Steinstossen – just one good reason to go to a Schwingfest

There’s quite a lot to understand about this sport, loosely translated as stone throwing – played at tournaments throughout the summer along with other sports, most notably Swiss wrestling, Schwingen (which gets more public attention – the tournaments are usually even named Schwingfests.)

Steinstossen competitions include a range of weights, depending on the specific tournament, from seeing how far athletes can power a 12 kilogram (kg) stone to the unbelievable Unspunnenstein at 83.5 kg. Winning is measured in distance. Depending on the stone, the “toss” uses two hands and a few running steps or one hand, standing still. Each competitor develops an individual technique for the “throw” and usually starts with one or two stone weight categories, moving up in weight over time. And yes, there is a women’s league, too.

While Steinstossen first appeared in the 1300’s, the legendary Unspunnenfest contest (click English) launched in 1805. Its original big old stone has been stolen a couple of times by political activists and engraved with their emblems; therefore, a replica is now used for the competition. This very year of 2017, the official Unspunnen competition will be held as a separate event for the first time since 2011! How great is that for my gap adventure?

Schwingfests (and the Unspunnenfests) pack events full of long-rooted Swiss culture with wrestling, Steinstossen, another competition called Hornussen, plus always jodeling, alphorn playing, flag swinging, brats and beer. I cannot believe I haven’t yet been to one! Been a city girl too long. Time to head to the countryside this summer.

Where to find the 2017 competitions