The ibexes of Pontresina

Ibexes are the heraldic animal of Graubünden and are normally at home high in the mountains. But once a year you can visit them in the valley and see them up close.
Picture of Miri Roth

Miri Roth

Swiss Landscape Photographer

The king of the alps

The Graubünden heraldic animal feels particularly at home in the mountains around Pontresina. One of the largest ibex colonies in the Alps lives on Piz Albris (3,166 m), just outside Pontresina, with 1,800 animals. 

The Pontresina Ibexes

When the meadows in the valley start to turn green, but the snow still lies up to the tree line – which usually happens in May – the majestic animals come down from the mountains.

The «King of the Alps» now comes down to the edge of the village of Pontresina to eat the fresh blades of grass behind the last houses. Every Engadin resident and already many tourists know what a wonderful spectacle this is and don’t miss the opportunity to watch the animals.

They are not disturbed by the paperazzi and enjoy the mountain spring to the fullest. And so the animals can be seen at close quarters.

Setting the Scene

For photographers, of course, this is a highlight in its own; with a 70-200mm lens, you can already take incredibly great close-ups of the Pontresina ibexes, the likes of which you would otherwise only get in the high mountains.

The difficulty here is to get the animals in front of a picturesque background. I haven’t managed that yet – it takes a lot of luck, patience and a lot of knowledge about the animals› behaviour.

One person who has mastered the art of «setting the scene» is Marc Obrist. Every year I am jealous of the photos he conjures up with the ibexes – I call him the Ibex Whisperer.

Take a look at his stunning and beautiful work:

A king deserves respect

I still have a lot to practise in terms of my Ibex photography, but I look forward to trying again every year.

Maybe you’ll see them in real life and up close soon?
Just be respectful of our nature as always, enjoy the animals from a reasonable distance and be calm and quiet.

In this way, we can all ensure that the animals will enjoy their mountain springtime in the valley for many years to come.

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