All photos by David Zehnder
This article originally appeared on VICE Alps
According to a Swiss legend, there was once a witch living near the picturesque Alpine village of Belalp. The witch was married but cheated on her God-fearing husband with a young man. The two lovers secretly met by transforming into black ravens, soaring through the crisp mountain air. When her devoted husband began to suspect something, the witch decided to get rid of him. The moment he climbed onto an old cherry tree to pluck cherries, she flew over the tree and dropped a rancid black cherry in his eye. The man lost his sight, fell down and died. The legend has it that the town dealt with the murder quite radically – she was made to confess after being tortured and was subsequently sentenced to death and burnt at the stake.
Normally every January, tourism in Belalp experiences a lull. That's why 35 years ago, hoteliers and ski instructors from the region decided to battle that quiet spell by organising a ski race commemorating the witch and her husband. Having locals and tourists alike dress up as witches, get drunk and ski down an icy slope proved to be exactly what the area needed during the slower weeks – despite the bad weather, over 1,300 people joined the witch race on the 14th of January this year. The race itself isn't about time, but about style. And about doing as many shots as possible, which explains why most witches don't make it to the finish line but get stuck somewhere on their way down the slope.
Local photographer David Zehnder was there to document this year's event.