In winter, many horn sled races take place in Switzerland keeping an age-long tradition going. Once farmers used the horn sled to transport hay in winter but they were replaced by modern tractors. The sled has handles that look like ram’s horns, hence the name of this sports equipment Hornschlitten (“horned sled”).
The sled races are believed to have started in Swiss Valley of Grindelwalder in the Bernese Oberland and have a nostalgic tone to them as some teams sometimes dress traditional folk costumes for the competition and load the sled with hay and wood. The world’s first international sled competition took place in Davos in 1883 with nineteen participants from England, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia and the United States racing on a three mile kilometre stretch of road.
The horn sled has no steering or breaks and is different from other types of sled because of its shape and the upright riding position. It is often referred to as a Grindelwalder after its birthplace and notoriously difficult to ride, as it was not designed for high-speed trills.
|Horn sled race|
The races run from January and run until March in the cantons of Graubünden, Valais, Glarus and Bernese Oberland. Teams of two or three people ride the sleds downhill at a breakneck speed of up to 50 miles per hour. Spectators stand along the route and cheer on the racers zooming past them. The competitions are so popular in Switzerland that they are always more than 100 sleds racing in each location. A great comradery exists between racers and they always greet each other with a traditional exclamation “Horn heil!” (“Hail horn!”).
Each race is more like a festival than just a sports competition. There is always a great atmosphere with folk music, dances, gastronomic stands selling local delicacies and plenty of hearty food and
drinks to keep the spectators warm and happy.
Photos via Flickr by: Ethreon, Renate Dodell.