As the cable car makes its way up from the valley station at Betten towards Bettmeralp in the Aletsch Arena, Sven Furrer forgets all about his car, parked below and now growing smaller and smaller. During the seven-minute journey he is much more interested in trying to catch a glimpse of the grazing deer or drinking in the panoramic view of Switzerland’s most striking 4000-metre peaks as it unfolds before him. He is happy to travel in silence, lost in his own thoughts and marvelling anew at how everyday life recedes more and more into the distance with each of the 1,200 metres in altitude he climbs – and also at how liberating that feels. However, with 18-month-old daughter Lilou in his arms and surrounded by his sons Janis (13), Lias (11), and Matis (8), all gesticulating loudly, determined to share their observations and feelings with their dad, this is no easy feat.
Meanwhile, his wife Eveline, 42, has other worries. She checks that all the bikes and luggage really have made it into the gondola. Everything seems to be in order. “When the doors open at the top station, 2,000 metres above sea level, and we breathe in the good, fresh mountain air, then we know we’ve arrived and immediately get into holiday mode,” reveals Furrer. Bettmeralp, a car-free village with 400 inhabitants – situated at the heart of the Aletsch Arena, between Riederalp and Fiescheralp, at an altitude of 2,000 metres – is the second home of this well-known comedian and his family. This is where they own a beautiful apartment; this is where they spend three weeks in winter and three to four weeks in summer.
“I used to come to the Aletsch area on holiday when I was young,” says Furrer, who is originally from Brig, but has spent 25 years living ‘in exile’ in the north of Switzerland. “I have a lot of memories of this sunny high plateau above the Rhône Valley. And maybe that’s why I feel a deep-seated sense of security whenever I come back here.” His family now also feel at home in this beautiful part of the world. “The Aletsch region is a place to get away from it all, perfect for nature holidays and ideal for kids,” says Eveline Furrer enthusiastically. “From the youngest to the oldest, they all find something to keep them happy.” Janis likes to play golf on the 9-hole course at Riederalp, Lias would rather fish in the Bettmersee lake, Matis wants to take part in the "Marotte" children’s circus workshop, Eveline prefers going on long walks with Lilou in the pram, while Sven likes the idea of a hike. In the Aletsch Arena, the six-strong family can easily do all these different things in a single day. Furrer: “There’s an unbelievable variety of activities available in such a small area. And the children can safely enjoy them on their own.”
But the Furrers especially like doing things together. Hiking in the Aletsch Forest, for example, where the oldest tree in Switzerland is to be found. Or visiting the Pro Natura centre in the Villa Cassel at Riederfurka, where Winston Churchill once spent the summer. A picnic by the mountain stream where they build dams in the water, hiring pedalos at Bettmersee, watching wildlife with the gamekeeper, visiting the rope park or going on a mountain bike tour are just as much fun. “We have great plans this summer. I want to go on a tour across the Aletsch Glacier with my three boys and a mountain guide,” Furrer tells us. The youngsters have already found out lots of interesting facts about the 23-kilometre river of ice – the longest in the Alps – at the multimedia Eiswelt (“Ice World”) exhibition at Bettmerhorn. And as with any successful family holiday, they don’t let any bad weather spoil the fun. Furrer: “That’s when we enjoy playing games or card games. There’s no such thing as boredom or being in a bad mood in the Aletsch Arena.”