One only need spend a few moments with our sister publication the Anzeiger von Saanen to know that we are now deep in the off-season. Not that we mind that much - we like it quiet. But with the Palace and the Bellevue closed since September, the Park under renovation since forever and even the Grand Chalet, the Steigenberger and the Alpine Lodge all closed for renovation, there really are very few quality hotels left to visit/stay (the Olden, the Bernerhof, the Ermitage Schönried, and Golfhotel Saanenmöser are notable exceptions). And now the restaurants are taking their breaks as well: Rialto is closed until December 7, the Greg Holt's Restaurant du Vanil is closed for the winter and maybe forever, the Spitzhorn is closed until November 13, the Victoria until November 9, and Arnensee and Chalberhöni are both done for the season. So few places left but with big snow flakes falling as we write, we crank up the fireplace for the first evening of the season and look forward to a white vista in the morning.
The first snow has fallen - time to change to winter tires, and yes that includes drivers of 4x4 vehicles, in particular owners of Greek, Spanish, and British-registered Range Rovers... you have been warned.
Just a few weeks ago the national team of the Ivory Coast trained for the FIFA 2010 World Cup on this field. At the beginning of July it was a pre-season warm-up game between FC Zurich and FC Basel. Now, as yet another end-result of the devastating flooding in Saanen, the field is completely destroyed and the FC Sarina is looking at damage of around SFr 0.5 million.
What a storm! Saturday afternoon July 11 around 16h a huge storm of seemingly apocalyptic proportions struck Saanenland causing serious flooding and damage throughout the region. By far the worst hit was Rüblidorf just above Saanen, where the Chalberhönibach (the normally small river coming down from Chalberhöni) unleashed a wave of destruction, bringing down from the high alps trees, containers, and even a car or two as it paid a visit to many of the homes around the school in Saanen. Anything with a cellar was left awash in a foot of mud, the road to Chalberhöni was washed away in some sections, and the recently completed football field in Saanen was very badly damaged. Thankfully nobody was injured but see the destruction for yourself by clicking here.
No, the picture above is not a joke - yes the date is correct. Good thing the beach volleyball tournament was shifted to a slightly later date compared to previous years...
Ridership was down 12% and revenue was off 10%. Well no wonder considering it rained pretty much every day throughout the holidays. In fact we're surprised it was just 12%: we know more than a few people who didn't even bother to get their skis out this year. And many more who would not have done if they didn't have kids. The picture above was wishfully published on the cover of Tuesday's Anzeiger von Saanen, as if prescient of the snow that has now fallen. Meanwhile back in the accountancy offices of the Bergbahnen Destination Gstaad, unless a lot more snow falls before Feburary, there is only red ink in the forecast. Armon Cantieni, cable car director, said that without artificial snowmaking the numbers would have been a complete zero. He's probably right, but we're not sure he took the time to actually ski on the concrete-hard swathes of ice his machines created: in our view artificial snowmaking simply does not work when it is raining and temperatures are well above 0. What do you think? Was all the artificial snow making investment a waste of money or is it worth it - let us know below.
According to legend there is a treasure hidden at the end of rainbow - well at least now we know why they are digging that honking great hole up at the Alpina... :-)
Photo by Ivan Inäbnit, Schönried
This last winter was one of the best we had in years and while we were all enjoying the slopes and the beauty of it all, Otto Tritten, the operations manager of the maintenance depot for Gemeinde Saanen and his team, were having some mighty long days. This winter has started exceptionally early - for the first time, he and his team had to mobilie on October 30. (We also remember building our first snowman in October and receiving the emails of disbelief having dispatched the photographic evidence to friends around the world.)
This past weekend street conditions were, hmm let's put it mildly - not ideal - and the result was 27 accidents on Sunday February 22 between 8h00 and 16h00. Most of these accidents happened in the Bernese Oberland -- 17 in all -- with five injured in Zweisimmen alone. Unfortunately many cars did not heed the snow chain requirements for certain routes and got stuck. So even though it is getting towards the end of February it is very, very wintery up here so please do not think that because it is spring in your valley (or in your mind) that you can come up unprepared for snow. Here in Gstaad it is the depth of winter.