Swiss skiers hit the slopes in witches’ garb

Each January, the slopes of Belalp, Switzerland, go to the witches.

Hundreds of skiers don pointy noses and wacky witch wigs. Brooms replace ski poles for the Belalp Hexe, one of the wildest festivals on skis.

It’s based on a legend about a witch, or hexe, who lived in the region long ago, until she was burned at the stake.

These photos are from 2012, which was the 30th festival. This year’s event started Saturday and runs through Jan. 19.

witchesA group of skiers disguised as witches participate in the 30th ski downhill race at Belalp-Blatten, Southwestern Switzerland, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. The downhill at Belalp is a fun event called “Hexenabfahrt” (downhill of the witches) and many of the 1,500 participants race down the 12km slope long in colorful costumes.

Taking part in one of Switzerland’s weirder traditions, hundreds of wannabe witches dressed up and got their skis on over the weekend, competing in a 7.5-mile mountain skiing race down a total of 5,905 feet, beginning to end.

The idea behind the downhill Witches’ Descent race is that once upon a time, a witch who murdered her husband was burned at the stake – and the townfolk of the swiss village of Belalp like to celebrate that fact through the medium of sliding down compacted snow on a pair of waxed plastic strips. As you do.

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