During a week when it is almost impossible to find a hotel room or apartment in Wengen or the rest of the Jungfrau region, it might seem churlish to ask what the future holds?
However, even putting to one side the question as to how much snow might fall – there having been good snow years and poor snow years for as long as there has been skiing in the area – the future will bring fresh challenges.
Most importantly, who might come skiing? We think of Switzerland as a skiing nation and events like the Lauberhorn only seem to confirm that view, but locals say the sport is not part of the nation’s DNA in the same way as it was at one time. People from the area (and by that I mean as far as Berne) still come, but what of the lowland metropolitan Swiss?
It is still a fairly common sight to see people from Zurich and other major cities stood on the station platform in their ski gear, boots and all, on their way to or returning from a day’s skiing. Not so many as in the past though it seems. It is twenty eight years since Mrs IS and I first came to Switzerland and I think it is fair to say that the country has broader horizons than back then. A young person in Basel or Zurich may be tempted more easily to spend CHF75 on a flight to Barcelona than almost the same amount for a day pass in Wengen.
What of the tourists? I mentioned earlier the broad church of people who ski in Wengen, but the truth is, that broad church is ageing. They brought their children when they were young, but now those children have grown up and flown the nest. Jobs in far flung places (we all have broader horizons now), mortgages and the cost of modern life all seem to keep them away. Maybe they will come back with their own children in time.
These few weeks around the European half term holidays do bring lots of young families, but it seems to be the only time that happens. Christmas and New Year are busy, but not dramatically so; Easter is quiet in the main, even though the snow conditions are often fantastic.
It not all doom and gloom by any means. The village had one of its busiest summers ever in 2017. Having said that, one of the most beautiful and famous ski resorts in the world should have a future as a leading ski resort. I wrote before that the view of the published ski guides and other commentators seems to recognise only the Wengen of forty years ago. In fact, so much has been done to make Wengen a modern resort; but the thing is, the task never ends as the world becomes ever smaller and people become ever more demanding. So it’s more hard work for everyone involved, I’m afraid.