When one goes for a winter holiday or just a day excursion to the Upper Valais in Switzerland, the chances are high that the visitor will choose better known areas like Bettmeralp, Riederalp, Saas-Fee or the famous Zermatt. A few weeks ago, I attended and shot photographs of the Belalp Hexe, the craziest ski competition of the Alps where there are costumed witches and other bizarre skiers in on the race. It takes place in the village of the same name and some weeks later I wanted to go back and discover more about this hidden Alpine gem.
Belalp can’t, of course, be directly compared to the much larger resorts mentioned above. However, for winter lovers, it definitely has something to offer everyone certainly winter sports enthusiasts with its slopes from 1340m (4400ft) up to 3100m (10’209ft) above sea level. In addition to the 48km (30mi) of pristine ski and cross-country ski trails, Belalp also offers snowshoe trails. From Brig, one takes a 20-minute public bus service to Blatten bei Naters from where an aerial cable car brings visitors, luggage and goods up to Belalp.
The weeks after the Belalp Hexe a lot of fresh snow fell on to the Swiss Alps. I continually monitored the weather forecast for the weekends waiting for the perfect day to explore the resort again and walk on its snowshoe trails in the best possible photographic conditions.
On the first day I selected, the weather forecast was for snowfall in the early morning, but with the sun coming out by mid-morning. I had to take my chances at being there just at the moment when the sun comes through in order to illuminate the mountains and forests immediately after the fresh snowfall; a photographer’s heaven. The forecast turned out to be only true for the first part, the early morning snowfall which continued all day. I discovered a region under thick dark grey cloud cover and snowfall giving an almost mystical touch to the landscape. The only things missing were the witches. The visibility was not good enough to venture on a snowshoe trail through the forest. I took some time to visit the old village part of Blatten.
After taking the cable car back from Belalp to Blatten, I highly recommend visitors to cross the main road in front of the bottom cable car station into the old part of the village. Immediately one realizes that one did not only cross the road, but also crossed a timeline to find himself in another century in the narrow lanes of an ancient authentic village with typical sun burnt wooden chalets. On this particular winter day, the chalets and the paths were also covered by mountains of fresh snow.
Blatten is not a township of its own. It is one of 31 small villages belonging to the town of Naters. The oldest houses date back to 1630. The chapel was initially built in 1449. It has been rebuilt in 1645 to point eastwards.