Berglialp is located just north above the village of Elm in the Canton Glarus. At an altitude of 5300 ft. it covers an area of over 800 acres of Alp meadows. The Alp is private and in the ownership of the Marti family since 1903!
Around 130 mother cows and calves and a dozen milk cows spend their summer on Berglialp, and 1.5 tons of Glarner Alpkäse are produced every transhumance. Heinrich and his wife Ursi both are alternatively making cheese, depending on what tasks the day brings. They have 4 sons (22, 21, 18, and 13).
Early June, weather permitting, they move to the Untersäss (lower hut). Around mid-July, they hike up to the Obersäss (upper hut) where they stay for about a month. They have dairy equipment in both huts, therefore no transportation of the milk is required. Which would be a drag, really: Both locations can only be reached by foot!
During the week either Ursi or an employee stays down in the valley with the children. The staff on the Alp includes a farmhand who does the grass cutting, mending fences, etc. as well as a herdsman who alone stays with the mother cows on the highest pastures of Berglialp during the peak of transhumance. And there is a female employee who tends to the vacation huts, restaurant, and spa.
Yes, it’s not a typo. Berglialp is also an award-winning spa and wellness center where you can spend your vacation and stay in one of three chalets. Years ago the family also brought around 70 pigs to the Alp which were fed with the whey. When the price for pork constantly decreased, the Marti-Kamer family decided to be innovative and go a modern way: The whey is now used for the spa. Imagine being pampered in a peaceful environment, fed with the healthy diet produced on the Alp. And, yeah, there’s champagne, too.
In the fall of 2019, they built a new chalet in the neighboring village of Engi in the valley. During the winter they offer outdoor whey baths and host fondue-, raclette-nights, and alp-breakfasts.
Climate change has brought new challenges to transhumance. One being short of water during hot summer's peak. The Marti's are proactive: They completely change the water supply for Berglialp. From the spring on Chütal at 6250 m.a.s.l. pipes are drawn to the upper hut. There a turbine will produce electricity, a novelty. In a second stage, the powerlines will go to the lower hut as well as the "Mittelstafel-Panorama-Hut". The water pipes go down there, too, as well as to seven throughs on the pastures. This guarantees pristine water for animals and cheesemaking. The cost is estimated to be over half a million dollars. Federal and local governments cover 63% of it.