Five Swiss events to help you shrug off the January blues

The Christmas markets may have packed up, the nights drag on and summer feels a long way off... but don’t despair, January’s not all bad. The Local rounds up a few events to get you off the sofa and out and about this month.

Five Swiss events to help you shrug off the January blues
January: not all doom and gloom. Photo: Snow Bike Festival
1. Lauberhorn races, Wengen – Jan 13th-15th
Head to Wengen to watch the world’s top professional skiers compete in the longest downhill race in the world. A fixture of Wengen’s event calendar since 1930, its races (downhill, slalom and combined) attract tens of thousands of spectators every year. Food trucks, music and an air display help make this a fantastic slope-side party.  
2. SIHH, Geneva – Jan 16th-20th (open to the public on 20th only)
Photo: Richard Juilliart/AFP
The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) is one of the world’s most prestigious trade fairs for watches. Though primarily aimed at industry folk, this year for the first time it will open to the public for one day only on January 20th so you can go and ogle the latest designs and marvel at some of the finest (and most expensive) timepieces in the world.
3. Inferno Races, Mürren – Jan 18th-21st
Photo: Inferno
Inspired by the Lauberhorn? Head to nearby Mürren for the Inferno, the largest amateur ski race in the world. Every year some 1,800 competitors hurtle down the 14.9km course. As well as the classic downhill race – now in its 74th year – the event includes an evening cross-country race, a giant slalom and combination race, as well as festivities and entertainment for spectators and competitors. It’s too late to enter this year’s race, but going to watch may give you something to aim for next year…
4. Snow Bike Festival, Gstaad – Jan 19th-22nd
Photo: Snow Bike Festival
Now in its third year, the Snow Bike Festival has become a popular new event in the ski resort of Gstaad, which was one of the first places in Europe to welcome fat bikes (bicycles with extra-wide tyres for gripping on snow). Open to all fat bike enthusiasts, the weekend includes a stage race, a night race under floodlights and a time trial, as well as plenty of entertainment for spectators.
5. Antigel Festival, Geneva – Jan 27th-Feb 19th
Photo: Antigel
Taking over Geneva from the end of January is this fantastic music festival, now in its seventh edition and comprising 104 shows spread over 40 venues. Among the local and international names performing are Lambchop, The Dandy Warhols (pictured) and the legendary Patti Smith. Dance events, kids entertainment, DJ nights and even a nightswimming party in a pool help make this a festival not to be missed.

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Allowing large gatherings in Switzerland ‘poses a significant risk’

Faced with the possibility that Swiss authorities will authorise gatherings of over 1,000 people from October 1st, health officials say the measure may spark the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Allowing large gatherings in Switzerland ‘poses a significant risk’
Crowds of 1,000 people might be allowed from October 1st. Photo by AFP

The government announced last week that over 1,000 people will be allowed to get together from October 1st. The decision was made based on the “needs of society and the economic interests of sports clubs and cultural venues”. 

The current limit is 300.

Authorities did say that “strict protective measures will apply and the events will have to be authorised by the cantons, taking into account the local epidemiological situation and their contact tracing capacity”.

However, some health officials are sounding the alarm about the risks involved in allowing such a large number of people to congregate in one place while the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet under control.

“We are seeing a slow but inexorable increase in infections and outbreaks in Switzerland,” Philippe Eggimann, president of the Medical Society of French-Speaking Switzerland said in an interview with La Liberté newspaper. 

“It is not reasonable to open the way for more transmission opportunities,” he added.

READ MORE: 'We're on a dangerous slope': Swiss officials fear more Covid-19 cases as seasons change 

According to Eggimann, lifting the restriction on large assemblies would make it harder to trace contacts in the event of coronavirus infections, therefore “encouraging a second wave”.

He also noted that the re-opening of schools and the return from vacation will increase social interactions, and with it, the risk of exposure to the virus.

“In this context, allowing crowds of 1,000 people is a significant risk. It would have been safer to watch how things develop and only then make decisions,” he noted.

The warning comes as the number of Covid-19 infections in Switzerland became the highest since the worst of the pandemic in April.

The number of daily cases so far in August has exceeded 200 a day, rising nearly twofold from previous weeks.

That is a substantial surge from the month of June, when the count for daily cases was in the low two-digits.