Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Forecast Alpine Weather, Ryder-Walker Style


There are two ways to check the weather in the Alps, the standard way and the Ryder-Walker way. We all know the standard way. Glance at the smartphone, read the newspaper, watch the televison. It’s easy, and it works. But is it fun? I’ve never heard anyone say they had fun while checking the weather, until now.

Enter the Ryder-Walker way:

Start by pouring yourself a glass of wine. (Better yet, let us pour YOU a glass of wine). Step outside. Position yourself with an eye-popping view of the chalet-studded alpine landscape. Breathe in the fresh mountain air. Then wait for the alpine herders to cut the grass. When they start cutting, you know you’ve got two-to-three days of clear weather ahead.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the mountainside pastures of the Alps exist as extensions of low-lying farms. Cows, goats and sheep migrate to high pastures for summer grazing, while villagers grow grass and store it away for winter fodder down low. It’s this process of growing and storing that offers clues to the weather ahead.

In general, alpine farmers need at least three consecutive days of sunshine to harvest their fodder. They can sometimes get away with two, but three is best. The farmers spend day one cutting the grass and spreading it out in the sunshine to dry.



On day two they turn over the grass, again spreading it beneath the sun so that everything dries evenly.


Day three, they harvest the grass, either stashing it away in barns or wrapping it up in large plastic pillows. In some regions, it's still possible to find people raking hay with traditional methods.


It’s a funny thing to hike into a remote alpine village and find little mountain men all cutting the grass on the same day. It’s almost as though everybody gets together and says, “Hey, let’s make Thursday grass cutting day,” which, believe it or not, they sometimes do.

A few years ago, the Berner Oberland region of central Switzerland got hit with a ton of rain. I was pretripping one of our hiking tours at the time, and I remember the local farmers getting a bit stressed out. The grass kept growing and growing, but, because of the ongoing rain, they couldn’t get out and cut. Every few days they’d get a full day of sun, but the rain still threatened, so the farmers waited. Finally, there was a three-day break in the weather, and, like clockwork, everybody started cutting the grass. It was the same story throughout the entire Bernese Oberland. Grass cutting day had arrived, and I knew that I’d have at least three good days of sunny weather.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

From Our Guests: Soglio



Hi Folks,

I hope you are all doing well. By way of introduction, we (Ken and Marilyn Koll) took an Engadine self-guided trek last year. A wonderful experience to say the least.

I wanted to share a photo of Soglio with you. I have seen several Soglio pix on your site but nothing from this perspective. It really captures the hill town structure. I liked it enough to have a large print made.

Anyway, I wish we were traveling with you this summer. The Engadine Trek really raised the vacation bar for me.

Best,

Ken

Editor's note: This is the view looking toward Italy. Spin around 180 degrees and you'll see the rugged Sciora Range in all its glory. Thanks Ken!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ryder-Walker | ON THE AIR!


Tune in to KOTO Radio, Tuesday night, May 17th at 6:30 pm (Mountain Standard Time), to hear RW Founder Peter Walker, and Guide Extraordinaire Ken Fuhrer, talk about all things Ryder-Walker. They'll also talk about Ryder-Walker's sister companies, Alpenglow Ski Safaris and Telluride Mountain Guides.

Maribeth Clemente, a Telluride, CO-based author and well known travel expert, will host the program. Get more info at her site: bonjourcolorado.com/travel-fun

For those outside the listening area, you can stream the show live at koto.org
Just click "Play Now."

See you on the air!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Daniel Sends a Mountain "Hello"


Ryder-Walker Guide Daniel Sundqvist lives and breathes adventure. When the hiking trail ends, he goes climbing. When the rock gives way to snow, he goes skiing. When the snowpack turns to dirt, he goes...well, you get the picture. Like all RW guides, Daniel loves the mountains, and he spends every spare moment exploring them.

Daniel heads to Bhutan tomorrow to guide our Chomolhari Trek, but he took a break from packing to send us this note:

One of the driest winters in Europe...

Except if one checked into the hotel Fletschhorn in Saas Fee, Switzerland, the 16th of April and climbed the distance of a full ski lift, plus another 15 minutes above the ski lift to 4000 meters, then pointed the ski-tips north. Well, then it was actually not so dry any longer but rather pleasant!

"I hope to be able to live these moments with you all, as I know you are people whom really know how to appreciate them.

Best,

Daniel

P.S. Well , tomorrow I am off to Bhutan to do more exploration so we can go more places together.

Ciao!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Artisan Foods Made in France


If you're looking for locally-made artisan products from the Mont Blanc region, then look no further than the Seracs grocery store in Argentiere, France. Just a stone's throw away from our hotel, Les Seracs offers authentic local specialties from the Haute Savoie region including meats, cheeses, wines, cookies, jams, and one my favorite drinks, genepy. Genepy is a liquor unique to the Mont Blanc region. It's distilled from a special high alpine flower, and there are two types of this unique drink-a strong schnapps and a sweetened liqueur. Les Seracs carries both.

Genepy is normally served as an after dinner digestif, but some our guests recently discovered that the sweetened version also tastes good in green tea. They were right. It's delicious. Thus, a new tradition was born.

If you find yourself on our Tour du Mont Blanc or Hiker's Haute Route then stop into this shop. Tip: They also sell produce and breads, so it's a great place to assemble your picnic lunch. Look for it on the main street in Argentiere. You're sure to find something delectable.