Friday, February 26, 2010

We Need Your Help! Please Nominate Ryder-Walker For the World’s Best Awards




Here’s the deal. Every year, Travel + Leisure Magazine hosts their World's Best Awards. They survey intrepid travelers like yourselves and then ask them to vote for their favorite tour operators and travel providers. They have different categories for each segment of the travel industry, and the companies that garner the most votes in their respective category get the win. In order to get on the list, however, companies need to be nominated first. That’s where we need your help.

Please send a message to the following email address, and ask that Travel and Leisure add Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures to their World’s Best Awards survey. Our category is tour operator/safari outfitter. (Funny huh? Maybe we should go to Africa next year).

Please send a message to the following address:
WorldsBestSurvey@roiresearch.com
Subject Line: World's Best Awards Survey Addition

With enough nominations, we’ll hopefully get on the list and then we can all vote for our favorite tour operator.

National Geographic named Ryder-Walker one of the Best Outfitters on the Planet for two years in a row. Please help us show Travel + Leisure why others think highly of us, and why they should too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Microcosm


Ryder-Walker Guide, Daniel Sundqvist, grabs a bite to eat on the restipass in western Switzerland. This is day one of our Secret Swiss Valleys tour.

The peaks of the Berner Oberland loom above the remote Lötschental in the background. Historians believe that Romans first settled the Lötschen valley nearly two thousand years ago, but the valley's geographic isolation kept it largely cut off from the outside world until the early part of the 1900's. The result- A microcosm of traditional alpine culture.

Tourism is the valley's main economic driver these days, yet hikers rarely venture into this secluded and tranquil corner of the Swiss Alps. It's lucky for us, because the views are stunning and the hikes pass through varied and fascinating terrain. Point of fact: If we could turn the camera a full 180 degrees, we'd see the whole length of the Pennine Alps, the tallest in Europe, spread out before us like waves on a wind tossed sea.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Swiss Are Well Groomed



When it comes to hiking, snowhoeing, and cross country skiing. In fact, Swiss attention to trail quality is probably the finest in the world; expertly constructed and regularly maintained, they allow hikers of all abilities access to high meadows and spectacular mountain terrain.

That said, snow conditions are quite variable throughout a winter hiking tour. Although the town and ski area will try to keep grooming up to date, their priorities can be flexible. If clearing the villages and the local roads of snow and opening the lifts for skiers is a priority, they may get to the winter hiking and snowshoeing trails later. As such, what looks good on a map may not be so good after a heavy snowfall (or a prolonged period of warm and sunny weather).


Also bear in mind that fresh snow will affect the amount of time that it takes to hike a trail. Six inches of snow could add a half hour to a two hour hike, a foot could add an hour and two feet could double the time the outing will take. Always inquire at the hotel for advice and, regardless of what is said, proceed conservatively.

We also recommend that hikers carry snow safety equipment when venturing beyond the standard groomed hiking paths; This includes a beacon, probe, shovel, and the knowledge to use them safely and effectively.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Swiss Quirkiness

It's fun to write about the fairy tale stuff that makes Switzerland so cute and atmospheric. It's the quirky stuff, however, that really makes us smile.

Take Gucci's Iglu Snow Bar, for example.



Gucci's occupies prime real estate abutting intersecting trails just above the tiny hamlet of Ardez. On a sunny day, the lounge chairs offer quality mountain viewing. (and tanning)

Imagine that you're strolling along, enjoying your winter hike through the mountains of Switzerland, when hot food and delicious drink suddenly appear out of nowhere.




The Alps are peppered with original establishments like this one, each with their own personality and style. Here's a shot of the igloo. A bottle of wine on the table. Hot, local fare on the plate. We love it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Happens To The Cows?...

during winter?

They're still around, albeit lower on the hillsides. It's nice to know that a winter hiker can get their cow fix too.



Most cows tend to stick close to town during the snowy days. This one, in particular, spends her long winter evenings in the tiny hamlet of Ftan.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Some Kinda Sign

I mentioned yesterday that winter hiking trails in Switzerland are well signposted. Not only are they well signposted, but the signs themselves offer a wealth of information regarding the trail.

Take this sign for example. It informs us that we have a number of winter hiking options at our disposal. We can turn right and head toward the village of Ftan, left toward Sent, or back down to the village of Scuol, the starting point of our tour. Today we're heading toward Sent, so left is the way to go.

We can also read from the sign that our particular Winterwanderweg is going to take about 4 hours, (240 minutes). That's straight walking time without breaks.

The Swiss measure walking distances on a time scale, and they base their times on the fitness level of the majority of hikers that use the trail. Therefore, flat and easy valley paths typically offer generous times because they attract families and tourists. Times for mountain trails tend to be less generous because they attract more experienced hikers. You might find that you have no trouble keeping pace with the sign posts near town, but you struggle to match the sign posts higher up. Our advice, don't stress. Just get a general sense of your own pace early on, and then plan accordingly. Our guests almost always make it to dinner on time.

Back to the sign. We can also see that the village of Sent offers food, drink and bus service. Incidentally, this sign denotes the primary villages with rectangles and the secondary mountain hamlets without. This is good to know in case you need to amend your itinerary. Likewise, some of the hamlets consist of nothing more than a building or two, so it pays to consult our written hike descriptions beforehand. From this sign we can see that Jonvrai offers food, but they may or may not be open. We like to check in advance.

So, we understand the sign and it's time to begin our hike toward Sent.

Some of the best winter hikes begin on top of the ski hills. This is a benefit because the lifts carry us to vantage points offering commanding views of the surrounding peaks. Here we're looking out over the Silvretta Range.

The signs eventually get smaller.



Until it's just solitude and the mountain road.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Wanderweg and Mountain Converge




Wanderweg is the German word for walking path. A winter wanderweg, (it should go without saying), is a winter walking path.

Some of these winter wanderwegs existed centuries ago as a means to connect one alpine hamlet to another. Only recently, however, have they become popular with the outdoor recreation crowd. New trails pop up each year, and their popularity continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

One of the most established, and fascinatingly intricate, of these trail systems lies in the Engadine Valley of southeastern Switzerland. Winter hikers abound in this secluded corner of the Alps, and for good reason; The winter wanderwegs of the Engadine are expertly maintained, well signposted, and they link atmospheric accommodations.

Our Winter Engadine Holiday uses these winter hiking trails to connect family-run inns across the region. Peter Walker just returned from his own version of our popular winter tour and he offered to share a few photos. We'll post a few during the course of the upcoming week. Enjoy.


Top Image: Leading the way. Winter hiking paths are well signposted in the Engadine.
Bottom Image: Wanderweg and mountain converge as a tiny hamlet of chalets huddles cozily in the distance.
Both by Peter Walker

Friday, February 05, 2010

WANTED-Travel Companions for Self Guided Engadine Trek


We have a delightful couple that just registered for a self guided Engadine Trek. They’re currently traveling by themselves, but they’re looking for hiking companions to join them for an adventurous trek through one of the Alps’ best-kept secrets, the Engadine region of southeastern Switzerland.

The Engadine region commands a folded landscape of deep, isolated valleys, sheer rocky summits, multifaceted glaciers and thick pine forests. The Romans settled the area more two thousand years ago, drawn by curative hot springs and abundant sunshine. The Austrians moved in later, and the result is an unequaled culture with a unique blend of German and Italian influences. This region is, in fact, officially trilingual. The northern part speaks German, the southern villages speak Italian, and the entire region speaks Romansh, a Latin dialect left over from the original Roman settlements known collectively as Rhaetia Prima.

You can read more about the Engadine Trek by clicking here. You can also read more about our self guided service by clicking here. Self guided tours are a great way to save money and they afford the flexibility to control every aspect of your tour.

This couple plans to hike from August 31 to September 7, 2010. Please contact us directly if you’re interested in joining this tour, and please include “Engadine Companions” in your subject line.

Anybody else looking for fellow hikers? We’re happy to spread the word.

Image: Soglio in the upper Engadine-Chris Pranskatis

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Italy for Art Lovers


Art lovers adore our guided Italian Dolomites Trek. We begin our traverse of northern Italy by luxuriating in a property that boasts more than 2000 oil paintings, watercolors and lithographs by artists such as Paul Klee, Joseph Beuys, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Dix, Giorgio de Chirico, and Renato Guttuso. In an effort to encourage yet unknown artists and talents, the hotel also invites one new artist each month to show their works.

The entire collection resides in a distinguished sudtyrolean castle with a history that spans 700 years. Fourteenth century walls immure immaculately detailed suites with every modern amenity. Add winding passageways, candlelight dinners, and a wine cellar tucked into caves beneath the historic towers, and the experience seems like something plucked out of a fairy tale.

The hotel's motto, "Only the best is good enough," offers a small hint of what's in store. If you love art, then you'll love the first two night's of this tour. You might even be tempted to skip the hike and spend your day wandering the gallery while immersed in stylish elegance. We don't recommend it.