Having completed your removals to Switzerland - with all of the unpacking done and things finally settling into place - the adrenalin enthusiasts among you will be anxious to get out there and discover what your new Swiss surroundings have in store. While long walks, jogging and joining a gym may be enough for some, there are those among you who will be looking to the great outdoors for something more exhilarating.
Your removals to Switzerland could bring you into contact with many extreme sports that previously you only ever saw on television or read about in books or magazines. From BASE jumping to wing suit sky diving, this article covers most of them, but we have deliberately ignored skiing and ski related sports, on the basis that this is Switzerland and of course you can ski here.
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Here is just a taster of some of the extreme sports on offer in Switzerland. We are sure you'll be impressed with what's on offer here, and you may even be tempted to try one or two of them for yourselves.
BASE Jumping/ Wing Suit Diving
Let's start with arguably the most dangerous - but exciting - sports of them all. BASE is the phrase used to represent the four different categories of object, from which the BASE jumper can launch him/herself. They are Building, Antenna, Span and Earth (or in English, Building, Signal Mast, Bridge and Cliff). The Swiss BASE Association has its HQ in Lauterbrunnen and every year, thousands of jumpers flock to the area to experience the thrill of flight.
A wingsuit slows down the rate of freefall experienced in base jumping and sky diving, and allows you to increase the distance covered. This greatly reduces the risk of striking the object you jumped from.
Grindelwald and the Lütschine is the place to head for, for this kind of rush. Beneath the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains, its grey, cold waters thunder downstream, creating powerful waves and rollers, guaranteed to rock your world, let alone your boat.
Extreme Motor Sport
There are two major motor sport venues in Switzerland: Circuit Bremgarten and Circuit des Nations, but since motor sport was banned in Switzerland in 1955 following an accident at Le Mans which killed 80+ spectators, they haven’t seen much action lately. There are moves afoot to bring motor sport back to Switzerland but it is some time away yet.
Freestyle Motocross (FMX)
FMX is very popular here, which given the ban on motor sport is perhaps not surprising. Last year (2012) saw the NIGHT of the JUMPS in Basel. It's the 6th time that the city has hosted this championship event, attracting the world's most skilful and daring FMX riders, and each time the crowds get bigger and the tricks, jumps and stunts, become even more thrilling.
When we think of free running we usually imagine groups of fit young men (and women) tearing through housing estates and shopping malls, leaping over cars, shopping trolleys and anything else that gets in the way. Well, now it has come to the rocky banks of the Verzasca River in Switzerland. Saying that, there'd be nothing wrong with free running in Geneva or Basel or any other major Swiss city.
It's back to Interlaken if you fancy a spot of hang-gliding. Aficionados of the sport will tell you it's the closest thing to flying like a bird, although we could wager that the wing-suit sky divers and BASE jumpers might disagree. The beauty of hang-gliding is you can go as extreme as you like, a gentle flight to take in the scenery can easily be turned into an adrenalin fuelled thrill ride including dives and wingovers.
Ice climbing can be likened to rock climbing in that many similar techniques and tools are used, but over the years these have been modified to tackle ice rather than rock. For the best ice climbs head for Brunnital or Kandersteg. Brunnital takes you to an altitude of between 1080 and 1380m, so it is quite low for an ice climb but it gives you the opportunity to climb in both the sun and shade, and if you fancy it, there's a 1300m ice wall to scale.
Kitesurfing was previously limited to just a few areas of some of the lakes in Switzerland and banned completely in most cantons. Legislation is going through the Swiss parliament at the time of writing this blogpost, and it is hoped that come 2014 the restrictions on kitesurfing, or kiteboarding as it is also known, will be lifted throughout Switzerland.
Mountain biking can be taken to extreme levels and where better than Switzerland to do it? Extreme mountain biking takes you to new heights, literally. To be labelled extreme a trail should either include a greater than 2000m height gain and/or cover 60km, and there are plenty of places in Switzerland where either or both of these are possible. The extreme label is also attached to technical difficulty and therefore includes trails which feature jumps, drop offs and root sections that require long travel bikes.
Rock Climbing - Mountaineering
For the purposes of this article we have linked these two sports, although true exponents of the arts will tell you that you require a very different skill set for each one. The fundamentals are the same though, hence the link. We can’t think of a better place for either of these sports. From the peaks of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch near Interlaken, and the Matterhorn near Zermat, to the Jura in the north, you can clamber over granite, limestone and gneiss to your heart's content.
Ten years of planning have resulted in Zurich’s new skatepark, which opened earlier this year (2013). Its creation was due, at least in part, to the recognised good reputation that the city's skaters had earned for themselves in the area of technical skating ability. In fact, it’s quite possible that Zurich's skaters earned that reputation, entirely because of their lack of a skatepark, resulting in them having to invent for themselves.
Lake Walensee is a great place to windsurf as the wind gets trapped and funnelled by opposing mountains. It’s one of the larger lakes in Switzerland and attracts a good many windsurfers, even from across the border in Liechtenstein. Silvaplana is also definitely worth a visit; 1800m up in the Alps and right next to St. Moritz, the scenery here is amazing and the winds are good too, although their power is slightly reduced due to the altitude.
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