Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Few Tours Filling Quickly

Just a quick heads up.

The Jubilaum 25th Anniversary Tour is almost full. Please contact us immediately if you're interested in this trip.

and

The Otzi Trek is already sold out.

Please check our Guided Tour Schedule for regular updates.

Cheers!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!



From all of us at Ryder-Walker.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

See Them Now Before They Disappear



The BBC World News published this article on Friday. It just fuels the conversation that we've been having for years.

Swiss glaciers 'in full retreat'


Photo: Hikers walking along the edge of Switzerland's Aletschgletscher during last summer's Secret Swiss Valleys tour. By Porter Teegarden, Copyright Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's the problem?

My friend Mark Saurer shot this photo on the top of the Jungfraujoch.

Think about it.

Only 3 Days Left to Save!


Our Jungfrau Special Offer expires on Monday. Click here to register or to request more information.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You Might Like a Self-Guided Tour



This is part 2 of a 2 part series to help you decide if a guided or self-guided tour might be right for you.

What follows are 10 talking points in favor of a self-guided hiking tour.

You might like a self-guided tour if:

1. Your schedule doesn't allow a guided tour. Some people simply can’t travel during the period that we offer the guided version.

2. You like to design every step of your dream vacation. Self-guided tours resemble Choose your Own Adventure books. We can completely customize any self-guided itinerary. We can make it longer, shorter, simpler, more luxurious, easier, harder, good for kids, great for honeymoons, and more. Our longest self-guided tour is a 54 -day hiking extravaganza from the Italian Tyrol to the French Alps. We can design hiking tours that keep you up high so that you wake up to the sun in remote mountain refuges above tree line. We can build a tour that samples only the finest restaurants and hotels. Just tell us what you’d like. We are also happy to provide easier and harder options for each day. We provide custom tour proposals, and we don’t charge one penny until you decide that you like what we’ve proposed. We’ll keep amending the proposal until you’re satisfied.

3. You’re independent. Guides like to deliver their guests on time, which means that they usually follow a schedule of some sort. You’re on your own schedule when you follow a self-guided tour. This means that you are in complete control, but you’re also completely responsible for your decisions. We still handle all of the hotel accommodations and the logistics specific to each tour, but in the end, you wear the big boots out on the trail.

4. You like adventure. Some people find that self-guided tours offer more adventure, simply because you don’t have someone looking over your shoulder, and you don’t succumb to the social “bubble” that some group experiences can produce.

5. You are comfortable with maps and route finding. We provide four-color topographical maps, most of them scaled at 1:25,000, with the hiking routes outlined. Most tours include a larger-scaled overview map as well. There may be some map differences between tours. Please inquire about your specific tour.

6. You like guidebooks. We include written hike descriptions with every map. They have a bit of a guidebook feel, but better. Example, “Walk out of our hotel and turn left. You’ll see a supermarket on your right hand side. Stop in and buy a few goodies for your picnic lunch. The man’s name behind the counter is Jorg. Ask him for the sausage. Hide the sausage in your friend’s pack and see how long it takes before they notice. Continue past the market and head toward the large fountain straight ahead. You’ll see the hiking trail on the opposite side of the fountain.”

7. You like to hike at your own pace. Guides always encourage their guests to hike at their own speed, but it’s never the same as hiking alone or with your own private group of friends.

8. You just don’t like groups. Hey, that’s fair. Our guides don’t either. ;-)

9. You don’t like to be waited on. That’s fair too.

10. You like to save money. This is usually the deciding factor. Self-guided trips typically cost less than their guided counterparts. Consider the Italian Dolomites Trek for example. The self-guided version costs $1,085 less than the guided version in double occupancy. That’s almost $2200 saved between two people. The cost benefit might enable you to buy another plane ticket and go on another tour. You could also use the savings to add more nights to your existing tour. Think of the fun.

Click here to start designing the custom tour of your dreams.

Or, see part 1 of this series, You Might Like a Guided Tour If: in order to compare with a guided tour.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Might Like a Guided Tour


This is part 1 of 2 in a series to help you decide if a guided or self-guided tour might be right for you.

What follows are 10 talking points in favor of a guided hiking tour.

You might like a guided tour if:

1. We don’t offer the self-guided version of a specific tour. We don't offer every tour as a self-guided option, and some of the self-guided tours differ slightly from the guided versions. A few of the remote guided tours turn into backpacking trips, for example, when offered as a self-guided option. See the section about luggage below.

2. You value your time. Guides take care of everything. This does not mean that they dote on their guests. It means that our guests have more time to focus on the enjoyment of their vacation rather than worrying about logistics. Guides strive to deliver you on time and they make sure that you have everything that you need to be happy, including quiet time.

3. You enjoy flexibility. Guides know the terrain, which means that they can amend an itinerary on demand. Was yesterday’s hike too easy? They’ll recommend a more strenuous option. Would you like to head in early? The guides know all the shortcuts. Do you need a rest day from hiking? They can recommend a fun alternative. Even if you’re comfortable reading maps, you might not always pick the most scenic or time efficient alternative if you try to amend your self-guided itinerary. Our guides know the best options from decades spent exploring the alpine regions.

4. You enjoy meeting new people. Guided group tours are great for this. A number of our guests have formed life long friendships with their group members. We even know of a few romantic forays.

5. You like to have your luggage. Some guided tours use different transportation options than the self-guided tours. The Tour du Mont Blanc is a perfect example. The guided version uses a van to transport luggage but the self-guided tour does not because it’s not cost effective. Therefore, guided TMB travelers see their overnight luggage more often then their self-guided counterparts. Please inquire about your specific tour.

6. You like to learn as much as possible. Our Guides are knowledgeable about the terrain. In some cases, they’re specialists in their chosen region of study. They can tell you about the geography and geology, the culture, and history. Each guide has their strength, and if there’s something that they might not know, they’ll know where to find the answer quickly. If you like to know the name of every peak then a guided tour is for you.

7. You like your vacation to run smoothly. Things happen. If something goes awry, then your guide will address the situation as expeditiously as possible. It helps that your guide can communicate in the local language, whether the language is French, German, Italian or isolated mountain hamlet. (Some remote hamlets really do have their own distinct languages and dialects). Our guides have also run these tours so many times that they know how to avoid potential pitfalls. Long hikes are a great example. A hike might look reasonable on a map, but the reality presents something entirely different on the trail. The guides know when to get the group going in order to have everyone in by dinner. In addition, they can call a taxi, pull up rail schedules, and arrange for private transport on demand in order to keep the tour running as smoothly as possible.

8. You don’t like to get lost. Enough said.

9. You like to have fun. It’s true that guided tours typically cost a little more than self-guided ones. One reason is that our guides like to treat our guests. We don’t mind surprising our guests with local delicacies or fun hiking alternatives if it means that our guests leave the tour with a deeper appreciation for the culture and landscape that surrounds them. Guided participants laugh every night and the hotel proprietors usually join in the amusement that comes from the camaraderie of a group. Guided tours are just good fun.

10. You fantasize about hiring a guide. What is it about a foreign accent that drives people wild? We use a mix of U.S. and European guides and the combination works well. The U.S. guides offer a level of comfort for our English-speaking guests, and the European guides offer the mystery and romance that movies are made of. The reverse happens with our European guests. Kidding aside. Our guides are just wonderful people to spend time with.


Please see part 2 of this series, You Might Like a Self-Guided Tour If: in order to compare with a self-guided tour.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Path Leads to Another


This week's photo comes from Ryder-Walker Tour Leader, Porter Teegarden. She shot this photo during last summer's Italian Dolomites Trek.

Myriad interpretations filled my thoughts as I stared at this photo. I thought about all of the beautiful places that our hiking boots may carry us. I pondered the growth that we discover within ourselves when we experience new landscapes and cultures. I entertained the thought that despite fresh journeys in life, the indelible marks of past adventures stay written deep within. The composite experiences of former journeys render the life giving nourishment that inspires the blooming of the soul.

Our journeys never really end. Just like summer's bounty prepares us for the leaner times of winter, so does winter offer a time of preparation for trails yet unexplored. The end of one path in life simply leads to another of immeasurable beauty.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Holiday Gift Ideas


Gift giving does not have to be difficult. Here are just a few ideas for the person that loves hiking and the Alps.

Happy Holidays!


Ryder-Walker Gift Certificate-This one should be obvious. Help that friend or relative realize their dream of hiking in the Alps. Send them on a hiking tour in Europe, or in the States. Please call the office for more details.

The Fondue Set-An all time favorite. Ceramic is the traditional material for cheese. The metal versions work better for oil and meat fondues.

Raclette Oven-You’re missing something if you’ve never had raclette. Like fondue, this is a great party favorite, but unlike fondue, each person melts their own cheese. Raclette can be an intimate affair or a solo appetizer. We always fire one up during the Ryder-Walker Christmas parties.

Crepe pan-I’ve loved crepes since I was a child. The Staub pans are my favorite, though they tend to be the priciest. The spreader is the key to a good crepe.

Grolla
-This is a tradition unique to the Val d’Aosta of northern Italy. If you’ve ever traveled with us on our Tour du Mont Blanc or Italian High Route, then you’re probably familiar with this little friendship cup. This is another crowd pleaser.

Grappa-If you buy a grolla then you’ll need grappa. Support your local economy and visit your neighborhood wine store.

Schneider Weiss-I would be a happy camper if I found a few bottles of this beer in my stocking. Schneider Weiss almost single handedly revived the wheat beer tradition from obscurity. They call themselves Das Original for good reason.

Trekking Poles-EVERY Alpine hiker should have a pair of these.

Hiking Socks-I can never have enough of these. Feel free to poke around other products at the Smart Wool website. They’re pricey, but they’re worth it.

Compass
-We recommend that every self-guided traveler carry a compass. This is a great stocking stuffer.

GPS-These have really come into their own. I always carry a compass for backup, but I enjoy playing with new technology. This is a great gift for a gadget freak-gear head.

Headlamp-You’ll enjoy this handy source of illumination while trying to find the bathroom in a mountain hut during the middle of the night.

Yodeling Pickle-Enough said.

Henry the Talking Gnome-This is another great stocking stuffer. Just push the secret spot and record your greeting. You’ll enjoy laughter the whole day through.

Gnomes-I’ll admit that I used to be a gnome doubter. Travel to the Alps enough times however, and they start to find their way into your heart.

Sigg Bottles
-Blend in with the locals when traveling abroad. These things have become really trendy in recent years. Always BPA free.

Toblerone
-A classic. Poke around their website for some interesting trivia.

The Swiss Army Knife
-It has to be Victorinox. This was my first knife and it was a turning point in my life. It’s a rite of passage for every young boy. You might want to buy a box of band-aids as well.

Living Language-These guys have everything from basic phrase books to in-depth courses. You can download to your i Pod or listen to CDs. The Ultimate series rivals some school courses.

Bilingual Visual Dictionary-These books are awesome. I have a couple that I keep around for reference. They use real-life photos so there’s no doubt about the translation. They cover everything from food to the environment.

Plant a Tree-It's no secret that a flight to Europe will enlarge your carbon footprint many, many times. Sequester some of that carbon, and offset a few of the effects, by planting trees.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Photo of the week: A different kind of cabin fever.

This week's photo comes from one of our Head Tour Guides, Ken Fuhrer. It seems appropriate, as the new snow begins to fall and many of us turn our thoughts toward skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, crackling fires, hot chocolate, fondue, and more. Our local newspaper, the Daily Planet, recently interviewed a few people around town. One person commented about the recent snowfall, "There is something in snow that makes people really happy. I'm really excited about all the good energy in town."

For myself, I feel like I have more energy when it snows than when it’s sunny. Take this morning for example. I popped out of bed at 6:50. I quickly lit a fire in the woodstove. I was out in the snow by 7:15. Some people think of winter as a time to hibernate and develop cabin fever. I’m proud to admit that I have a different kind of cabin fever. It's called a burning desire to get on snow.

Examine this week’s image carefully, and pay particular attention to the three lone skiers in the middle of the photo.(You can click on it to make it bigger). That’s the sort of thing that we do in Europe with our sister company Alpenglow Ski Safaris. It’s a little known fact that many people in Europe prefer to ski on groomed runs, yet 80% of their terrain lies off piste. The result: A private powdery playground for anyone willing to explore. The best part is that you don’t have to be an expert skier or snowboarder to enjoy it. You’ll find plenty of terrain for all abilities. To add a bit of icing on the cake, a warm glass of glühwein awaits at the bottom of every run. I know that I’m plugging, but I have to. The energy that we feel during this time of year is explosive, and it’s just too difficult to ignore.

Wherever you are, I hope that you welcome the coming snows as much as we do. And for those of you that don’t get snow, maybe you should come out and visit us sometime. We’ll keep a fire in the woodstove for you. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A recipe for choosing a hiking destination in the Alps.

A few years ago, Karen Walker, Vice President of Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures, wrote that choosing an alpine hiking tour was a bit like choosing from a dessert cart: Everything looks wonderful! She added that in Switzerland alone, “There are more villages worthy of hiking than there are coals in proverbial Newcastle." Some are good for a day or two, while others merit weeks of exploration.

Throw Italy, Austria, and France into the mix, and the dessert cart quickly resembles a giant smorgasbord. For those of us that can’t always go back for a second helping of vacation, there’s a bit of pressure to get it right the first time. What follows are the preliminary steps for choosing a hiking destination in the Alps.

Step 1. Shut down the computer and grab a piece of paper. Set the paper aside because you’ll need it later.

Step 2. Close your eyes, and imagine yourself hiking through Europe. Include all of your senses. What would you like to see, smell, do, taste, hear and feel? Think about the buttery aroma of warm, sweet croissants gently wafting through a tranquil alpine village, while the sound of a lone church bell tolls far in the distance. Imagine the cool mountain air, and the feel of your feet on of a soft forest floor as you leave the village and hike toward tall, glaciated peaks bathed in the first rays of morning sun. Every person holds a unique picture and a dream of their perfect vacation. What’s yours? Escape, if only for a moment.

Step 3. Grab your piece of paper and write down everything that you experienced. Don’t just write what you saw, but also include what you felt, what you heard, what you tasted and what you smelled. OK. This might feel like Creative Writing Exercise 101, but I find that it really helps. Research has shown that you are more likely to make something happen if you write it down first. Some people call this the power of intention. Do you really want to go to the Alps? If the answer is yes, then it's worth a shot. If you have trouble, then download our independent tour questionnaire. It might help to get your creative juices flowing.

Step 4. Repeat Steps 1, 2 and 3 as often as you like. You might find that your first list of imaginings gave you fodder for things that you didn't think about originally. This a great escape from reality.

Step 5. Make your temporary escape BECOME reality. Switch on the computer and start browsing our tours. Don’t make any decisions yet. Just have fun. Let the photos and written descriptions carry you away. Research the words and phrases that you don’t understand, words like Gemütlichkeit, Südtirol and Glüwein. This is a great opportunity to learn about another corner of the world. What is the Dom, and can I have it for dessert? Compare your findings to your list from Step 3.

Step 6. Call or email us. This is very important for two main reasons.
  • A. Each person is unique. Some people think about food, and that’s all they think about. Others like culture and history. A prospective guest once told me that words like roman, stone, olives, and togas, "really got him excited." I quickly deduced that he was not a candidate for a hike through the Berner Oberland. He ended up loving the stone houses and Roman architecture of the Engadine, though he discovered that few people wear togas there anymore. In short, writing a tour description that appeals to everybody’s perspective is a bit like a crapshoot, and we only have so much space. We could literally write multiple web pages for each tour, each page written from a particular point of view. A real conversation will allow us to discuss the things that matter to you, and to you only.
  • B. We’ve been talking about this stuff for decades and we can’t stop. We’re addicted and we need you to satisfy our addiction. The Alps are just too much fun, and a good conversation regarding some far off mountain region gives us the opportunity to enjoy our own little Step 2 over and over again. Even better, we get to share all of the wonderful experiences that we’ve had with you. What can I say? We’re Peter Pans.
Step 7. Revisit any of these steps as often as needed. If nothing else, you might discover something that you hadn’t thought about before. Perhaps you need a way to get more helpings of vacation.

A few of our upcoming topics:
A peek at the alpine regions.
Guided or Self-Guided: That IS the question.
Can I hike with my children?
How do I sign up?
Should I buy Travel Insurance?
An Introduction to the alpine lexicon.
Understanding European public transport.
How do the railpasses work?
What do to in case of an Emergency?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Special Offer: Book our Self-Guided Custom Jungfrau Ramble before December 21st and Save!


The Jungfrau region of central Switzerland exemplifies everything that we’ve come to know as wonderful and characteristically Swiss. From enormous glaciated peaks glistening in the morning sun, to the fabled Swiss chalets and their flower boxes overflowing with freshly watered geraniums, the visual treats of this unique corner of Switzerland offer a vivid reminder that fairy tales really do exist.

In an effort to help more people experience their own personal fairytale, we’re offering a custom self-guided exploration of the Jungfrau region at an affordable price. Here’s what the tour includes:

  • Six nights accommodations at simple country B&B’s. Breakfast included. You'll have the option to begin the tour in either Meringen or Wilderswil. You'll visit the memorable villages and hamlets of Grindelwald, Wengen, Trachsellaunen, and Murren.
  • Two nights dinner. You’ll have the flexibility to go out on the town during 4 other nights.
  • Custom route descriptions tailored to your specific hiking style.
  • Four-color topographical maps, with highlighted hiking routes leading through flower-filled meadows, quiet Swiss hamlets, and across alpine passes that skirt some of the most notable, and spectacular, mountain peaks in the Alps.
  • Travel instructions.
  • Luggage instructions as needed.
  • Cultural information and more.

This tour is available from Mid June to Mid September 2009.

The cost for this 6 night/7 day itinerary is $1100 per person double. We’re taking advantage of the current strength of the U.S. Dollar, therefore, we can only offer this special price until December 21, 2008.

Please contact Ryder-Walker to take advantage of this special offer, or to request your own custom proposal. (No cost or obligation required).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods.

....to Grandmother's house we go. Dunton honors warm fires, home cooked meals, and the fellowship of good friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where do we go from here?

In some ways, this week's photo represents a question that seems all too common in the public mind these days. "Where we do we go from here?"

For some, the question appears all too prevalent in the daily news. From government and big corporations, to small town businesses, the dreaded question looms like a black cloud. It can be depressing, but it doesn't have to be. There is always a mountain in the background, and it offers an escape hatch to infinite possibilities.

Where do we go from here? How about a sunny mountain ramble through Lombardy, on our self-guided Italian Lakes District: Como to Bellagio? How about a hot apfel strudel on the terrace of a cozy lakeside hotel on our new Heart of Austria Tour? What about dinner at one of the finest mountain restaurants in the Alps? You'd get it on our celebratory Jubilaum 25th Anniversary Tour. Looking for something less expensive? We have a few self-guided trips that would fit the bill.

I'll be writing about the essentials of choosing the perfect tour during the coming weeks. We'll talk about everything from deciding where to go, to booking a private wine tasting on the cheap, so please stay tuned.

Where do we go from here? A fork in the road is fortuitous, because the experience offers not one trail head, but many. And all the while a majestic mountain peak calls from the distance, presenting an open invitation to boundless adventure and opportunity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ryder-Walker Celebrates 25 Years!

Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures will celebrate its 25th Anniversary during the 2009-hiking season.

The Telluride, CO based company will honor its 25th Anniversary with three new hiking trips for 2009. The Heart of Austria, available as guided and self-guided options, will explore the magical mountains and lakes that characterize the Salzkammergut region of central Austria. The self-guided Italian Lakes District: Como to Bellagio, offers a taste of Italian paradise in a land known for great food, inspiring culture, and spectacular hiking.

Finally, Jubilaum, the flagship of the new tours and a special 25th Anniversary celebration, revisits the Swiss mountains and valleys that inspired Ryder-Walker’s inception. Peter Walker will guide the tour, offering guests an exclusive opportunity to hike with the company’s Founder and President.

According to Walker, “Our special "Jubilee" trip, designed by Tour Leaders Daniel Sundqvist and Ken Fuhrer, will explore three of our most cherished mountain retreats, Zermatt, Saas Fee and Kandersteg.” He added, “To put the icing on the 25th Anniversary cake, we chose truly exceptional accommodations in each of the three villages. These are our favorite kitchens and hostelries in the Alps.”

Ryder-Walker guests have hiked thousands of miles since the company’s founding in 1984, and many of them pride themselves on their first-hand knowledge of mountain retreats. They’ve hiked the Alps of Europe, explored the mountains and deserts of North America, and they’ve even ventured as far as Japan.

“If we laid out every foot hiked since our company’s inception, then Ryder-Walker guests have hiked to the moon and back,” said Walker. If we added vertical feet hiked, then Ryder-Walker guests hiked the equivalent of base camp to the summit of Everest 114,118 times.”

He added, “It has been an incredibly varied and dynamic quarter of a century. We wouldn't trade one moment for anything.”

Please contact Ryder-Walker for more detailed information regarding our new celebratory tours. Drop us an email: adventure@ryderwalker.com or give us a call: 888.586.8365. Outside of the U.S. dial: 001.970.728.6481

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fact or Fiction?

I had the opportunity to guide our Secret Swiss Valleys tour with a private group in September. On the way to Leukerbad I took a detour through Zermatt and shot this photo.

A number of our group members later insisted that I never actually took this photo. The doubters claim that it's simply too perfect, like something from a Zermatt tourism magazine. In fact, I took a vote one evening, and almost half of the group insisted that I somehow loaded this photo into my camera from an external source.

You decide.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Photo of the Week: Sign of the Times?

Here's to a clean election, a new start, and to the hope that we're not heading to (the) Schitter.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

From the Ryder-Walker Staff.
Photo taken in Blatten (Lötschental)-Secret Swiss Valleys

Monday, October 27, 2008

Photo of the Week: Attending a sunrise Mass (of ice).

Welcome to the first installment of "Photo of the Week." I have so many photos that I could actually upload a photo each day. Maybe I will. We have some other special features coming up for this fall, so we'll stick with this for now.

I shot this photo along the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Aletsch glacier is 24 km long (approximately 15 miles), and around 1.6 km wide (1 mile), making the total surface area around 66 square miles. Other reputable sources may differ on the exact length and width of the glacier, I've seen variants of one or two km for length, but they all agree that the Aletschgletscher is the largest glacier in Western Europe. They also agree that it's melting.

In August 2007, Greenpeace directed a photo shoot that enlisted 600 volunteers to get completely nude and lay down on the ice. Greenpeace said the aim of the shoot was to “establish a symbolic relationship between the vulnerability of the melting glacier and the human body”. Greenpeace added that the Aletsch ice mass retreated by 115m in two years alone.

I didn't get nude, but I did get up early for this shot. There's something special about hiking by yourself along a giant piece of ice at sunrise. The air feels comfortably still. It's almost as if the mass of ice is so large that its own gravity quiets the surrounding environment. A tumbling rock and a falling piece of ice occasionally break the silence, but the stillness quickly returns.

This is a popular stop on our Secret Swiss Valleys Tour.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's that time of year again!

We're putting the finishing touches on next year's catalog and we have a new website coming on line. We also have a few exciting surprises for next season so please stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It's official.

Fall is here and Telluride looks spectacular in her autumn robe.

I shot this photo last week during the conclusion of the Telluride Trek. We try to time this tour with the peak of the autumn foliage. It looks like we nailed it!

Monday, October 06, 2008

2009 Schedule Changes.

I'd like to mention a few 2009 schedule changes. Most notably, we will not run two Secret Swiss Valleys Tours next year. We replaced the first Secret Swiss Valleys trip, July 13-20, with a new exploration in Austria. We've always been big fans of Austria so we're extremely excited about this change.

Additionally, the Secret Swiss Valleys Tour that we ARE running from August 19-26, 2009, just sold out. If you had your mind set on this tour then please contact us. We'll try to find an appropriate solution.

Please contact Ryder-Walker with any questions regarding these tours. This is also the best time to schedule private tours for 2009. Please drop us an email or give us a call, 888-586-8365 or 970.728.6481.

You can also visit our web page for more specific information regarding these tours.

Cheers!

2009 Ryder-Walker Schedule

European Tours

Italian Dolomites Trek: June 15-22, 2009

Cortina & the Lakes of the Dolomites: June 24-30, 2009

Tour du Mont Blanc: July 3-12, 2009

The Heart of Austria-NEW!: July 13-20, 2009

Golden Pass Route: July 24-30, 2009

Engadine Trek: July 24-31, 2009

Eiger Trail: August 1-9, 2009

Engadine Summit Series: August 11-18, 2009

Jungfrau Ramble: August 11-18,2009

Secret Swiss Valleys: August 19-26, 2009

Hiker's Haute Route: August 19-28, 2009

Jubilaum 25th Anniversary Tour-NEW!: August 28-September 5, 2009

Otzi Trek: September 9-September 16, 2009

Appenzell Hut Hop: September 17-22, 2009


U.S. Tours

Red Rock Country: May 4-12, 2009

Telluride Trek I: September 11-19, 2009

Telluride Trek II: September 22-30, 2009

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Re-entry


I've been in Switzerland for the last few weeks, and just returned during the weekend. I had a the pleasure to guide a private group of absolutely delightful individuals through the region of the Secret Swiss Valleys. Following my reentry though, I'm feeling a bit reflective. I don't mean to say that light readily bounces from my skin, but rather that I'm enjoying the memories that bubble forth following a period of quiet, contemplative reflection. I call it my post-adventure blues, since I tend to feel a bit out of sorts each time I reenter civilization. I start looking at old photos, reading old journal entries, and generally reminiscing about the past adventure. On the one hand, I'm happy to be home. On the other, I can't help but remember how relaxing life can be out on the trail.

Hiking the alps doesn't exactly qualify as a remote wilderness experience detached from civilization. In fact, the experience often proves quite the contrary. The lifestyle is still different though, and only a person who spends quality time on the trail can truly understand it. Get up with the sun. Eat. Hike. Sleep. Do it again. The life feels blissfully carefree and uncomplicated. Alas, that's why we call it vacation, so that we can vacate the frenetic framework that we erected for ourselves, and reconnect with a much simpler existence. I'm happy to admit that some of us found a way, though meager at times, to earn a living from it.

If I've learned anything during the past few decades of wandering this planet, it's that life lessons learned on the trail apply at base camp too. Just zip up, secure the loose ends and proceed with confidence. You'll get through it, just like I'll get through my bout of post-adventure blues. Keep moving forward.

In the effort of moving forward, I'd like to make a few announcements.

First, thank you to everyone who joined us this season. We still have a few people on the trail until the end of October. The season is by no means over, but the end is in sight.

Second, next season marks Ryder-Walker's 25th anniversary. We have a number of celebratory events in store so please stay tuned. Don't forget to check out the new 2009 schedule. We'll publish the new prices shortly.

Finally, we're looking for great photos for the new 2009 catalog, so please send us all you've got. This is your chance to star in the new Ryder-Walker catalog.

As always, please contact us if you have any questions or comments. We'd love to hear from you.



Burghütte Nights.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

2009 Season Dates: Sneak Preview

We're certainly not finished with this year's hiking season, but here's a quick look at the 2009 schedule.

European Tours


Italian Dolomites Trek: June 15-22, 2009

Cortina & the Lakes of the Dolomites: June 24-30, 2009

Tour du Mont Blanc: July 3-12, 2009

The Heart of Austria-NEW! : July 13-20, 2009

Frida's Birthday: July 23, 2009

Golden Pass Route: July 24-30, 2009

Engadine Trek: July 24-31, 2009

Eiger Trail: August 1-9, 2009

Engadine Summit Series: August 11-18, 2009

Jungfrau Ramble: August 11-18,2009

Secret Swiss Valleys II: August 19-26, 2009

Hiker's Haute Route: August 19-28, 2009

Jubilaum 25th Anniverary Tour-NEW!: August 28-September 5, 2009

Otzi Trek: September 9-September 16, 2009

Appenzell Hut Hop: September 17-22, 2009


U.S. Tours

Red Rock Country: May 4-12, 2009

Telluride Trek I: September 11-19, 2009

Telluride Trek II: September 22-30, 2009



Please contact Ryder-Walker with any questions regarding these tours. This is also the best time to schedule private tours for 2009. Please drop us an email or give us a call, 888-586-8365 or 970.728.6481.

You can also visit our web page for more specific information regarding these tours.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In the news.


We have a number of important news items to share this morning.

First, Mr. Walker kindly mentioned that I made a mistake in my recent post. I wrote about a hotel in Switzerland that charges 50 Swiss francs per room, or about $55 U.S. Actually, 50 Swiss Francs costs around $45.50 U.S, or ten Dollars less. I knew this, and I blame my mistake on the excessive amounts of Fontina cheese and Belgian ale that I consumed the night before. I was simply thinking about the Dollar's poor performance against the Euro, and I forgot to change the math for the Swiss Franc. Thank you Peter, for reminding us that Switzerland is an even better bargain when I'm not writing about it.

Second, if you're thinking about organizing a private tour for 2009, then now is the time to call the office. We regularly tailor our calendar and schedule our guides around client requests. If you contact us now, then we'll have plenty of opportunity to guarantee guide availability for your private tour. Call now to reserve your spot.

This brings me to the third news item.

The 2009 schedule is now available. Keep in mind that it's not entirely set in stone, but it's pretty darn close. We're still working on the prices for next year so we'll continue to charge the 2008 prices until September 30th. This also offers a little incentive to book early and to save a little cash for things like Fontina cheese and Belgian Ale. Please call the office to ask about the new schedule. I'll also post the sneak peak online shortly.

Finally, the Italian High Route departs today. It's around 9:00 A.M. in the Rocky Mountains as write this entry, which means that it's 5:00 P.M. in Italy. In two hours, Ken Fuhrer and Mike Thurk will greet our eager travelers with cocktails and a brief orientation before settling down for a cozy little Italian dinner in the heart of Cormayeur, Italy. Tomorrow they'll feast on warm foccia bread topped with luscious olive oil, sweet basil and succulent tomatoes . I'm drooling on the keyboard.

Looking back, I remember that it rained all evening when Daniel and I started the High Route last year, but we welcomed every drop. There's something special about the sound of raindrops falling gently on Italian cobblestone that always makes a dinner atmosphere feel cozy and warm.

Let's wish our friends the best of luck as they venture off the beaten path to explore the Valle D'Aosta of northern Italy, to hike beneath the mighty Matterhorn, and to cross into Switzerland beneath the shadows of the mighty alps that lie beyond. Bonne journée et bonne chance!

Photo: Very typical stone architecture of the Valle D'Aosta-shot in St.Rhemy, Italy. Copyright Ryder-Walker.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Don't lie awake wondering.


The New York Times recently mentioned something that we in the travel industry continually talk about. Switzerland is still a great buy when compared with the U.S. Dollar's unfavorable exchange rate in other Euro-based countries. The Swiss Franc and the U.S. Dollar are basically equal at the moment and they've been holding that position all summer.

As an example, I recently searched for a clean little one star hotel in the Valais region of Switzerland, and I found one for 50 swiss francs per night including breakfast. That's 55 bucks U.S! I paid that same amount two years ago at a run down big box chain hotel here in the States, and I didn't even get breakfast or good sleep. And the worst part? I just sat awake in bed thinking about all of the quiet little berghauses that pepper the Alps with charm and don't cost a quarter of the price. Sure, some of them are hard to get to, and I could have just as easily camped out here in the States, (I should have), but here's my point.

If you're going to spend money on a hotel room, regardless of whether it's 50 bucks or $250, then you might as well do it in a place with Roman baths, World Heritage Sites, chocolate, cheese, yodeling, tinkling bells, accents that make you feel like you're a foreign special agent on a secret mission,....well, you get the picture. Don't lie awake wondering what could have been.

Check out this recent New York Times mention of our Appenzell tour. Or this one from the Boston Globe.

Incidentally, we still have space on our Appenzell tour, but the slots are going fast.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

From our Guests:

Greetings from New Jersey!

We just completed the Secret Swiss Valleys trip and thought you might like to see the photo of Kenny on the newly completed hanging bridge. He was like a kid in a candy shop with excitement.

The trip was fabulous in every detail. As always, Kenny was a knowledgeable and professional guide. Porter was also excellent. Both of them were particularly kind to our friends the Snyders, and we are most appreciative.

Thank you for another memorable vacation in the Alps. We look forward to joining you for a "Jubilee" trip next summer.

Blythe and Ray Fortin-

Friday, August 08, 2008

Make the Cavemen Jealous.


It will happen one day.

On a quiet morning, halfway through your vacation, you’ll wake up to the soft pattering sound of raindrops falling outside your window. You’ll turn over, smile, and slowly fall back to sleep before a revelation hits you. “It’s raining, and I have a six, to eight hour hike ahead of me today.”

It’s inevitable. It WILL rain. It simply must rain in order to preserve the beauty and natural order of the mountains that we love. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. With a little advance preparation, you’ll learn to welcome regular precipitation. You might even ask for it by name.

One of your greatest assets on a long hiking tour, aside from quality rain gear, is a good dry bag for your pack. There’s something intrinsically satisfying that comes from the knowledge that your gear sits properly stowed, protected and dry during a storm. I like to think that such comfort stems from a connection with much older, primeval memories buried deep within our psyche. I often wonder what coziness our Neolithic ancestors felt when they lit their first fire, huddled deep inside their caves, and braved the long, slow advance of the ice days.

I use the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Pack. They come in a variety of sizes so pick the one that works best for you. You basically want it to line the interior of your bag. I use the 20-liter version inside of my compressible 50-liter pack and it works well. Remember that rain gear doesn’t need to go inside the dry pack during the day. Keep your rain gear in a place where it’s easy accessible in case a sudden storm blows in.

The best thing about these bags is that they’re extremely light, they’re durable, they have a nice watertight closure system, and they’re relatively inexpensive. I can tell that I’ll have mine for a long time, barring any unexpected theft or loss. You could get away with using a garbage bag, but why bother? Do yourself a favor, and line your pack with one of these bags.

You might even find yourself connecting with the primordial stirrings of mankind, and the very roots of all that has gone before.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Happy Birthday Switzerland!

August 1 is the Swiss National Day.



Go do something fun this weekend!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Decent Proposal!

Few things compare to popping the top off a favorite Swiss beverage in the heart of the region that brewed it. (Notice the label on this Appenzeller beer and compare it to the background).

But one of our recent clients took things a step further. Not only did he pop the top, but he popped the Big Question as well.

We would like to extend our congratulatory remarks to Brian Jensen and Marie Malinowski who recently engaged to be married in the one of the most beautiful and undiscovered corners of Switzerland, Appenzell. Nice choice Brian!

Here's some rock.



This is a shot of the happy couple right after Brian proposed.



Brian picked the Schäfler hut to propose, but I would bet money that he could have popped the question anywhere in Appenzell and Marie would have said yes.

Here's a hint to all the potential fiancés out there. Switzerland, chocolate, beautiful mountains, alpine flowers, wine, cheese. Why not set yourself up for success?

We also enjoyed our own success. Marie sent us a note following their tour and said this about their experience. "This is by far the best vacation of hiking/climbing we've ever done! All went great and your maps were fabulous. Thanks for arranging everything."


I can't help but wonder though. Did Marie's agreement to marry Brian lead to the beer, or was it the other way around? ;)

Congrats to the both of you.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Check out my new wheels!

Don't I look stylish?

Ok, that's not really me, but I kind of wish that it was. Look at that suit! The car really isn't even mine either, though this great vintage ad DOES shows what my first set of wheels looked like. The picture shows a 1975 Ford Granada. Mine was a 1977. It had an inline 6 cylinder engine, a bench seat in the front, and a whole lotta lovin' in the rear. The floor of the trunk rusted so badly that the main body of the car actually collapsed around the frame. The result, one heck of a sag and water bed like gyrations for any passengers riding in the rear. Add a 15 inch subwoofer to the gyrations and, well, you get the picture. I was the designated driver on many summer nights. Anyway, my old car looked just like this one. (Just lower the rear bumper by about 10 inches)

In our society, acquiring a new set of wheels means a rite of passage. It represents a dividing line between confinement and freedom. Wheels give us wind in our hair. They give us mobility and they carry us to new adventures. So imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to test drive my new set of wheels, the Red Roller Alpine Adventures Duffle from L.L. Bean.

I know that you're thinking. How did we go from the Granada, a symbol of man's innovative engineering and sleek design, to roller luggage? Just bear with me please. For years, my standard packing combination for Europe has been one backpack and one duffle bag. I typically pack everything that I need for the trail in the back pack and then carry it on the plane. Everything else that I can't carry, or could do without if the airline lost my bag, like trekking poles, pocket knife and fancy clothes, go in the duffle as checked baggage. It works like a charm, except that my arm and shoulder pay the price when I have long distances to cover by foot. This was my old combination-one backpack and one duffel without wheels.


But not anymore! I recently had the opportunity to try my new combo. I still have the backpack, but now I just pop open the handle and roll baby roll. I never imagined that roller luggage could feel so good!


Just look at those beefy tires on the bottom of the bag. The bottom is also bombproof.


I have the large version, but L.L. Bean makes a smaller bag, (the medium), that qualifies as a carry-on. I would love to travel with just one bag, but as a guide, I need extra space for guide-like things.

If you're in the market for a new set of wheels, then check out the Roller Alpine Adventures Duffle from L.L. Bean. Beware though, your friends might make you the designated driver.

Visit llbean.com for more info.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Today's low Airfares to the Alps.

This is one of the best times to grab airfare to Europe.

Check out just a few of today's fares to the Alps.

Houston to Munich, Germany-$854 Round Trip.
Chicago to Milan, Italy-$656 Round Trip.
Philadelphia, PA to Zurich, Switzerland-$742 Round Trip.
Washington Dulles to Geneva, Switzerland-$784 Round Trip.
Seattle, WA to Munich, Germany-$904 Round Trip.
New York, JFK to Munich, Germany-$722 Round Trip.

These are just a few of many listings. Be sure to check our fares widget at the lower left part of this blog for updated fares to the Alps. You can also register for daily updates at airfarewatchdog.com

Monday, July 14, 2008

Storm-Za Bastille!

Happy Bastille Day!

This is the day that an angry French mob stormed the Bastille, (the Royal Fortress), in Paris during the summer of 1789. Their actions sparked a revolution and signaled the first victory of the people of Paris against a symbol of the Ancien Régime. Today the French recognize their Fête National, or Bastille Day, as a day of new hope and prosperity.

Grab your baguettes and put on your best French Accent. Vive la Revolution!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Switzerland Wins Two More.

It's hard to believe that UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) only recognized three World Heritage sites in Switzerland just eight years ago. Now it seems like they simply can't stop naming sites in our favorite little alpine country.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee convened in Quebec City, Canada on July 7th and designated two more World Heritage sites in Switzerland.

The first site, the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Cultural Landscape, brings together two historic railway lines that exemplify the outstanding technical and architectural achievements of Swiss railroading. Combined, the two railway lines cross almost 200 stone viaducts and bridges and pass through more than 50 tunnels.

I find these two lines fascinating because the bridges and viaducts are considered full masonry construction, meaning that they don't use any reinforcing concrete or steel. They're basically built the way the romans would build bridges. Even more, the engineers built many of the structures on curves and slopes which really takes this outdated and time consuming method of construction to it's highest level. The best part is that the engineers did it all for aesthetics, to preserve the character of the hidden and isolated mountain cultures that the railroad now connects. This is why I love Switzerland and the people who actually care about the look and feel of their surrounding environment.

To quote a press release from Swiss Tourism, "The property is exemplary of the use of the railway to overcome the isolation of settlements in the Central Alps early in the 20th century, with a major and lasting socio-economic impact on life in the mountains. It (Rhaetian Railways Albula/Berina) constitutes an outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble and embodies architectural and civil engineering achievements, in harmony with the landscapes through which they pass."

To read more about Rhaetian Railways:
Click Here.




The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, also known as the Glarus Overthrust, represents the second new UNESCO site in Switzerland, and it lies in the north-eastern part of the country on the cantonal borders of St. Gallen, Glarus and Graubünden The highlight of this region is that it reveals to the naked eye how the alps were formed.

This region has a been a key site for geologic sciences since the 1700's because of it's three dimensional representation of the structures and processes that characterize continental collision and mountain building. Normally, younger rocks are deposited on older rocks, but in this area rocks dating back 250-300 million years are found on top of rocks that are only 35-50 million years old, with the two layers separated by the "magic line" of the Glarus Overthrust. Particularly striking formations can be seen on the Tschingelhoren, including the famous Martin's Gap between Elm and Flims, and on the Foostock in the Weisstannental.

This new heritage site covers a mountainous area of 32,850 hectares which features seven peaks that rise above 3,000 m.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Declare Your Own Independence.


I hope that everyone enjoyed their holidays here on the North American continent. Canada celebrated their Canada Day on July 1st and we celebrated our Independence Day on the fourth of July. This past weekend gave me an idea though. Wouldn't it be fun to travel around the globe just helping people celebrate their independence?

My background is predominately Lithuanian so I would probably start my travels in Lithuania on February 16th, and then move on from there. Of course, current schedules, family obligations, the job, and other things make it difficult to simply travel around the globe for a year, so what about doing it piece-by-piece?

This is my new goal. I'm going to list every country, make a note of their Independence Day, if they have one, and then start checking them off as I visit them, one-by-one. It would actually be fascinating, and sad, to note the countries that can't boast about their independence. Maybe I could do this for them. Perhaps I could write a book, or start a blog. Well, maybe not.

Anyway, two really easy targets lie just around the corner. France celebrates their Bastille Day on July 14th and Switzerland celebrates their Swiss National day on August 1.

While Bastille Day might be a bit too close for organizing a last-minute trip to Europe, our Eiger Trail coincidentally begins on the Swiss National Day, August 1. (Still plenty of time to grab a flight). I've done this tour before during the holiday period and it's really exciting. Ceremonial mountaintop bonfires light up the night sky and alphorns resound in the distance. If you've ever wanted to see traditional Switzerland, with all of the costumes, food, pomp and song, then this the time to go.

The above photo shows a mountain top bonfire in the town of Gstaad, the start of our Eiger Trail. This is an example of one of the many bonfires that Swiss people light on the surrounding mountain tops on the evening of August 1st. (Think Lord of the Rings movie part III). It's amazing sight to see all of the surrounding ridge tops, and some of the peaks, twinkling in the evening light. It's even better when Jorg rips it up with a resounding yodel or the long, mournful call of an alphorn.

We still have a few spots available on the Eiger Trail, so please contact us if you're interested. What else to you have going on this summer? Why not break out and declare your own independence.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Telluride's Ultimate Adventure Company

We’ve been very fortunate this summer. Two of our local magazines, Telluride Style and Telluride Magazine, featured Ryder-Walker predominately in their summer 2008 issues.

If you’d like to know a little history behind the founders and founding of Ryder-Walker then please read both articles. They offer a nice glimpse of the gnome behind the curtain.

Click on the following titles to read,

Telluride’s Ultimate Adventure Company, by Telluride Style

and

Way to Go: Adventure Travel from Telluride, by Telluride Magazine

If you run into trouble with the links then visit telluridestyle.com and telluridemagazine.com to search their archives.

We offer a special thanks to Spicky. You’ve helped us, too, to see the world that we live in as it truly is.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beat the Fees.

It wasn't long after I wrote the previous post that things changed. If you still plan to purchase airline tickets for domestic travel within the U.S. and Canada, then make sure to double check your airline's new policy changes. (See previous post).

US Airways recently announced that passengers booking flights after July 9th will have to pay $15 for the first checked bag, and starting in August, coach passengers will have to pay $2 per non-alcoholic drink. (This includes water).

United quickly followed suit and will now charge $15 for the first checked bag on domestic flights.

Dont' Despair: This is still one of the best summers to buy an airline ticket to Europe. Just check our airline widget in the left hand column for low fares to the Alps. Today's Newark to Munich fare was only $590 roundtrip at the time of this writing. (Less than $600 to Munich? Aren't airlines supposed to be struggling?)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Nickel and Dimed: Airline Fees to Know Before You Go.

I’ve heard a lot of questions lately regarding the new airline policies for checked luggage. In general, passengers on most airlines can no longer check two pieces of luggage free of charge. In many cases, passengers may check the first bag free of charge, but the second bag costs $25. Prices for additional checked bags also increased dramatically, as did the fees for oversize/overweight bags. It pays to know before you go.

A few airlines have also increased their fees, and/or added new fees, for simple luxuries such as, window and aisle seats, comfortable legroom, over-the phone-bookings, and more. The bottom line is that airlines continue to struggle and they’re trying to nickel and dime their passengers to make up the difference. How much do their CEO’s continue to earn despite our unbalanced transportation system? Sorry, I digress.

The good news is that most international travelers can still check two bags free of charge. Beware though, because if you change airlines in the U.S and have to recheck your bags, then you may have to pay a surcharge for the domestic leg of your journey.

Personally, I recommend that international travelers fly with one bag anyway. I also hope that these new policies cut down on the amount of baggage that flows daily through our airports. It’s better for everybody from many perspectives.

Just look at the photo from last year's Dolomites Trek. This group actually traveled relatively light with only one bag per person.



The light way is the right way in my book, though skis and snowboards will always be a challenge worth paying a little extra for.

The other good news is that this fee does not apply to all people on all flights. While policies vary, the charge is generally limited to passengers sitting in economy class seats on flights in North America. The policies also tend to exclude elite members of frequent flier programs, and they do not apply to anyone flying in business or first class.

The policy change first started with U.S. Airways, but then quickly spread to American Airlines, Continental, Delta, Northwest, and United. Several smaller carriers also enacted similar policies including, Air Canada, Alaska Air, Air Tran and JetBlue.

The following Travelocity FAQ lists the most current changes to airline policy. You can go straight from their page to the carrier’s website, (Or click on one of our links above). Give them a look if you’re in doubt. It just might pay to double-check your particular airline before heading out the door.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Trekking Poles on Sale!

If you don't have trekking poles then go buy them now. You'll be amazed by the extra strength and longevity they offer your body. We consider them essential gear for our hiking tours and mandatory for preventing knee problems.

Check out Sierra Trading Post's closeout sale on Austrian-made, Komperdell trekking poles.

A good pair of cork-gripped lightweight poles will usually run between $90 and $130.

Sierra Trading Post has this pair for only $54.95. That's 38% off the regular price of $89.95.














Looking for something even less expensive? How about the Denali for only $44.95? This model features a standard polyethylene grip.










Two poles are better than one. Make sure to buy a pair, because some poles are priced individually. You really need one in each hand in order to enjoy the full physiological benefits that trekking poles offer.

You can see all of the closeout models by clicking here. Or visit sierratradingpost.com and just enter "trekking poles" in their search engine.

To compare specs, or for more information regarding Komperdell trekking poles, visit komperdell.com

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Finally, a real summer sale to Europe!

Check out this note from Airfare Watchdog. Don't forget to visit our airfare widget in the left hand column of our blog. Check back often for updated fares to all major gateways to the Alps.

Dancing (and Flying) with the Stars
Posted by Bo Borre on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 4:05 PM to Europe/Africa/Middle East Airfares

Finally, a real summer sale to Europe!

All last winter, United and Lufthansa conspired to be the low price leaders to Europe by offering some amazing deals, but so far this season they have been acting like meek wallflowers, waiting on the sidelines and ceding the low ground to others. Now the two primary Star Alliance members and favorite tango couple have once again reunited for a repeat performance and seem poised to take a seasonal star turn on the dance floor.

All right, before we all get too excited, you should be aware that some of these sale fares can be as high as jitterbug summersaults and about as easy to pin down as a decent swing partner that won't crush your dainty toes, but at least United makes it a bit easier to see when you can take a spin by putting their dance card online for the whole world to see (you can check out the nifty calendar on United's web site when you're done reading).

Also note that the fares we list from this sale do not include taxes, as is usually our custom, so expect to shell out at least another $100. Such is the high price of admission to Europe's finest ballrooms this summer and we're sorry we can't do better by you. Yes, we have told you about better deals, but they've been pretty hit-and-miss, so if you've been waiting for a decent sale, this could be it. Plus, others might just join the party soon, so it could be a big one!

All you have to do is pick a style that fits your rhythm, then check out the fares on our Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, or Zurich pages, keeping in mind that even if we don't list your hometown, it doesn't mean you can't boogie down. Just put your best foot forward, shimmy on over to United and get your groove on, baby!

OK, here goes... reunited and it feels so good, reunited 'cause we understood... Go ahead, sing it out loud. Do a little dance, too, if you got the bug. We already did!

Please note that Ryder-Walker does not endorse any airline, nor do we receive compensation from Airfare Watchdog or their partners.

Greetings from the Valais.

The Canton Valais, or Kanton Wallis as it is referred to in German, is one of my favorite cantons in Switzerland. The Valais lies in the southwestern corner of Switzerland and forms the border with Italy and France. It is the home to more than 40 peaks topping 4,000 meters, and it’s also the resting place for the largest glacier in Western Europe, the Aletsch. Tourists flock to the Valais to see towns like Zermatt, and iconic mountains like the Matterhorn, but they soon find themselves helpless when cute little chalets draw them in with the warm smells of fondue and white wine. If melted cheese, big mountain scenery and traditional mountain culture characterize Switzerland, then some could easily call the Valais a Swiss poster child. It is no coincidence that three of our signature hiking tours, the Hiker’s Haute Route, the Tour du Mont Blanc, and Secret Swiss Valleys, all traverse this region of Switzerland. The Matterhorn Trek also finishes here.

Twenty-six individual cantons now make up the country of Switzerland, but these cantons once existed as sovereign states with their own economies, armies, languages and cultures. Today, traveling through this cultural patchwork still offers a delightful insight into the Alpine world as it existed centuries ago, but communicating can be a confusing affair without a bit of prior knowledge or investigation.

The first time that I ever visited the Valais, a woman greeted me in French. As a student living in France at the time, I excitedly welcomed the opportunity to prove my new level of French proficiency. However, when I responded in French she proceeded to continue our conversation in German, of which I knew virtually nothing at the time. When I politely thanked her in German, she immediately reverted to French and exited the conversation with, "Merci et au revoir."

While many of the cantons recognize one language predominately, a few of them, like the Valais, still recognize multiple languages. In the case of the Valais, the official languages are German and French. And while it is not necessary to know French or German in order to enjoy a great vacation in this corner of the world, a general understanding of the basic greetings will make for a very enjoyable and rewarding experience.

What follows are a few of the most common greetings used on the hiking trails in the Valais. Please note: There are no hard and fast rules dictating that you must use a German greeting in the German speaking part of the Valais. It is nice to think however, that using a native greeting offers respect to the culture and the landscape through which we pass.

To say hello on the trail:
Bonjour. (French) This works very well as a catch all French greeting.
Guten Tag. (German) This literally means “good day.’ This is a formal German greeting that works much like Bonjour.
Greuzi. (Swiss German) This is a uniquely Swiss “hello” and one of my favorites.
Grüß Gott. (Southern German) Pronounced, Groose Scott, this is another one of my favorites and very popular along the hiking trail.
Hallo. This also works very well in all parts.
In general, two hikers passing each other along the trail will make eye contact and then each will say one of the above greetings. That’s usually where the conversation ends.

Example:
“Grüß Gott!”
“Grüß Gott!”

The second hiker will often follow the lead of the first, but not always.
Occasionally a conversation ensues; laughter follows, and the hikers part ways. What follows are a few ways to say goodbye.

Au revoir. (French)
Auf wiedersehen. (German)
Tschüs-(German) This means “bye” or “see you” and is extremely informal. Use this only between friends or people that already know each other. I use it only with friends or if somebody uses it with me first.

You may also want to thank the other person for one reason or another.
Merci. (French)
Danke. (German)

Note: Merci is a strange exception to the rule. It is a common thank you in both the French and German speaking parts of the Valais. Grocery store clerks for example, might carry on an entire conversation in German but they’ll almost always say “merci” when thanking a patron at the end of the dialogue.

Extra Credit:
Since the Valais shares its southern border with Italy, it is only fair to include Italian greetings as well. Hikers on the Tour du Mont Blanc would do well to add these to their quiver.

Hello:
Buon giorno. This is the equivalent of Bonjour or Guten Tag. Conservative speakers should use this when in doubt.
Ciao. This is less formal but very popular with younge people and friends.
Salve. Pronounced, Sal-veh. This also means hello.

Good bye:

Arrivederci. (More formal) Most people use this.
Ciao. (Less formal) This is also very popular.

Thank you:
Grazie.
Grazie mille. (Thanks a lot).

One final note: How will you know which language to use on the trail? That’s easy. Use French or Italian when hiking in or out of France or Italy. When in Switzerland, let someone else say hello and then follow along. Proceed with confidence once you’ve identified the most common greeting.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Catch a glimpse of the Alps in Denver.

You still have time to see The Alps, MacGillivray Freeman’s newest IMAX movie, now showing at the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, Colorado.

I had an opportunity to view the film last week, and I was generally impressed. If you like mountaineering, and you love mountains and glaciers, then you'll enjoy this film. I won't give anything away, but I will mention that the view on the IMAX screen, from the top of the Eiger straight down its 6,000 ft. vertical face, made more than one audience member squirm in their chair. Some of the mountain shots left me breathless. My only criticism; I could have done without the soundtrack by Queen. I like Queen, but I just didn't like their music in this film.

Please visit our previous post for more background on the movie.

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science will continue to screen the The Alps until June 12, 2008.
Call 303.322.7009 for show times, or visit www.dmns.org for more information.

Visit www.alpsfilm.com for show times around the world.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Follow your train with Google Maps.

I really like this thing.

www.swisstrains.ch

Just enter a Swiss station in the search field, then watch the trains come and go.

For an extra special treat; click on a moving train, then click the button "Follow" in the unfolding menu. This will show you the moving train via satellite images.

Note: This program does not show trains in real time. The program matches the Swiss rail schedule to the clock on your computer.

Just for fun, type in Jungfraujoch then switch to satellite view. Welcome to the top of the world! A person could spend hours following their tour itinerary with this program.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jump into the driver’s seat.

These opportunities don’t come along very often.

Grab your friends, get your gear, and register for your very own private guided hiking tour. We have an available slot from July 1-8, 2008.

Private guided tours offer an opportunity to jump into the driver’s seat and design one of the greatest experiences of a lifetime for you and your group. You control the itinerary from the planning stages all the way to the celebratory dinner on the final night of the tour. Our trained guides handle the dirty work and tailor each day’s itinerary based on the flexible needs and desires of your group. You can literally climb a peak, summer ski, taste wine, sightsee, or even take a rest day if the weather looks bad. If you just want to keep hiking then we can do that too.

At a glance: A few highlights of a private hiking tour.

* Your own private guide(s)

* World class hikes, scenery, accommodations, and food.

* The opportunity to design a custom itinerary that reflects the special interests of the group.

* A flexible itinerary that changes continually throughout a day or week depending on the desires of the group members. Just tell us what you’d like to see and do at any time, then sit back and marvel when the guides work their Ryder-Walker magic.

* The ability to choose your own pace.

*The perfect way to commemorate milestones in life, including anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, and corporate retreats.

*Great looking guides.

Our private slots fill quickly so please contact Ryder Walker if you’d like to organize the hiking tour of a lifetime. Toll free in the U.S: 888-586-8365 or 970-728-6481.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Two thumbs-up for the Merrell Radius low-cut.

I mentioned in recent posts that spring is the perfect time to reorganize your gear for summer. It’s also a great time to break in new footwear. I’ve used many different styles throughout the years from trail runners to heavy hiking boots, and right now I’m using a mid-weight hiking shoe by Merrell called the Radius. Merrell makes two versions of the Radius, a mid height shoe and a low cut version. I have the low cut version and I love it. You might love it too. The Radius is a simple shoe but it has some nice features.

Comfort: Supple but supportive and water resistant nubuck leather uppers conform to the foot. Leather bellows tongues provide a superior fit and allow ventilation. Narrow webbing lacing eyelets offer firm instep security

Durability:
Leather construction with a protective rubber toe bumper on the front of the shoe. Aggressive Vibram® Multi-Grip™ outsoles with sticky rubber and deep 5mm lugs for stability, traction and long wear.

Full waterproof construction: Waterproof laminates and polyester linings offer waterproof protection and disperse moisture quickly; taped seams and stitching add protection

Support:
Molded nylon arch shanks supply torsional stability on uneven terrain.

A fair price:
Suggested Retail: $90.00

My impressions.

I’ve been very pleased with the Merrell Radius so far. I’ve used this shoe to hike from Courmayeur to Saas Fee and from Bolzano to Cortina. I’ve hiked the desert and I’ve hiked the San Juans. I’ve negotiated trails in snow, sleet, rain and sun. The Radius carried me across abrasive sandstone and through lofty alpine meadows and they still look relatively new. I’ve even worn them to the neighborhood pub. After a year of heavy use, my reaction is two thumbs-up, which says a lot considering that I continually ask this shoe to do everything.

If I were to list the pros and cons then they would look like this.

Pros:
1. Great all around shoe.
2. Excellent comfort.
3. Waterproof. (I tested this one during many days of rain and my feet stayed toasty and dry).
4. Lighter than a hiking boot.
5. Narrow heel. (This is great for me).
6. Durable. My shoe still looks and feels great after many miles on the trail.

Cons:
1. People with weak ankles or heavier loads should consider the mid-height model.
2. Heavier than a trail runner. The average weight is 2 pounds per pair, (based on a Men's 9).
3. A bit hot in warm environments.
4. Wimpy insole. While the stock insole is much better than most, I always recommend using something more supportive like a custom insole. Superfeet offers a nice moderately priced alternative.
5. I lost a lug! What's up Vibram?

Short Summary:

I recommend the Radius low-cut for someone who likes to put in long hiking days with little more than a day pack. While the Radius doesn't really excel at any one thing, it performs admirably at everything. A heavier hiker though, or a backpacker with heavy loads, would probably prefer the mid-height option or a more beefy hiking boot. Still, if you're looking for a comfortable, durable, waterproof and lightweight hiking shoe that will last a long time, then consider giving the Radius a try. Hikers with narrow heels will be especially pleased.