The Swiss American Academy is housed within the Swiss Alpine Centre, Leysin, is located in the picturesque village of Leysin, near to Lake Geneva.
Leysin is widely regarded as the Alpine students’ capital of Switzerland. Hence, from a height of 1,263m above Lake Genev, one can admire the wonderful scenery of the Rhone Valley framed by the French Alps in the distance. The resort is located almost above Lake Geneva in the Vaud canton, 90 minutes by car from Geneva and 45 minutes from the Swiss Riviera, along the shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), and such famous towns as Montreux, Vevey and Chateau de Chillon (Lausanne).
Since the 19th Century, the village has been renowned for its healing microclimate and the resort was first famous for its spas and medical treatments where visitors people received treatment for in the healthy airs and invigorating watwers. Leysin is is considered to be the sunniest mountain resort of this region. The carousel-like restaurant Kuklos on the top of Bernez (2,048 м) is one of the major landmarks and is often used as a symbol for the resort. It is pleasant to have a cup of coffee, admiring Lake Geneva from a height of almost 2 kilometers, isn’t it?
Looking up from the valley the old village of Leysin, nestling at an altitude of 1263 metres, is all but invisible. Before 1875 the ascent, whether on foot or on the back of a donkey, was a challenging 4km hike. The terrain is steep and slippery. Nowadays it’s easy to understand how this place, with its dark and dense forests, was an ideal refuge against the looters and plunderers from the Rhône Valley during the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century.
The name “Leissin” appeared for the first time in a document dating back to 1276 belonging to the Dukes of Savoy, sovereigns of the Chablais region for more than 250 years. From the time of the Reformation, the Bernese government took over the region and ruled until the Canton’s independence in 1803. Its cultural heritage can still be seen today in the beautiful sculpted and decorated wooden buildings in Village Street and also in Veyges and in Cretan.
Once there, the main attraction of Leysin – which boasts generous open and panoramic landscapes along with fertile south facing terraces – is without doubt its climate. The sun shines here more often than anywhere else. The air is pure, fresh and dry and is sheltered from the wind. This heaven-sent fusion of nature’s riches will be the main reason for the unique development of this tiny mountain village into a veritable international small town.
From the end of the 19th Century, Leysin distinguished itself for ever from its neighbouring villages. During the next 60 years, this destination will become known throughout the world as one of the most important Swiss centres for the treatment of tuberculosis. You have to wait until 1956 for the resort to reinvent itself as a tourist and sporting destination aimed particularly at families. From the 1960s, the former sanitoriums with their huge sun-drenched balconies, were transformed into international schools and luxury apartments
Today, the resort continues to develop, offering more and more sporting and educational opportunities all year round. Its current population, of around 4,000 inhabitants, is made up of 110 different nationalities, 34% of which are under 19 years of age. The Leysin Commune is today the youngest in the whole of Vaud county.