inexpensive solution for family fun. As in years past, a children’s area will be set up on the grounds and host activities such as pony rides and craftwork.






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After Book of Anecdotes, Gstaad Palace Adds Film to its Offering

Palace summer

Photo: Gstaad Palace



Gstaad’s iconic Palace hotel has just released a short film, Jim & Julie, featuring familiar face Stefano Bertalli, who has held the post of concierge for 13 years. 

Jim & Julie was released with the slogan, “What’s your story?” and the Palace hopes to inspire fans to share their memories of the hotel. 

 “The Gstaad Palace is a house full of emotions and stories, which have already filled books and have been passed down over the generations both by our guests and by the owners, the Scherz family", says Director of Sales & Marketing, Melanie Horn, under whose supervision the project was carried out.

The four-minute tale of shy romance was directed by Steve Walker, a Gstaad native now based in Bern, whose Buebe gö z'Tanz garnered national praise.  Staying local, the Palace turned to Stephan Moritz, another Gstaader, for the original score. 

The film may be viewed at Jim & Julie.

What do you think? What do you think? (Comments 0)

Local Notary Launches Referendum Against Lex Weber



A small group in the Pays-d’Enhaut have launched a referendum against Lex Weber, the controversial initiative that was approved by voters in 2012.  Implementation of the law remained unclear until the Swiss Parliament clarified article 75b of Lex Weber in late March 2015.  The new law on secondary homes, which sets limits at 20% of a community’s total lodgings, infringes on equality and fundamental rights, says Philippe Favrod-Coune.  Favrod-Coune, a notary from Châteux-d’Oex, is leading the referendum, and has just two months to secure the necessary 50,000 signatures to bring it to popular vote. 

The Pays-d’Enhaut’s three largest towns of Rossinière, Rougemont, and Château-d’Oex all have secondary home levels of over the 20% cap. Not surprisingly, they also rallied against Lex Weber at the ballot box three years ago, with "no" votes averaging 75%.

For a detailed article on Lex Weber and both its current and future implications in the Saanenland, please see our upcoming August issue.

What do you think? What do you think? (Comments 3)

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History of GstaadLife and the GstaadLife print edition are the English-language sister publications to the German-language Anzeiger von Saanen. The print edition was launched on February 3 2004, with the website first appearing in August 2006. and the GstaadLife print edition have a separate editorial team from the Anzeiger von Saanen, with some articles in GstaadLife publications being translations of items that appeared in the Anzeiger von Saanen. The Anzeiger von Saanen has been printed in Saanen and Gstaad since 1880, and is the leading source of local news coverage for the area known as Saanenland, which includes Gstaad and surrounding areas of the western Bernese Oberland in the Swiss Alps., GstaadLife, and the Anzeiger von Saanen are all publications of Müller Marketing und Druck AG. For additional information about the publications, please contact Müller Marketing und Druck AG at the address below:

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