This is how the message of the organizing committee to inform our community began. It was March 3rd, shortly after the Swiss Federal Council announced its decision to cancel all events with more than 1000 participants nationwide and thus still in the early days of the pandemic. Up to this point, it seemed like this year everything would go smoothly. The event was sold out in record time and everybody was looking forward to our annual reunion on the slopes and busy preparing their costumes for the traditional costume party.
Now instead, we faced a completely new situation. For the first time in its history, our beloved gathering could not take place. Every year since 1992 students of ETH Zurich and EPFL have met somewhere in the Swiss Alps for a friendly ski, sport and fun competition: Challenge EPFL-ETHZ (in short: Challenge).
The goal of Challenge is to bridge the Röstigraben and connect the two schools. The event has grown substantially from its humble beginnings, when it was sometimes difficult to fill the 50 slots per school for participants. Now there are selection events at both schools, and there are usually 200-300 students competing to become one of 50 Challengers for their school. It has become a tradition that many Alumni return to the event every year, to cheer on the new Challengers during the competitions and to catch up with friends from student days. Over the years this has led to a tightly knit community with many friendships lasting a lifetime. With more than 350 Challengers, Alumni, Staff, PhD students, Professors, officials and Committee members, Challenge is by now the biggest annual gathering connecting ETHZ and EPFL. Alternating between the schools, the four-day event is organized by a committee of 16 students working for a whole year on a voluntary basis. Year by year, the members of the committee collectively invest thousands of hours of work and all their heart to create a unique event, with the support of 40-50 staff.