The Downhill Only Club is one of Britain’s largest Alpine Ski Clubs. Every winter season, its members have become a major part of village life in Wengen.
Those who wanted to ski at the beginning of the 20th century usually had to climb a mountain. Not in Wengen. Here it was 'downhill only'. From 1910 the Wengernalp Railway reached Kleine Scheidegg in winter so that the mostly British guests could enjoy their pastime without sweating.
Their goal: To Win
'Downhill only' became their byword: On 14th February 1925, 14 British skiers raced against the Kandahar Ski Club from Mürren which had been formed in 1924 – and lost miserably in both slalom and downhill. The losers vowed to change this. They founded the 'Downhill Only Ski Club' (DHO) that same evening with the aim of avenging their disgrace.
Wengen is a 'Home from Home' for many DHO members
Since then, both clubs have competed again and again, have produced some excellent skiers and are still strongly committed to the younger generation. The DHO currently has the edge: With around 1200 members, it is one of Britain’s largest ski clubs. Many of them come year after year to Wengen, bringing children and grandchildren. 'It is an extended perennial family' says Karl Näpflin, councilor, long-time president of Wengen Tourism and himself a member of the DHO. Originally there was even a regulation that said that whoever misses a winter in Wengen has to leave the club. This was abolished in 1927. The DHO members have nevertheless remained faithful to Wengen. Nowadays, the DHO welcomes members from around the world, though chiefly from English-speaking countries.
From a sporting point of view, the DHO can no longer maintain the international successes of the first years. Even so, there's no way of avoiding the British club, on or off the piste. The DHO has its own clubhouse in Wengen, bringing guests and events to the Bernese Oberland and maintaining a broad network. For example, it invites the presidents of all regional organizations to the "President's Club" each year.
"Oh God", it's steep
DHO members have named several ski runs, such as "Black Rock", "Telegraph Field" or "Oh God Run", which begins below the Eiger Glacier: "You cannot see how steep it is going downhill, but then suddenly a slope starts," says Näpflin, who is a Swiss snow sports instructor. At the sight of the hillside, a DHO member must probably have experienced an "Oh God" moment.
A unique club
Today, the Downhill Only Ski Club is unique with its program of all-day fun skiing for 7-18 year-olds, its group leading of members on ski all over the region and the social activities at its Club House near Wengen Station. For more information about the Club, visit downhillonly.com