Our Chalet, the first of all the World Centers, was opened in 1932. Built near the village of Adelboden, high up in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland, it has given Girl Guides and Girl Scouts the opportunity to strengthen bonds of international friendship, meet rugged outdoor challenges, and understand and appreciate the value of the multi-cultural world in which they live in the 21st Century, while enjoying a beautiful, mountainous region of the world.
To write the history of Our Chalet is telling a fairy tale! The beginning of the fairy tale dates back to 1929 when the World Committee met in Holland. There a definite desire was expressed to have a world meeting center. The desire was hardly pronounced when Helen O. Storrow of Boston, Massachusetts immediately said: “I would like to give that house!” and this was the beginning. Each year approximately 4,000 people visit Our Chalet, as program participants, outdoor or indoor campers, or day visitors.
The facilities at Our Chalet consist of the Main Chalet, Spycher Chalet, Squirrel House,Camphouse and Baby Chalet. (The Baby Chalet was built especially for Helen Storrow and hasbeen recently renovated.) The program at Our Chalet includes Swiss Alpine adventure (walking, hiking, skiing), leadership development and international friendship.
You can also volunteer at Our Chalet, which offers you the chance to meet Guides and Scouts from many countries, explore Switzerland, learn new skills and so much more.
“And each Girl Scout and Guide shall find a welcome there.”
July 31st is Our Chalet Birthday. Along with other festivities, "Happy Birthday" is sung in as many languages as the Our Chalet occupants know.
Swiss National Day is celebrated on August 1st. A typical celebration is held in Adelboden. The evening is filled with yodelers, alphorn players, bagpipers, speeches in English, Swiss German and French, and beautiful traditional Swiss dances. There is also a parade of children, guides, scouts, performers, lanterns and flags! As it gets dark, the sky is filled with beautiful fireworks, accompanied by cheers from the girls. Adelboden comes alive with the Guiding and Scouting spirit. The night comes to an end in Adelboden with an enormous circle of girls singing Taps.
A trip to Our Chalet from the United States usually requires 2 years of planning, raising money and getting into shape for hiking and adventure at a high altitude (as the song goes, it is “high up, high on the mountain“).
If you plan to attend a program (event) session, you may need to apply 18 months prior and there may be a group limit for certain sessions. You also need to make a deposit to hold your reservation so you need to be aware of the various payment schedules. Switzerland uses Swiss Francs (CHF), although the Euro is accepted.
You need to pack only what you can carry (or pull). Be prepared for rain or snow (hopefully snow in the winter). You will go from plane to train to bus to walking (or taxi) up (high up) to Our Chalet. Check out the activity brochures for each of the seasons for specific gear to bring (or not to bring). If you plan to hike and do high adventure, a good pair of broken-in hiking boots are a must. Sheets and towels are provided if staying in the buildings (versus camping) at Our Chalet.
Certain types of rail passes can be purchased in the United States prior to your departure.
The Girl Scout uniform (pin, vest, scarf, white blouse) is appropriate for the opening ceremony and the dinner meal. The group may also want to have a group/event t-shirt or scarf to wear for informal occasions. (Of course, you can buy an Our Chalet shirt, sweater or fleece when you are there!)
Time-wise you can get from the airport (usually the flight to Switzerland from US travels overnight so you arrive in the morning but with little sleep) to Oey/Adelboden in about three hours but allow for lost luggage, plane delays, etc.
English is the spoken language at Our Chalet. However, Switzerland has four languages: German, French, Italian and Romanish. Each canton (similar to a state) has a designated language and you may be traveling though several on your trip. As with any international travel, there is a difference in the language, culture, customs, holidays, dress, etc. that you need to know.