Switzerland is no stranger to extreme sports. Since the “golden age of mountaineering” from 1855-1865, brave and adventurous souls have been climbing the challenging summits in the Alps with Swiss, French, and Italian guides.
Then the thrilling sport of skydiving—parachuting out of a perfectly functioning aircraft for no other reasons than thrills and the dreamlike experience of flying came along.
In more recent times, a fringe sport known as BASE jumping has gained the attention of extreme thrill seekers around the world, thanks in part to media coverage and YouTube videos glorifying the sport.
What is BASE jumping? The acronym stands for building, antenna, spans (usually bridges), and earth (cliffs and rock formations.) Like skydiving, you’re free-falling to the ground below with only a parachute to save you from death. But unlike skydiving, BASE jumping begins closer to the ground (600 to 800 meters as opposed to 4,000 meters) with less time to open your parachute.
BASE jumping is against the law in many places, but it’s legal in Switzerland. Lawmakers say that regulations wouldn’t stop it, and it would become even more dangerous. On average, six people die every year engaging in this dangerous sport. Only experienced skydivers with many hours of training and around 200 jumps should even consider doing this dangerous sport.
If this is you, here are the best places for BASE jumping in Switzerland.
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Best Places for BASE Jumping in Switzerland
The Lauterbrunnen Valley has become Switzerland’s premier location for BASE jumping with around 15,000 jumps from cliffs each year. The controversial practice has even earned it the moniker “Death Valley.”
The town of Lauterbrunnen with its Alpine chalets, one church, and 72 waterfalls is at the heart of the valley. It’s home to the roaring 297-meter-high Staubbach Falls that appear to tumble into town. A few hundred meters up into the valley, Buchenbach Falls has a protruding rock ledge that is popular for BASE jumpers.
You’ll find cliffs in the valley up to 500 meters high making them perfect jumping-off points for BASE jumping.
One of the world’s most iconic mountains, the Eiger is a 3,967-meter high mountain that towns over the village of Grindelwald in the Bernese Alps. It’s the easternmost peak in a ridge that stretches across the Mönch to the Jungfrau. The Eiger’s northside rises over 3,000 meters above the valleys of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. The southern side overlooks the huge glaciers of the Jungfrau-Aletsch area.
This striking peak is one of the most documented ones in the world and has been featured in several movies. Called the “Eigerwang,” its north face is the tallest north face in the Alps at 1,800 meters high.
The Eiger has many climbing routes, most of which are quite difficult. On August 11, 1858, Swiss guides and one Irishman were the first to ascend the Eiger. The challenging and dangerous north face was first climbed by an Austrian-German expedition in 1938. At least 64 climbers have died trying to conquer the north face.
The peak has a few BASE jumping exit points. The most popular one is a pillar of rock called the “mushroom.” BASE jumpers eagerly head up to the mushroom when the winds are favorable and the snow has cleared.
Bruson is a ski area in the fabulous Verbier holiday resort where outdoor adventure sports include skiing, mountain biking, hiking, paragliding, and BASE jumping. Outdoor enthusiasts come to the area for its steep slopes, variable conditions, and winter sports culture. Some areas have snow year-round. It’s located in the French-speaking canton of Valais between the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc and is part of a plateau surrounded by mountain peaks known as the 4 Vallées. The whole area is especially picturesque.
Bruson lies opposite Verbier and is accessible by an 8-seater cable car from Le Châble. BASE jumpers can find 600-800 meter cliffs suitable for their sport. You’ll be surrounded by views from the Mont-Blanc massif to the Bernese Alps.
Bruson is a charming village and a good place to refuel and celebrate with a drink after your jump.
Walenstadt is a town in the Wahkreis of Sarganserland in Switzerland’s canton of St. Gallen. It’s situated on Lake Walenstadt (also known as Lake Walen), and the area is popular with hikers and campers for its many scenic lake trails. The 45.7 km2 area is largely agricultural and forested.
The Walenstadt community is divided into five towns: Walenstadt, Knoblisbühl, Berschis Tscherlach, and Walenstadtberg where you’ll find the Paxmal, a famous peace monument built by Karl Bickel completed in 1949. A public transport bus system links all of the towns.
The Churfürsten mountain range in the area provides a backdrop for BASE jumpers in Waldenstadt. Jumpers in wingsuits come to jump at The Crack, a popular jumping spot on the Churfirsten above Walenstadt. Jumpers are encouraged to watch out for slippery conditions, watch for paragliders, avoid the Barn Line because of cattle, and not to fly over the town. Stick to the main landing field below The Crack.
Is BASE jumping legal in Switzerland?
BASE jumping is legal in all parts of Switzerland, but you should follow the rules of each location and only jump at marked points.
Why is Switzerland popular for BASE jumping?
Since it’s not against the law, Switzerland is popular with BASE jumpers. Local people are accepting and knowledgeable about extreme sports, and the scenery is breathtaking.
Cost of BASE Jumping in Switzerland
A European BASE expedition can cost up to USD 4,350. On your own, you’ll incur the cost of skydiving lessons (highly recommended) and the cost of equipment. BASE pilot chutes cost about USD 146. Additionally, the Swiss BASE Association requires you to purchase a landing card for CHF 25. The money collected is used to compensate farmers for damage to silage. You’re also required to have third-party insurance.
Safety Tips for BASE Jumping in Switzerland
1. Make sure you have adequate training as a skydiver.
2. Only jump from marked points.
3. Watch out for skydivers and paragliders, and respect their airspace.
4. Choose a safe landing field.
5. Don’t give or take advice from other jumpers. You don’t know their experience or skill level, and they don’t know yours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who was the base jumper that died in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland?
A Dutch BASE jumper named Jarno Cordia, age 44, died jumping with a wingsuit after jumping from a cliff at Hig La Mousse.
How high is the BASE jump in Lauterbrunnen?
Lauterbrunnen has BASE-jumping cliffs that soar up to 1,100 meters.