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Small resort big on snow

A sculptor builds a snow castle below the Kuklos restaurant

(Keystone Archive)

Besides skiing, the resort of Leysin is offering something for everyone who enjoys the snow. It's playing host to a series of outdoor events starting on February 12 called the "Week of the Big North".

Leysin, near the eastern end of Lake Geneva, is one of the highest villages in the French-speaking canton of Vaud.

The "Week of the Big North" includes tobogganing in what's billed as Europe's largest "Toboggan Park", sled dog rides and games for children on and off the pistes.

On any given Friday in winter, visitors to Leysin can strap snowshoes onto their boots for a starlit walk through the alpine countryside, topped off with a raclette dinner in a traditional restaurant.

Despite its small size (population 3,000), Leysin is a cosmopolitan place. About half of the residents are foreigners, representing 80 different nationalities. Its multi-ethnic flavour is largely due to the well-known American and Japanese schools based in the resort.

Leysin first came to international attention in the late 18th century when the British economist, Thomas Malthus, found in a study that the villagers in the community had a much higher life expectancy than other Europeans, thanks to the alpine climate.

His findings led to the establishment of the first health spas in Leysin, which dominated the local economy up until the Second World War.

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