There’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end to get you up to speed quickly. Having to step into Vikki’s On running shoes after she left Aspire at the end of September was one thing, taking five journalists I’ve never met on a press trip to the Swiss Alps with On three weeks later was another.
Vikki and Layla had done all the groundwork in getting five outdoor/travel journalists signed up to the trip, while the On team’s incredible organisation meant all itineraries had been arranged and individually tailored and distributed. My role was to accompany and try to keep up with five ultra-fit long-distance runners and outdoor enthusiasts. As someone who’s more used to two wheels than two feet, I was feeling fairly daunted.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. The main shoe that we tested on the two-and-a-half-day press trip was the Cloudventure, an update to On’s popular trail running shoe, which is also great for hiking. Phew!
Arriving at On HQ
After arriving at On’s HQ on Monday morning and being given a brief tour of the 100m long office, we took a coach transfer to Pontresina, just up the road from St Moritz in the beautiful Engadin Valley. Thankfully everyone made it from the airport on time and I was glad to see all my journalists on board: Fiona Russell (Fiona Outdoors), Katie Campbell Spryka (Women’s Running, Lessons in Badassery), Kate Bennett (In The Moment), Sophie Nicholson (GearJunkie, Pretty Gritty) and Fergus Scholes (Adventure Ferg, FT How To Spend It).
After a quick change into the kit provided in On’s welcome pack – running trousers, long sleeve T, weather jacket and some gorgeous moss green Cloudventures – we headed to the chairlift and up into the valley. As well as journalists from the UK, US, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, we were joined by retailers from these countries and also China.
I thoroughly enjoyed the 2-hour hike through the valley. The sun was out and we got warm pretty quickly. It was a great chance to talk to the journalists while taking in the incredible views and beautiful autumnal colours. I found the Cloudventures comfortable from the moment I put them on, and so light and stable that at times I found myself hopping lightly over uneven rocks and across boulders! We arrived at the Pontresina panoramic restaurant in time for incredible views of the sunset, and were welcomed to the restaurant with gluhwein – also a great way to warm up our hands.
The morning hike
The next day kicked off early with an option to run or hike. I’m still not confident at anything over 5k so I opted for the hike and we enjoyed a brisk walk through the woods around Pontresina led by Caspar, one of On’s co-founders.
The morning sessions provided an introduction into the brand from Caspar, followed by a keynote from British Olympic athlete Julia Bleasdale, who now lives and trains in the Engadin Valley. Her approach to trail running and listening to your body was a fascinating insight into how to train while taking care of yourself.
Julia’s talk was followed by a deeper look into the engineering behind On’s shoes, including new material developments and two very exciting new releases for next year, as well as a look into some of the new clothing products, from co-founders Olivier and David.
Then it was time for a transfer by coach to take the (very) high gondola to the glacier at Diavolezza. It was utterly stunning and awe-inspiring, although I was somewhat saddened to learn how much the glaciers are retreating and how much global warming is affecting the mountains from Sophie, an experienced ski tour guide and mountain climber.
Time for cheese!
After an excellent lunch with amazing views of the glacier, we headed back down the valley for a less strenuous hike and visit to a goats cheese farm, where one of the daughters is Swiss biathlete Irene Cadurisch. Feeling fairly intimidated by yet another incredible athlete, I found my level at the next activity: eating cheese.
Back at the hotel, there was time for the spa, another run, or simply the option to put your feet up and catch up on a few emails. All the fresh mountain air definitely tires you out, so I went for the relax/emails option.
Then it was time for the final dinner, rounded off by a celebratory drink in the bar for one US journalist who was enjoying not being at his desk for his 30th birthday.
What a trip! We all agreed we felt like we’d done a lot in two days. Spending time in the company of people who love mountains and the outdoors is never a hardship, while On’s organisation, attention to detail and insight into its brand and products made us all become fully immersed in everything they do. I loved it so much, I might even try and get my running up past 5k.