All projects nominated for the UIAA Mountain Protection Award receive close support and promotion from the UIAA during their lifecycle. For the annual winner of the Award, there is the added factor of global publicity and prize money. In this mini series, the UIAA speaks to the past three recipients of the Award to discuss their recent progress and the positive impact winning the MPA had. All three of the past editions were supported by Bally Peak Outlook Foundation.
The UIAA Mountain Protection Award, partnered by Bally Peak Outlook Foundation, marks its tenth anniversary this year. Application for 2023 is now closed and the nominees have been announced. The overall winner will be confirmed at the UIAA General Assembly in Trabzon, Türkiye on 21 October.
This third and final article focuses on the winner of the 2019 Award, Alpine Learning Project Weeks by the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). The youth-focused project, founded in 2014, was created to provide school classes with the unique opportunity to enable children to experience the high mountain landscape of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jungfrau-Aletsch, Switzerland, and in the process, better understand the principle of sustainable development of the Alpine region. Michelle Stirnimann – Project Lead at the SAC, provides an update on recent progress. This is the second time the UIAA has followed up with the project following a progress report in 2020.
UIAA – What did it mean to you and your organisation to win the 2019 edition of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award?
Alpine Learning Project Weeks – The UIAA Mountain Protection Award and prize money from Bally Peak Outlook Foundation gave us motivation and the decisive kick to develop the project further and open it up more broadly. The Award has played a decisive role in helping us invest further in the project particularly in terms of human resources and scope.
Until 2019, our project was carried out exclusively in one region (UNESCO World Heritage Jungfrau-Aletsch). In 2020, the SAC decided to take the lead and we have added new huts and regions year after year. We have also taken the courage to open the project across the language border and adapt it into French as well. This gives us many new opportunities and ideas on how to develop the project even further. For example, requests from groups who would like to go to an “other language” cabin and combine the week with a language stay as a class. There are many ideas, and we hope to continue the project for a long time.
How have you benefited from winning the UIAA Mountain Protection Award that year?
Since 2019, the project is basically fully booked every year. In 2022, we had a record of over 16 participating classes. We cannot say for sure to what extent this is related to the Award, but the demand among school classes is certainly there and has risen significantly since 2019.
How did you end up using the prize money provided by Bally Peak Outlook Foundation?
Prize money was used for the further development and equipment of the huts (such as climbing material, learning material). It was certainly a helpful and motivating contribution.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Unfortunately, funding for the Alpine Learning Project Weeks is still a major obstacle for many classes. The cost with full board in the hut, travel and mountain guide is very expensive. But from all participating classes we have not received a single negative feedback yet. Many teachers come back and still rave about the experience years later.