Hotel riffelalp nostalgisch

Record at the central festival of the SAC

Story 101

In 1922, the Monte Rosa section had the honour of organising the central festival of the Swiss Alpine Club, SAC. Despite the adverse weather, the event proved to be an experience that delighted both participants and the Swiss media. The festival ended with a record for the Gornergrat Railway. 

In 1865, 13 mountaineering companions founded the Monte Rosa section in Sion and became the eleventh section of the Swiss Alpine Club, SAC. By 1922, the number of members had grown to 710, and they were all faced with a major task: staging the SAC’s central festival. As if that were not enough, the festival was taking place for the first time in Valais – in Zermatt.  

It may well be described as an event in the history of the Swiss Alpine Club that a high-mountain station that offered Alpine research and mountaineering energy the opportunity to achieve the greatest triumphs like no other in Switzerland was chosen as the festival venue for this year’s central festival.
NZZ, 14 August 1922

Everything for just 50 francs 

To welcome the members of the SAC 101 years ago, the entire region took part in organising the festival in September 1922. All the hotels in Zermatt were available to accommodate guests. To ensure the perfect atmosphere, bonfires around Zermatt were to send silent, radiant greetings to those present. The Gornergrat Railway planned to take the participants up the Gornergrat on Sunday morning. The Annual General Meeting was held in the great outdoors on the Riffelalp with a view of the Matterhorn. 

The tickets for the celebrations also included free return journeys from Visp to Zermatt and from there to the Gornergrat, including refreshments, evening meal, breakfast and a souvenir. “All this costs just CHF 50. No one is likely to be able to visit Zermatt so cheaply again,” the NZZ wrote at the time. 

Defying the weather conditions 

So everything was perfectly organised, but the plan almost failed due to the weather. On 2 September 1922, the organisers faced another challenge: on that day there was terrible weather with snowfall all the way down to the village. On the Gornergrat, the snow cover measured 35 cm. But the organisers were not deterred. In spite of the weather conditions, the central festival participants were taken up to Riffelalp on the Gornergrat Railway. That day, 1,753 passengers were transported, almost 50% more than on previous record-breaking days.  

Thanks to the perseverance of the Monte Rosa section, a successful central festival took place in 1922, which thrilled the SAC members.  

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