200 years full of joy

Sunrise in Turtmann, Valais

Hollywood auf dem Furkapass

200 years ago, Valais joined the Swiss Confederation. Discover just how long ago that was, and all about the film antics on the Furka Pass, as we count up the years to the anniversary in our fun timeline.

1 year ago, the first wellness youth hostel opened in Saas Fee.

2 years ago, the Pierre Arnaud Foundation created a new cultural hotspot in Lens.

8 years ago, the Lötschberg Base Tunnel gave Valais a high-speed connection to German-speaking Switzerland.

10 years ago, the Barry Foundation and St. Bernard Dog Museum were set up in Martigny. The foundation is committed to ensuring the continuing existence of the original St. Bernard breed.

14 years ago, the Jungfrau-Aletsch area was the first Alpine region to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

21 years ago, in September 1994, Sierre held the very first Vinea, which has now become the foremost annual event for Valais’s wine producers.

28 years ago, the ski slopes of Crans-Montana were hit by a gold rush. Swiss skiers won eight out of ten gold medals at the World Ski Championships on home soil, making it Switzerland’s most successful championships ever.

37 years ago, Léonard Gianadda set up the Fondation Pierre Gianadda, whose fame has since spread far beyond the canton’s borders, in Martigny. This dynamic town surrounded by orchards and vineyards has been popular since Roman times: the ancient Romans built a large amphitheatre that remains impressive to this day.

39 years ago, dinosaur tracks dating back more than 250 million years were found in Vieux-Emosson.

49 years ago, two local white wines – “Fendant” and “Johannisberg” – received protected designation of origin status.

50 years ago, a huge mass of ice broke off the Allalin Glacier, engulfing the Mattmark reservoir and construction workers’ huts. 88 people were killed in the avalanche. That same year, 1965, Portes du Soleil unveiled the world’s largest cross-border ski area.

51 years ago, the first Festival Tibor Varga in Sion delighted audiences with performances of classical music, while up on the Furka Pass James Bond, the world’s most famous secret agent, was filming scenes for his latest blockbuster “Goldfinger”.

52 years ago, engineering and construction work on the Grande-Dixence dam was completed; one year later in 1964, the first car drove through the Great Saint Bernard tunnel.

54 years ago, the area around the Lac de Derborence was declared a nature reserve.

58 years ago, the women of the mountain village of Unterbäch went to the polls for the first time – against the wishes of canton Valais, the Swiss government and many local people. Katharina Zenhäusern, wife of the council leader of the time, became the first Swiss woman anywhere in the country to place a ballot paper in the ballot box. The municipality of Niederdorf in Basel-Landschaft also gave its women a consultative vote at the same referendum.

69 years ago, Valais had strawberries flown to England by plane. That same year, the earth shook in Central Valais, registering magnitudes of between 5.5 and 6.0 on the Richter scale. 3,485 buildings were destroyed in Sierre, Sion and the surrounding area.

71 years ago, Maurice Chappaz burst onto the literary scene with his publication “Les grandes journées du printemps” (“The Heady Days of Spring”). 41 years later, in 1985, he was awarded the Canton of Valais Prize for Cultural Achievements for his life’s work.

72 years ago, ultra fit, off-piste skiers first tackled the 53km Patrouille des Glaciers trek. The route from Zermatt to Verbier covered roughly 53 kilometres, with a difference in altitude of 4,000 metres – and still does so today.

73 years ago, the first ski lift on the Sunnegga in Zermatt carried snow sports enthusiasts up the slope. 37 years later, the Klein Matterhorn cableway was launched, making history as the highest cable car system in Europe.

85 years ago, the national dress societies celebrated the centenary of traditional costumes in Champéry.

89 years ago, Rainer Maria Rilke published a volume of poetry inspired by Valais, entitled “Les Quatrains valaisans”. He died that same year, 1926, and is buried in the cemetery at Raron.

92 years ago, a cow named “Violette” triumphed at the first cantonal cow fighting competition in Martigny.

97 years ago, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) began constructing the Emosson reservoir. The lake was dammed for the first time seven years later, in 1925.

102 years ago, aviation pioneer Oscar Bider landed his Blériot aircraft in Sion. This unparalleled feat made him the first pilot ever to cross the Bernese Alps. 22 years later, in 1935, Sion airport was officially opened.

108 years ago, visionary ski instructors founded the first ski club in Valais in Martigny. Zermatt and Saas-Fee followed in 1908.

109 years ago, the first plant protection ordinance for Alpine flowers came into effect. Also in 1906, the first train passed through the Simplon Tunnel, thus connecting Valais and Northern Italy.

113 years ago, at the initiative of Hermann Seiler, the then president of the Monte Rosa section of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC), 12 energetic mountain guides attended their first skiing lessons in Zermatt. 36 years later, in 1938, the ordinance on ski instructors entered into force.

118 years ago, Lonza opened a factory in Gampel. Seven years later, in 1905, it built the company’s current site in Visp.

119 years ago, 50 subscribers in Sion placed calls via the telephone exchange.

122 years ago, an electric mill began operating in the gold mine at Gondo, dispensing with the effort of transporting the ore to the valley by sled.

125 years ago, Valais first began using posters to attract visitors.

126 years ago, the newly founded Morand Distillery in Martigny produced its first bottles of eau de vie. The first power plant in Valais was inaugurated in Leukerbad, providing electric light. Seven years later, the Hotel- und Bädergesellschaft [Hotel and Bath Company] was established as the first hotel corporation in Switzerland.

129 years ago, a cableway was built in Forclaz to transport ice from the Trient Glacier to Lyon and Paris.

131 years ago, Ernst Biéler – a painter from Vaud – set about exploring Savièse. His works are now highly sought-after and sell for high prices. 15 years later, fellow artist Edmond Bille, from Neuchâtel, settled in Chandolin.

132 years ago saw the official opening of the Cantonal History Museum on the hill of Valère in Sion.

135 years ago, well-known counterfeiter Joseph-Samuel Farinet died in Saillon. A local vineyard – the world’s smallest – was named in his honour. It is now owned by the Dalai Lama.

139 years ago, the Orsat winery was set up in Martigny. 54 years later, in 1930, vintners in Sion founded the Provins cooperative.

147 years ago, the Hörnlihütte at the foot of the Matterhorn received its first guests as the newly opened hut of the Monte Rosa section of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). The first gas factory opened its doors in Sierre that same year.

Hérens national cow fighting final, Valais, Switzerland

148 years ago, the first stagecoach crossed the Furka Pass.

149 years ago, a certain Dr Ernest Guglielminetti was born in Brig-Glis. His idea of using tar (goudron in French) for binding the dust on roads later led to modern asphalt construction.

150years ago, Edward Whymper became the first climber to conquer  the Matterhorn.

152 years ago, work began on correcting the course of the Rhône, three years after the devastating flood of 1860.

160 years ago, the first gamblers sought to make their fortune at the casino in Saxon.

165 years ago, Cäsar Ritz, the famous hotelier and founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels, was born in Niederwald, a village in Goms.

166 years ago, Johann Josef Imseng from Saas-Fee made Switzerland’s first recorded ski run.

167 years ago, first references are made to Pinot Noir in the Rhône Valley. The red wine was previously known as “Petite Dôle”.

174 years ago, the Hotel des Bains in Saxon began pampering guests.

176 years ago, the Hotel Monte Rosa in Zermatt became the first hotel in Valais to offer accommodation to summer visitors.  It was not until 1927/28 that hotels also stayed open during the winter season, the same year that the Visp-Zermatt railway line began operating in winter.

184 years ago, Gletsch blazed a trail in developing tourism in Valais: this was where the first inn opened its doors to guests.

196 years ago, British artist Joseph Mallord William Turner passed through Valais on his way to Venice. The light of Sion inspired the painter to create his Romantic vision of the “Rhône Valley near Sion”.

200 years ago, Valais joined the Swiss Confederation, determined to maintain and develop its scenic, cultural and touristic gems.

62 hours of adventure – a short trip to the Swiss Alps

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Mountainbikers in the Goms valley, Valais