Grindelwald in Wintertime 100 Years ago

Snow roller in Grindelwald around 1905

Snow roller around 1905

Today we are used to the fact that new snow is immediately cleared from roads and paths by modern snow-clearing equipment.

100 years ago it was not so easy for the locals to get around in the deep snow in wintertime. For Christian Bühlmann, disabled coach builder from Grindelwald, it soon became too tedious to walk to his clients. In his attempt to solve this problem he became the inventor of the velogemel.

The Velogemel, an inventive Snowbike

In summer Christian Bühlmann used a bicycle. This gave him the idea of transferring the principle of the bicycle to the sledge.

In 1911 he therefore built a snow-bicycle in order to get around faster on downhill and flat stretches the bike-sledge was created.

A Snowbike in Old Times

A Snowbike in Old Times

It had a wooden frame with two runners steered at the front by handlebars, the seated position allowed one to push off with the feet and hence move forward in a manner similar to that of the first bicycle by Drais (Draisine).

As the word "Gemel" is the name for a sledge in local Grindelwald dialect, the bike-sledge soon became called Velogemel by the locals.

The Velogemel,
a Vehicle exklusive to Grindelwald

A speedy descent

At the Velogemel World-Championship

In Grindelwald the Velogemel serves still to commute between home and work when the snow conditions allow it. But more and more it is used in winter sports or as a collector's item. Sledding is very popular in Grindelwald and the numerous sledding runs are often used by snow bikers riding their Velogemels.
Velogemel World Championships are held annually in Grindelwald since 1996.

Nowhere else in Switzerland Velogemels are used as a means of transport. They are, though, sold as a rarity all over the world.