An Amazing Experience in the Swiss Alps

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It is difficult to put into words the amazing experiences that I have had at Our Chalet. I am a simple Nepali girl and have always been passionate about scouting and guiding. Traveling to Europe was something I had always dreamed of. Now that I am finally living my dream, I am reluctant to wake up.

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How it began?

My journey began with an application, an application to volunteer at ‘Our Chalet’, the first World Centre of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). After a couple of months, I received an email from Our Chalet with news that I had been selected to work as an Our Chalet Assistant for Spring 2018 and there was no boundary for my happiness as my application was accepted.

Swiss Experience

My first ever visit to Switzerland became challenging as I landed at night and had to get into different trains to reach Adelboden. Nepalese people do not have good experiences with trains since there are no railways in Nepal. This was also a little bit worrying as I was traveling alone. Getting into different trains on time and changing platforms with my luggage was not easy, however it was worth it when I finally arrived at Our Chalet. I experienced snowfall for the first time in my life and it was exactly how I imagined it to be- STUPENDOUS! I have had so many wonderful experiences such as building an igloo, making my first snowman, sledding, skiing and snowshoeing which I had never done before in Nepal. I have now travelled to many places in Switzerland and the beauty is just mesmerizing.

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Our Chalet Experience

I am the first staff member from Nepal in this 86 year old establishment. Everyone in Our Chalet (be it guests or the staff) love to find out about Nepal, its culture and scouting there. I have been learning more about WAGGGS and different projects run by WAGGGS during my time here. I have taken the lead in several programs which are conducted for guests. I have been carrying out the role of lead volunteer several times where I manage and allocate tasks for all the volunteers. I really enjoy interacting with guests as there is so much to learn from them. Since most of them are from different corners of the world, it is interesting to know about their guiding stories, memories and about the adventures they have had in their life. My experience at Our Chalet has helped me grow and become more independent, confident and push myself outside my comfort zone.

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Swechchha Bhandari, Our Chalet Assistant Spring 2018

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Mountain Perspectives

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In this post I want to help you have a clearer idea of what the mountains are like here in Adelboden, Switzerland and the different ways you can explore them at Our Chalet when you visit. People from around the world hold different perceptions of mountains depending on what they’re used to, before you come it’s nice to have an idea of the scale of these mountains.

Firstly, if I asked you to draw me a mountain right now, 93 times out of 100 you will draw something that looks like this:

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Spiky and angular.

However that is not always the reality.

The stunning Wildstrubel dominates the skyline over Adelboden. Would you have drawn me a flat mountain like this?

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So, what is a mountain?

The truth is mountains come in all shapes and sizes big and small, flat and pointy, dipped and curved, rocky and grassy, steep and steady – perhaps all at once.

In the UK, a mountain is usually defined as any summit of at least 610 m (or 2000 feet) high, but official definitions vary across the globe.

The highest point you will find in the Netherlands reaches a mighty 322 m (1056 feet) so there are no mountains there. Compare that to the highest point in Nepal which reaches a whopping 8848 m (29,029 feet) and you’ve got a bit of a difference. Therefore, what may seem high to a Dutch Guide may seem like a small bump to a Guide from Nepal.

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Left of the photo: Bunderspitz, lit up in the winter sun, overlooking the Our Chalet grounds

What kind of mountains will you find when you come to Our Chalet?

Well, there certainly is a variety. The highest and longest hike we offer at Our Chalet is to the tip of Bunderspitz to see the sunrise, it’s only possible in summer. Once up there, you stand at 2546 m (8353 feet) above sea level. Since Switzerland is a mountainous landlocked country, you begin the hike not from sea level but from Our Chalet’s front door which is 1353 m (4439 feet) high, meaning that on that hike you climb a height gain of 1193 m (3914 feet) in total. That’s four Eiffel Towers high!! From the top you can see over into our neighbouring valley of Kandersteg and on a good day you can see the Eiger and the Jungfrau, some of Switzerland’s tallest and most famous peaks.
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Above: Sunrise on Bunderspitz in the summer looking west over the Adelboden valley.

Below: The badge you earn for completing this special hike

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This hike is for those who really wish to challenge themselves!

Our winter walks often head across and through the mountainous valley as opposed to walking to the top of the peaks, often with a gondola ride at the end to ensure the high mountain views are still reached at the end of the day. The walk to Engstligenalp is a lovely meandering horizontal hike to the second largest waterfall in Switzerland and is suitable for everyone who is up for walking for two hours.

There are also leisurely walks in the spring tailored to smaller children or those less able to undertake long distances, which allow guests to explore the valley extending behind Our Chalet to the beautiful Bunderfalls that cascade down the Lohner mountains.

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Altitude Chart comparison of Programme Hikes

We have a variety of other hikes throughout the year too which change from season to season to adapt to the annual changing weather conditions. Check out our events page to find the right walks for you.

If you’re really into hiking, perhaps our Walking Week in autumn would be for you.

Whether you’re new to the mountains, or a weathered mountain lover, the peaks of Adelboden will always hold opportunities for you to explore them at your level.

Written by Emma Travers, Winter/Spring Marketing and Communications Intern 

 

European Goose Network – Camp Staff Seminar 2018 in Georgia

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You may have heard that the 14th Goose Network Camp Staff Seminar took place over Easter weekend at the International Scout Centre Rustavi in Georgia. Let’s tell you a little bit more about it!

First, what is the Goose Network?

The Goose Network is an idea that comes from geese flying in a V-formation, with the core of the network being that as geese fly forward they fly together, and together they fly further than if they went alone. As centres we help each other improve.

The range of centres in the Network is stunning, including everything from uninhabited off-the-grid villages in Portugal, to Medieval Bavarian castles and Scandinavian islands. You can go solo or take your troop camping in these marvelous locations.

Check out the full list of centres and countries involved here

So what happened at the seminar?

Once a year, voluntary staff members representing their own European Scout Centre get together to share ideas on activities, methods, and programmes that are run at their centres, opening the possibility of improving the quality of what they do. The seminar also encourages new networks to be formed directly between centres and the young people dedicated to working to develop them.

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The 2018 participants and planning team representing 12 European centres

This year over the course of the seminar sessions included ‘Market of Possibilities’ and ‘My Centre, My Country’, as well as sessions that covered the environmental initiatives that WAGGGS and WOSM promote such as SCENES, Scouts Go Solar, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

A snippet of the sessions that took place

During the seminar we all had a chance to play The Goose Game and afterwards discuss what we think could be changed for future versions of the game. The Goose Game is a game which has been put together by centres in the Network. It is a way for both staff and guests at a centre to learn more about the different centres and the Network and get inspired to travel to others.

All the centres in the Network have the game and you can request to play it at Our Chalet and earn a badge!

Playing the Goose Game

One evening there was a chance to show each other more about our centres and countries. The evening was filled with dances, food, drink, badges, and fun!

‘My Centre, My Country’ sharing workshop

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Watch out for the virtual #CentreOfTheWeek tour we are doing on Facebook every Friday. Scroll through the hashtag, get inspired and see where your next Guiding and Scouting adventure could take place!

Written by Emma Travers Winter/Spring Marketing and Communications Intern

Introduction to Spring Season Blog Entries

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Here are some blog entries from our Spring Programme Intern Leah from the USA. Read some excerpts of her blog below and you can continue to follow her blog here: https://sunshineandsnow339182117.wordpress.com/

The First Week

I’ve been at Our Chalet for almost a week now. Living here and being in the mountains feels so surreal. We’ve had one clear day so far where we could see all the mountains around Adelboden. It is so beautiful with all the snow!

I started my training on World Thinking Day; we hiked to the Woodcarver’s, ate lunch along the creek and spent some time in town before heading back to Our Chalet. The next evening, we had a lovely campfire with our guests. My training is divided between learning how to lead the spring programs, how the program office runs and about Our Chalet. It also involves playing with Skippy (the cat)!

During training, and throughout the entire season, I have days off to explore and relax. So far, I’ve hiked to the frozen Bonderfalles, walked around the magic tree loop and skied behind a nearby chalet. When I am walking and skiing away from the main roads, everything is so quiet and peaceful. On the hike to and from Bonderfalles, all I could hear was the stream trickling over the rocks and the snow crunching beneath my boots. I love being at Our Chalet!

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Main Chalet

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Bonderfalles

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Skiing behind Hari Chalet

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Spring (Team) is here!

The whole spring team has arrived at Our Chalet now! There are 7 volunteers and 3 interns (including myself) in total for the season. We represent 6 countries: USA, UK, Nepal, Malaysia, Canada, and Mexico. There are also long-term staff and short-term volunteers working at the center.

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Spring 2018 Vollies and Interns

Training is in full swing. We have learned a lot of basics about Our Chalet and played some fun team building games. We are also learning all of the different programs we run for the guests. So far, we’ve done the Marta Marmot hike, the Magic Tree hike and Swiss Night. Swiss night involved chocolate fondue, which is always tasty!

The whole spring team had Monday off, so we ventured to Engstligenalp. We hiked to the gondola station and then took the gondola up to the top. It was a pretty warm day with the snow melting in the valley. Once we were up top, it was sunny, cold, and windy. There was more snow than I’ve ever seen before in one place. The views were amazing. It was such an enjoyable hike and we got back just in time for dinner.

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Engstligenalp

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One Month In

It has already been a month since I arrived here. My whole concept of the cold has changed since I have arrived! Winter was never my favourite season but now I love the snow. The temperatures hover just below 32 degrees Fahrenheit here, give or take a few degrees. I always dress for the cold but once I start walking I often don’t even need my winter coat.

Being in the Swiss Alps, I am trying to take advantage of skiing before the snow melts. I haven’t done any big runs yet, but there is a chalet up the road that has an easy ski run behind it. I’m only a beginner, but I had fun teaching two of the other vollies some skiing basics one afternoon.

On one of our days off, a group of us explored Thun. Thun is a bus and a train ride away. In Thun, we walked around the city for an afternoon taking in all of the different sights. The mountains were clear in the distance and the day seemed surprising warm.

More recently, myself and two others spent a night at Kandersteg International Scout Center which is in the next valley over. The first day, we took the gondola up to Lake Oeschinensee where we hiked around and had lunch by the frozen lake. We spent our second day cross-country skiing on the many groomed paths around the village. It was so much fun!

Our Chalet has been really quiet lately since we haven’t had any guests. I have been helping prepare for the programs that will take place during the remainder of the season. The first spring break group arrives in a few days!

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Thun Castle

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Lake Oeschinensee

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Post Snowfall

Leah Simon, Spring Programme Intern 2018

5 Amazing things you have to do around Adelboden in a Winter or Spring season – Morgan (Canada)

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1. Take part in local events. One of my favourite ways to learn about Swiss culture has to have been by taking apart in their local events and celebrations. From Winterlute in December to the Ski World Cup Weekend in January to Chuenis by Night in February, it truly felt as if there was always something I could take part in in Adelboden. It is an amazing way to get to know not only Swiss culture but local culture as no matter the event, you can always feel the energetic pride that people from Adelboden have for their town. If you are lucky enough to attend a Swiss Event, it will truly be a magical and unforgettable experience that you will keep forever!

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Chuenis by Night light show

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Ski World Cup in Adelboden

2. Spend the afternoon biking through Bunderlen and the Adelboden Valley. I was lucky enough to catch a few warm days in mid-January where biking became a great pastime. Exploring the Adelboden area by bike truly showed me things I would have never seen otherwise, which made for some amazing stories when I arrived back at the Chalet. From the awesome trails to the amazing views, I would without a doubt suggest biking in Adelboden whenever you can! There are many places in town to rent bikes and it is truly a great way to spend an afternoon.

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3. Spend the day skiing in the beautiful Swiss Alps. Whether you plan on taking on one of the larger mountains in the Adelboden-Lenk area, or just a small hill around by Our Chalet, skiing is a MUST in Adelboden. Whether or not you have skied before, skiing in Adelboden is unforgettable! Why not have a relaxing day skiing in the beautiful Swiss Alps? You could also spend time with a ski instructor if you choose to learn how to ski from a professional in your time here. Our Chalet also offer ski shuttles so you never need to worry about getting to and from the hills!

 

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4. Visit nearby towns. You don’t need to go too far to find more amazing cities in Switzerland. On the bus, you can reach both Frutigen and Kandersteg, which are both amazing places to spend an afternoon. Frutigen is a great place to wander around and admire the mountains whereas Kandersteg is a great place to get some souvenir shopping done as well as visit WOSM’s Scout Centre, Kandersteg International Scout Centre. Why not tick 1 more Scout Centre off your list? While these towns are great, there are also many other great places to jump off at on your bus ride such as Blausee Lake and one of Europe’s longest suspension bridges which is wedged between Adelboden and Frutigen. There are so many amazing places to see in Switzerland and Adelboden is amazing because you never have to go far to see one!

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5. Spend the day on top of a mountain. There are so many mountains to take a gondola up to in Adelboden that you could truly spend a day on top of any one of them! Whether you enjoy sledging or hiking or even just relaxing in a scenic café, spending your day atop a mountain is a great choice! Most of mountains in our valley have activities on top such as sledding or tubing, as well as some hiking trails with restaurants too. Whether you choose to head up for a great view and a great meal or a day of sledding paired with some hot cocoa, the mountains of Adelboden are right for you!

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Morgan Sibbit, Our Chalet Assistant Winter 2017/2018

 

An Experience of a Lifetime – Hazel (Zimbabwe)

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When I was asked to write a small blog about my experience so far I was stumped. How could I possibly fit all my unbelievable experiences into 500 words? After some thought it came down to this: it’s been a ROLLERCOASTER! The type of ride which you wish would never end even if you get a bit woozy at times. With the twists, the turns and the lows also comes the peaks which make it all worthwhile. With only a few months to go, time is ticking by and I am faced with mixed feeling of wanting to go home and wanting to stay here forever.

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How it began

I was just a simple Zimbabwean girl who lived in the city and who didn’t know much about Europe except from what I had seen in the movies and on TV. I never thought I would experience living in a snowy European country or even imagined I would survive under -5°c in my life. However, I made a special application to volunteer at Our Chalet World Center as the Guest Services Intern and was accepted and that’s how my journey to Switzerland began.

This was going to be my new life for 3 months starting on 5th December 2017. When I arrived at Geneva Airport I could not believe that I had finally made it to Europe. I travelled by train for the first time in my life from Geneva to Our Chalet and on my journey I was thinking of my new life ahead.

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An unbelievable experience

Our Chalet has given me an unbelievable experience that has been life changing in all the right ways.  I was welcomed by snow and to be honest my mind was blown as it is exactly how I imagined it – magical! I got to build my first snowman, wear my first snowshoes and I got to skate on ice which is something I would never get to do in Africa. My winter experience as an Intern has been amazing with new friends and welcoming staff at Our Chalet which in a few months has become more like a family to me.

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The true Our Chalet experience

My experience at Our Chalet has helped me grow as I become more independent, confident and push myself outside of my comfort zone. Leaving my family and friends for Christmas was the hardest part, while the best part has been making new friends and experiencing Christmas in the Swiss Alps in the cosy comfort of the soft wooden Chalet buildings. I also love meeting other volunteers from other countries and instantly bonding with them over our shared experiences.

Hazel C. Zaranyika, Guest Services Intern 2017/2018

My First White Winter – Sally (Australia)

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Snow falls like icing sugar, delicately coating the Alps, trees, ground, houses and every surface it touches. The cool air brushes against my cheeks, filling my soul with warmth as I make my way on a new adventure. The sheer beauty of the Alps enthralls your being in its presence, nestled at the base is where one gets to call home, and my oh my home it has been. Greeted with open arms; generosity and kindness overflowed from within the Chalet. After a bittersweet goodbye to India, a quick adventure in ‘the land of fire and ice’ – Iceland -, I found myself here in Switzerland.

They warned me of the weather, and amidst my prior concerns of drowning in the snow, one cannot fathom a winter without it now.  From ice chipping the paths around the Chalet, to sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, making snow angels and merely sitting in the depths of snow to one of my personal favourites eating snow, I have been provided with so many incredible opportunities and to live through my first white winter has been a sheer dream.

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The first few weeks of the season began with training and what fun this was. We did many different things including hiking, learning about how to maintain the Chalet and the WAGGGS programmes such as Stop the Violence. As the weeks progressed, Christmas rolled round before us and our first event was kick started with Christmas in the Alps. The group, although small, made it a pleasure for us to cater for them. With the taste of our first event, our New Year’s guests came to start their programme, which saw us cater for our biggest group yet! I really enjoy interacting with guests as there is so much to learn from them. Since most of them are from different corners of the earth and all walks of life it’s interesting to converse with each other, hearing their guiding stories and the adventures life has taken them on.

Overall, my experience so far has been life changing, I have grown in ways I didn’t know were possible and my confidence has increased. Living here in a winter wonderland at Our Chalet is an incredible opportunity and working with such a diverse team is a dream… I am already dreading my goodbye.

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Sally Groffman, Winter Volunteer – Our Chalet 2017/2018