About us | Swiss Alpine Club SAC
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About us The first mountain sports association in Switzerland

Ever since its foundation in 1863, the Swiss Alpine Club has contributed to the development of alpine regions and mountaineering. It unites those interested in mountains, promotes the practise of mountain sports and is committed to the sustainable development and the protection of alpine regions.

We encourage training and the exchange of information so that everyone can practise mountain sports responsibly. We are committed to promoting a range of different sports: for example, we offer many courses and activities, encourage both the alpinists of tomorrow and the elite, support competitions and act in favour of the safety and the protection of the Alps. In addition, we manage 153 mountain huts which are vital for our members and for tourism. 

Foundation in the Olten station buffet

On the 19th of April 1863, 35 men from Aarau, Basel, Bern, Buochs, Glaris, Lucern, Olten, St. Gallen and Zurich founded the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) in the station buffet in Olten. This was in response to an appeal by Rudolf Theodor Simler, a chemistry and geology professor at Bern University who was concerned about the rapidly expanding exploration of the Alps by foreigners. The Alpine Club in London was created in 1857 and the Österreichischer Alpenverein in Austria in 1862. Rudolf Simler felt that it would be beneficial to have a Swiss alpinists association. With this in mind, the statutes were established and the Tödi and Clariden were designated as walking areas.

Switzerland minus mountains? No way. Switzerland minus the SAC? Not an option either

Since its foundation, the SAC has made its mark in the country. In 1863, on the club members’ initiative, the Federal Council renamed the highest peak of the Mont-Rose (4634m) “Pointe Dufour” in honour of the cartographer General Guillaume-Henri Dufour. Over and over again, the club members climbed summits already reached and many others as yet undiscovered, publishing accounts of their itineraries. They created a network of mountain paths and huts and were also involved as guides or in mountain rescue. The SAC was significantly involved in work on the national maps. Without the SAC, alpine tourism would never have taken off to such an extent. The club also made sure that the peaks were not invaded by cable cars.

Daniel Marbacher
When I was young, I spent every weekend in the mountains. I reached my limits and sometimes surpassed them. I learned to recognise my strengths and weaknesses and I shared these unique experiences with others. Mountaineering climbs have provided me with some of life’s greatest lessons. I’d like to pass on my enthusiasm for it and hope that other young people will have similar experiences.»
Daniel Marbacher
General Secretary of the Swiss Alpine Club

Studying the mountains

What’s that mountain called? Who climbed it first? How big was the Rhône glacier? How were the Alps formed? Can edelweiss be picked? So many questions which the SAC members have answered. The history of alpinism, botany, ethnology, geology, glaciology, knowledge in the fields of avalanches, meteorology, nomenclature… Club members have been active in many areas of research relating to the mountains in Switzerland and other parts of the world. This is obvious in all the publications, from the first Swiss Alpine Club’s annals (“Jahrbuch des Schweizer Alpenclub”) in 1864 to the special 150th anniversary edition. The central library of the SAC in Zurich and the Alpine Museum in Bern are also proof of the club members’ passion for the mountains and their desire to share their experiences.

Key dates in the history of the SAC

  • 1863: Foundation (third alpine club in Europe after England in 1857 and Austria in 1862)
  • 1863: Construction of the first mountain hut, the Grünhornhütte
  • 1864: Publication of the first “Jahrbuch des SAC”, the club annals which later became «Die Alpen»
  • 1900: The SAC had 43 branches and 6000 members.
  • 1905: Opening of the Swiss Alpine Museum in Bern
  • 1907: Women were officially excluded from the club.
  • 1918: Foundation of the “Club Suisse des femmes alpinistes”, the womens’ club
  • 1933: First SAC art exhibition in Zurich
  • 1963: The SAC counted 44,500 members.
  • 1966: Beschwerdeberechtigte Organisation gemäss Natur- und Heimatschutzgesetz
  • 1970: Mitgründer der Stiftung Landschaftsschutz Schweiz 
  • 1977: Foundation of the administrative secretariat in Bern
  • 1979: 1. Vergabe des Prix Meuly
  • 1980: The SAC merged with the womens’ club. Membership numbers jumped to 69,201 members.
  • 1990: The Club library was integrated into the central library in Zurich.
  • 1992: Vergabe des 1. SAC Kulturpreises
  • 1994: Official sponsor for sport climbing competitions
  • 1997: Official sponsor for ski mountaineering competitions ski mountaineering competitions
  • 1996: The youth organisation became part of the SAC.
  • 1996: Centralised management replaced the rotation system.
  • 2006: The SAC received the Swiss tourism “Milestone” award.
  • 2006: Gruppenpreis der Stiftung für besondere Leistungen im Umweltschutz
  • 2006: The SAC rescue unit became the autonomous foundation Alpine Rettung Schweiz
  • 2009: The club received the “Milestone” award for sustainability.
  • 2012: The SAC’s archives were integrated into the Burgerbibliothek of Bern.
  • 2013: The club celebrated its 150th anniversary.
  • 2016: The club counted 150,000 members.
  • 2018: Das SAC-Tourenportal ist online
  • 2023: Climbing and Paraclimbing World Championships Bern

Our values

Our general policy and statutes provide detailed information about the image we have of ourselves and our values concerning our fellow workers, members, the general public and, of course, the mountains. Our moral principles are explained in our code of ethics and the annual reports provide full information concerning our activities and finances.