A part of us is always in search of a thrill and holidays are the perfect occasion to go in search of something beautiful and new, something different from everyday life. The digital era has changed the way we are experiencing the world, everything is only a click away, and today’s travellers are more likely to look for adventures and activities that offer a real thrill of authenticity. This may be part of the explanation why extreme sports have become increasingly popular, attracting larger numbers every year, while a decline has been noted in other outside activities that are considered to be more traditional.
What drives people to chase for spine-tingling, heart-in-your-mouth experiences? Extreme activities offer the chance to push the frontiers. Prudent folks may shake their heads when considering the risks, but taking the challenge is a way to feel truly alive. It is not only a matter of adrenaline. Practising an extreme sport means getting outside of your comfort zone, confronting and surmounting fears, while boosting self-confidence and the ability to deal with your limits. In terms of sporting activities, winter can offer some of the most riveting and intense challenges that one may take, and the sub-zero temperatures don’t put off the adrenaline seekers.
For those who search breathtaking downhill rides, the ultimate sports are snow rafting, snow tubing, hammerhead sledding, snow kayaking and shovel racing. Thrill seekers who have no fear of heights can choose between snow kiting, base jumping, speed flying and heli-skiing. The icy surfaces are the ideal setting for extreme activities such as ice climbing, ice diving, ice surfing and ice yachting.
Disciplines such as snow biking, snow scooting, K-track and snow crossing are the ultimate exciting alternatives to traditional biking and motor bike rides. Those who were in Gstaad between 24 and 27 January had the chance to admire the Snow Bike Festival, a mountain biking stage race that took place on the snow-covered trails and slopes.
Gstaad is not commonly associated as an extreme sports spot. However, this winter wonderland has a lot to offer, not only to those seeking leisure and comfort, but also to those who like some adventure with their winter holiday. With five mountain landing sites, the region around Gstaad is one of the hot spots in Switzerland for heli-skiing. In just a matter of minutes, a helicopter drops you on the top of a mountain, away from cable cars and groomed slopes, where free riders can enjoy the powder and breathtaking descents into the valley.
The snow parks in Saanenmöser and on the Glacier 3000 offer the ideal setting to those who want to practise freestyle. Frozen waterfalls in Lauenen and in Gsteig are the perfect place for ice climbing, a discipline that is the winter counterpart of rock climbing and consists in ascending inclined ice formations, cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice. Day-time and night-time sledding trips from Eggli, Wispile and Sparenmoos are a tradition, but in the new era of winter sports the ultimate device is called snowcart, a high-tech sled that allows exciting downhill rides.
A holiday in Gstaad is a dream come true and those who wish to add some thrill to their dreams will certainly find several opportunities. When asked why so many people want to climb the dangerous peak of K2, one of the climbers responded, “The bigger the dream, the bigger the risk.”
If you do decide to embark on a winter adventure, make sure you’re aware of the risks and make sure that you are taking all precautions: stay safe, wear the right gear, check the weather conditions and always consult the local experts. Once the seatbelts are fastened, the adventure can start!
Article by Arianna Proto di Santa Dorotea
Gstaad Life, Issue 2, 15 February 2019
Photo n. 4 by Flo Maderebner from Pexels