After graduating from Lethbridge College, Evelyn Kellenberger has found life to be full of peaks and valleys. Literally.
Evelyn, along with her husband Markus and children, Nina and Nils, lives in the town of Grindelwald in the heart of Switzerland. There, Evelyn works for Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe, an alpine ski and tourism destination that features Europe’s highest altitude train station.
Evelyn’s journey to a career more than 10,000 feet above sea level is one with many stops. It started in Central America. In 1989, Evelyn’s parents fled political turmoil in their native El Salvador, settling in Lethbridge with 18-year-old Evelyn, her brother and two sisters. After taking English and Computerized Accounting at Lethbridge College, Evelyn moved to Banff, and then Jasper National Park before finally moving to Golden, B.C., to finish her Business Administration Certificate at the College of the Rockies. Living in a new country in the shadow of the mountains gave Evelyn the chance to not only pursue an education, but also to try out a new pastime, one that would play a big role in her future.
“I was 21 the first time I went skiing,” recalls Evelyn. “It was in Fernie and I remember seeing the most beautiful big snowflakes when I got there. But I really got into it and learned to ski properly when I moved to Banff.”
Skiing wasn’t the only thing she fell in love with while living in Banff; it was there that Evelyn met her future husband, a Swiss-Canadian former competitive skier who was visiting relatives in Canada. After almost 17 years of living and working in the Canadian Rockies, including a stint running a bed and breakfast in Golden, the family decided to try something new.
“We used to go to Switzerland every couple of years to visit my in-laws, and then in 2013, we decided it would be good for the kids to get a Swiss education and learn German,” she explains.
Working as a tour guide and ticket office clerk for one of Switzerland’s top tourist attractions has its benefits, including access to great ski hills and breathtaking scenery. It also has its challenges.
“We have clients from around the world, including South Korea, Japan, China and India and also from across Europe – Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain – so you have to be able to communicate with different cultures and languages,” she says. Now, with her children almost all grown up (Nina is 19 and Nils is 17), the family is planning to eventually return to Canada, where Evelyn’s parents still live, and savour its wide open spaces and mountain peaks.
“Living in the Swiss Alps has been a beautiful experience,” she says, “but I miss the majestic Rocky Mountains and I look forward to coming back!” To follow along with Evelyn’s adventures, check out her Instagram account: switzerland_by_ek.