The world’s first peak-to-peak suspension bridge opened in 2014 in Switzerland at the Glacier3000 ski area. The 107m long bridge, known as “Peak Walk by Tissot”, has been more than matched by a new suspension bridge in nearby Valais.
The 31km long Europaweg, a hiking trail between Zermatt and Grächen, lies along a route prone to rockfalls. A bridge was built along a section of the route in 2010, crossing the Dorfbach river, but was swept away in a rock avalanche two months later. The determined Swiss went about building a replacement, high enough to avoid the fate of its predecessor. The resulting Charles Kuonen Hängebrücke, or Europe Bridge, opened on 29th July 2017, and is 494 metres long, making it the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. At its highest it is 84 metres above the valley.
The bridge has around 8 tons of cable, and employs a system that prevents it from swinging. It is named after the principal sponsor behinds its construction and is located just east of Randa at map co-ordinates 46° 6′ 6.5″, 7° 48′ 4.7″.
To walk the Europaweg usually takes two days, with an overnight stop in the Europahütte. It is rated T3, i.e. a challenging hike that requires good footwear, orientation skills and some basic Alpine experience (the rating associated with the most difficult hikes is T6). However it is possible to visit the bridge without taking the entire hike by taking the train to Randa – 2 stations from Zermatt – and hiking up from there. It is a steep 650m ascent, and takes around 2 hours each way.
Element ski school was set up in Verbier last season by Emma Cairns and Guy Ordway, two friends who have been teaching skiing in Verbier for over ten years. As well as the usual range of ski school activities, Emma runs a women-only ski camp, with weekend and week-long ski schools for intermediate, advanced and expert skiers. The courses cost SFr 300 (around £250) for a weekend and SFr 700 (£575) for a week – but all courses have a 10% discount if you book this month. Details at elementconcept.com.
Heavenly Publicity issued a press release this month announcing that Ed Leigh, best known as presenter of the BBC’s Ski Sunday TV programme, is to become Verbier‘s winter sports “ambassador”.
Ed has a much broader presence in broadcasting and media than just Ski Sunday, and is expected to extend Verbier’s media presence on Youtube and other digital channels. He has commentated on three Winter Olympics, edited Whitelines Snowboard Magazine and has worked extensively with Red Bull TV, the BBC and Channel 4.
The press release quotes Ed as saying: “Verbier’s central location makes it the perfect touch base in the Swiss Alps for snowboarding, skiing and resort culture. It has a reputation as arguably the best spot in Europe for freeriding and pushing the boundaries of snow sport in the winter months and I’m excited to bring all this together and add a new dimension to the sports on show at the resort through new digital media.”
The Director of Verbier Promotion SA, Pierre-Andre Gremaud, is quoted as saying: “Ed Leigh is a well-known figure in the UK and European winter sports communities and we’re proud to have him working with us. This appointment is exactly indicative of Verbier’s commitment to promoting and raising awareness of the world-class facilities and activities available at the resort across a range of media.”
Frenchman Benjamin Spilthooren, his father and two others were skiing down the Strahlhorn in late May when the world moved for him. Literally. As the video shows he was skiing behind his companions, and fell down a crevasse that opened up below him. Fortunately he seems to have escaped unscathed from his ordeal and did not fall all the way to the bottom. It seems his companions were not aware he was no longer behind them, and it was another party that lowered a rope for him to climb out.
The Strahlhorn is an impressive 4190m high and lies deep in the Valais Alps, south of Saas-Fee and close to the Italian border. It is not lift served, but with its elevation – higher even than the highest lift-served runs above nearby Zermatt – it is popular with late season freeriders.