La Désalpe, return of the mountain cows

 

19th September 2011

The month of September marks the official transition from summer to autumn in the northern hemisphere. Around the world ski movies premier and ski-bums begin to dream of copious face-shots for the season ahead. In the Alps, increasingly ‘wintry’ weather conditions prevail and snow begins to fall and settle in the alpine. Swiss mountain lore dictates that the time has come for shepherds to drive their cows, who have spent the summer grazing lush highland meadows, toward the sanctuary of the plains and valley bottoms.

The tradition of this procession of shepherds and cows is celebrated with a festival called Désalpe across Switzerland. La Fouly, a tiny settlement at the dead-end of Val Ferret (a valley on Switzerland’s southern border with France and Italy) is a 45-minute drive south-east from Verbier, and is the local centre for these festivities. It’s a typically picturesque village surrounded by gothic-looking mountains and imposing glaciers. And, as if on cue for Désalpe, the weather turned overnight from weeks of glorious sunshine and high temperatures to a wet, misty and decidedly cooler day.

After four amazing years in Canada’s western interior, it was fantastic to return to Switzerland and, within a week, experience a mountain festival that exudes the culture and history of Europe. Below is a selection of images from the day. Next weekend: the Raclette festival in Le Châble. Just part of the joyous induction back into Swiss life … cheese, and more cheese … wine, and more wine … cows, and more cows!

 

Photographs by Barry Cox.

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