Sunbathing in Costa Rica? Rafting the Grand Canyon? Lounging in Moab? For Telluride, CO resident, Ken Fuhrer, the off-season choice was simple; counting gnomes for the first annual Gnome Census in Switzerland.
The Gnome Census, a collaborative effort between the Swiss Federal Statistics Office and Telluride-based Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures, aims to get a handle on a demographic that appears to have changed dramatically in recent years.
“We suspect that the gnome population is changing,” said Statistics Office Spokesman, Jürg Schnapps. “If they are changing, we’d like to know why.”
One noticeable trend is that gnomes seem to be more urbanized. “Gnomes used to be a predominately mountain dwelling population,” said Schnapps. “Now we find them in almost every large city, from Zurich to Paris “
The Swiss government would like to know exactly how many gnomes they have, not only in Zurich, but also throughout the entire country.
“We’re going door-to-door like we used to do in the old days,” said Schnapps. “This time we’re counting gnomes. We’ll inspect every garden, every flower pot and every fondue party from Geneva to Zermatt.”
Schnapps admits that counting every gnome in Switzerland is a monumental task, and one that requires extra help. That’s how Ken Fuhrer got involved.
“I wanted to do something besides drink beers in Costa Rica,” said Fuhrer. “I wanted to do something meaningful.”
Life took on new meaning for the gnomes when films like Amélie and, most recently, Gnomeo & Juliet objectified an otherwise private and somewhat elusive race. Ken Fuhrer wonders what the long term implications will be for the gnome population as a whole.
“It seems like the film industry has given gnomes the traveling bug,” said Fuhrer. “Gnomes are a big part of Switzerland’s culture and tourism, but what happens if they start emigrating? There might be a day when we find more gnomes in Shanghai than St. Moritz, and that’s just wrong,” he added.
Fuhrer plans to leave for Switzerland when Telluride’s ski resort closes. He’ll be working with Colorado-based hiking tour operator, Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures.
“Ryder-Walker needed volunteers, so I signed on,” said Fuhrer. “We’ll be hiking remote Swiss trails with hand counters. Our job is to count every gnome we see in Switzerland.”
The Swiss Federal Statistics Office solicited Ryder-Walker because of their extensive experience in Switzerland. “These guys have been leading hikes in the Swiss Alps for nearly 30 years, “ said Schnapps. “What’s more, they bring a lot of people to out-of-the way places that locals don’t even know about. It should be easy for them to count gnomes.”