• CYCLING
  • Outdoor Activities In The Time Of Covid-19

    Biking Switzerland Tiina Kivelä

    Backyard escapades are the trend these days. At least for the ones who are still allowed to go out. And it really becomes a luxury when your backyard is the Swiss Alps, with it’s mountains, hiking trails, xc-ski tracks (not in Engelberg though) and just the nature and landscapes itself.

    In here, one can really take advantage of the health benefits what being physically active (or just lazying around) in the nature offe. Outdoor activities in the time of covid-19 shouldn’t be too risky and taking all the safety measures and distance recommendations seriously is more than advisable, but they are ok and they have many benefits, like always.

    (And well, if you are like me this Tuesday, one can also very easily totally freeze her fingers and upper body when riding the bike down from the treeline. Note to self: It’s still March, the ski and skitouring high season. Not biking, despite what the temperatures from the previous weeks and closed ski resorts suggest.)

    And (not bragging but) since in the past (while carelessly sitting close to each other in restaurants and sharing the bowls of moules frites‘ with friends and strangers like no one currently) I have studied the outdoor recreation and nature based tourism and tapped in some hours in the Finnish Forest Research Institute – who conduct research on these things too –  I thought to share now some of the research findings on the health benefits of natural environment exposure.

    (On side of advising you more practically to not forget the warmer gloves and jackets and headbands if you already get up and down the hills and mountains with your bike. I think next time I take my ski gloves.)

    These are not the easiest of times for most of us, but I hope this too can help at least some to cope a bit better with the uphills and challenges. And please note the last sentence of the quote below. I know in many places the parks are closed too and urban hangouts aren’t advised even on outdoor spaces. So what’s better to know that even research shows that our favourite things, urban forests, recreation and coastal areas work better for our health and wellbeing than the now closed urban settings.

    I know, for many even these are hard to get to especially now, but I do hope we all are back to our favourite things sooner than later.

    Until that, let’s try to make the most of it despite everything, dream and plan on. What’s best, it also doesn’t cost anything.

    Please do note though, if you are going out these days – walking, biking, running, easy hikes and (xc) ski tours –please keep in mind the recommendations of your local health authority. Which in Switzerland means that one should keep as close home as possible, keep at least 2 meter distance to every other person, avoid public transport, not meet/gather with more than 5 people etc. (The Swiss authority instructions in many languages can be found in here.) Also, if you in example are in Swiss Canton Uri and over 65, you shouldn’t go out at all. (And if you are under 65 and healthy, go help your neighbour and the over 65 year old near you.)

    It’s also always advisable – and especially now–  to do your best to avoid injuries and other emergencies. Covid-19 is a huge challenge for the whole healthcare and emergency response system and you shouldn’t be the one going to the hospital with broken leg right now. So keep it safe, keep it your responsible careful granny/grandpa -style, and keep it delivering the good, not bad.

    See you on the other side!

    Spending time and being physically active in nature promotes well-being and health. Nature helps us recover from the effects of stress and forget our everyday worries. It also lifts our moods. The effects are manifested in lower blood pressure and a stabilised heart rate.

    Spending time in our favourite spots in nature, in particular, restores us. Experiences of restoration in reported favourite spots such as recreation areas, urban forests and coastal areas are stronger than those reported in favourite spots such as parks or built-up urban environments.

    Quote: The Natural Resources Institute Finland– The effects of nature on well-being


    Where: My backyard (Engelberg, Switzerland)

  • BLOG
  • Engstlenalp – One More Time By Bike

    Switzerland Engtslensee MTB

    I will always have a sweet spot for the old two seated chairlifts. The nostalgic, a bit scary and very rusty slow lifts, getting you up and sometimes down, summer and winter.

    And having crown up and learned to ski with a special one – vanha tuolihissi = “old chairlift” as it simply was called in Pyhä Ski Resort in Lapland –  quite naturally the two seated chairlift between Jochpass and Engstlenalp in Engelberg – with the cute wooden old station buildings – became fast my favourite in Switzerland.

    Though not really just for the nostalgic value, but also for connecting Engelberg with the very nice hiking, trailrunning, climbing, mountain biking and skiing in the Engstlensee direction, and further on the Berner Oberland.

    Unfortunately, as the trend goes, it will now be the last week for that cutie. This October, the old Engstlen sessellift will be retired, and replaced with a new modern big shiny fast six chairlift, on time for the winter season. Snif.

    But oh boy, did we get lucky to have this free Monday, on the last week the lift was up and running. A bluebird, semi-warm and full of autumn colors day for a proper goodbye to the old lift and for a tiny enduro ride by bikes.

    Except in downhills and flow trails I was so slow that only got to ride the lift once. Not enough for really say it was a proper goodbye. Though it wasn’t just me slow, it was also the good lunch in Rossbodenhütte (note: October is the hunting season in Switzerland and especially around Engelberg the restaurants of all kinds take the most of it, offering special wild menus and definitely fresh ingredients) which didn’t leave us much time for bike fun but which made it above ordinary occasion.

    And oh boy those autumn colors. And that boy. And the lucky strangers who have cabin like this.

    Haslital Engstlenalp MTB

    Hell's Bells Trail Engstlensee

    Engstlensee Engelberg MTB

    Engstlensee Autumn 2019


    Where: Engstlenalp (Engelberg / Haslital), Berner Oberland, Switzerland 

    How by bike: Down to Engstlenalp leads a Hell’s Bells -named bike trail from Jochpass (titlisbahn -ticket and bike pass needed for the lifts). Engstlensee also sits by the 4 lakes (enduro) biketour, and offers hotel and restaurants for breaks of any length. A very nice tour is also to bike to or from Frutt Lodge & Spa and pay a visit to the best Finnish Sauna in the region.  Because you’re worth it.

     

  • BLOG
  • What To Hike in Switzerland – Try Via Alpina

    Via Alpina Engelberg Switzerland

    A small faded pink mountain hotel dating back to 1892 sits at 1835m in Engstlenalp in Berner Oberland, Switzerland. Surrounded by alpine meadows, small farms and ice cold Engstlensee. In the distance, the iconic Berner Alps and Mount Titlis at the other side give an excellent background for all kinds of alpine endeavours.

    It’s almost like a set for a Wes Anderson movie. Or Sound of Music. Except real.

    Engstlenalp is an excellent place for alpine climbing, a resting point for a road bike tour on one of the most scenic routes in central Switzerland (from Innertkirchen through cute village of Gental), or for an enduro mountain bike tour on Engelberg – Melchsee-Frutt – Meiringen area (there goes a nice flowtrail from Juchpass down to Engstlensee too).

    Or for a night or two on a classic Via Alpina hike.

    The Swiss section of international Via Alpina – 5000km long hiking / walking trail network through five Alpine countries – draws a cross-cutting line of excellent hiking trail through Switzerland. From Monteux in west to Vaduz in east, Via Alpina offers clearly marked trail with rich variety of alpine traditions, (amazing) views, outdoor challenges and flora and fauna.

    And  when in July couple of my friends came to Switzerland to hike a few stages of the official Via Alpina from Engelberg to Interlaken, I decided to join them and see what the Via Alpina was all about.

    And now I may say that it’s definitely worth a try. For one or two stages or for the whole 390km trail across Switzerland. Topped with the cute little mountain huts and alpine hotels found on the way as the already mentioned Hotel Engstlenalp (in the last pic).

    The trail is well marked with the official Via Alpina signs, and the different stages can be reached with public transport which also easily gets you back from the end point of your chosen completed stage. There are also plenty of mountain huts, hotels, guesthouses and restaurants right by the trail or a bit further, easily combined with a multi day tour along Via Alpina.

    And don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears open for all the magnificent views, alpine traditions and wildlife.

    Internet is full of stories and practical information for the whole Via Alpina and it’s stages, so I will not repeat it all here. But, I could advice you to check the freshly printed My Switzerland guide for Via Alpina, for which my friend who’s hiked all the stages made a great contribution to, for the most comprehensive starting point for your research.

    And if you happen to stop for a night in Engstlenalp, leave proper time for a traditional alpine breakfast in their breakfast room which sends you directly to the old times when gore-tex and gps watches where nowhere to be seen.

    You will also not find WiFi in here.

    Via Alpina Engstlenalp

    Engstlenalp Engelberg Via Alpina

    Engstlenalp Tiina Kivelä

    Where: Engstlenalp, Berner Oberland, Switzerland