One of our favourite things about skiing holidays is finding that “hidden gem”. The run that’s perfect after a fresh dump of snow, the restaurant that serves the Strudel with the vanilla cream, or that après bar that shoots Jäger from the ceiling. And so on.
In a new series, we’ve decided to talk about some of our favourite hidden gem resorts. These are the resorts that may not be as well known as a St. Anton or a Tignes, but will still give you a holiday you’ll never forget.
Next up, is Grindelwald, in Switzerland.
In the famous Jungfrau ski area, Grindelwald is linked to the resorts of Wengen and Murren in a ski area totalling over 210kms. And with the the infamous Eiger mountain as the stage backdrop to the pretty village, it’s hardly surprising that Grindelwald rubs shoulders with some of the best ski resorts in the Alps. The Jungfrau area is made up of 213km of varying piste, as well as an epic freeride area. The main hub of the pistes is in the Kleine Scheidegg/Mannlichen area, located directly between Grindelwald and Wengen. On one side you have the Grindelwald/First area, and on the opposite side of the region you have the Murren ski area.
The pinnacle of all the runs without a doubt though is the famous Lauberhorn. Stretching to nearly 4.5km, this is the longest downhill race run on the planet, and takes the pros around two and a half minutes to complete. In the past few years, the last few hundred meters have had to be eased off as skiers were physically unable to handle the grueling demands of the run. For some real racing experience, you can throw yourself out of the starting hut before taking on the challenging steeps, jumps and sharp turns.
Getting round the ski area is also quite unique, with a combination of the traditional ski lifts as well as the classic cog wheel railways. To get on the piste as early as possible, you can start your day at Wengen or Grindelwald train station and take the historic railway up to the Kleine Scheidegg. The Jungfrau region has also made sizable investments in upgrading a number of chair lifts, with the Wixi and Salzegg lifts being completely rebuilt over the past couple of years. This effort has really paid off. You never feel like you have been sat on lifts too long, as you are whisked around by the typically efficient Swiss operation.
But if you’re not up for skiing every day, the area also offers plenty of other activities to do. One of the most popular sights is the Jungfraujoch – the highest train station in Europe. Around 1 million tourists each year take the 10km journey up from Kleine Scheidegg, through the fearsome North Face of the Eiger to the train station at 3,500m. Home to the Sphinx Observatory, the Jungfraujoch offers unparalleled views across Switzerland on a clear day. You can easily spend half a day at the top admiring the views, learning about the 16 year process it took to build, and enjoying the stunning sculptures in the ice palace. After spending the day at the altitude of the Jungfaujoch, you may want to bring your feet back down to earth a bit. At the base of the Jungfrau region you have the small picturesque city of Interlaken. Once again this is a popular year round destination, especially with European tour holidays using it as a base for exploring the Jungfrau region. Interlaken is set between the lakes of Brienz and Thun, and takes you away from the ski resort feel of the rest of the Jungfrau. Great for a day shopping, or just relaxing and taking in the surroundings. Whatever takes your fancy, this small city is just 30 minutes away by train.
Neither Grindelwald nor Wengen are party central, but both have a selection of bars that offer a warm and welcome atmosphere. Most bars will have a good mix of locals and tourists, providing an entertaining evening out. However, don’t expect as much revelry as some of the livelier resorts.
But don’t just take our word for it. We spoke to David and Martin, who work for the Jungfrau tourist board. Here are their answers.
What’s the best run – and why?
Oh god (number 27) – steep (71%) & long run from Eiger’s glacier to the Wixi station. The powder slopes from the Eiger’s glacier are also wonderful if you reach them first! Great view to the seracs, Mt. Jungfrau & Moench and to the ski area Muerren – Schilthorn.
Best view/photo opportunity?
Bussalp. Best and most impressive view to the Bernese Alps and Eiger, Mönch &Jungfrau. The longest toboggan run in Europe. It’s our sunny paradise for those who don’t ski and a mecca for sled riders.
Berghaus Bort. Delicious food for a fair price. www.berghaus-bort.ch
Best place for a drink at the end of the day?
Acocado Bar. An Australian surfer and snowboarder is running the great bar. It’s the meeting point after Freeriding and Parkriding for guests and locals. He is organizing cool events like the Bungee Session or street games in summer.
Price for a beer?
Less than in Zurich or London 🙂 300ml (just over a half pint) is CHF 4.00 -5.00 (£2.50-3.50)in a Restaurant.
First/last lifts of the dayg?
Grindelwald-First > First 08:00 / last 16:45
Kleine Scheidegg > First 07:17 / last 17:33
How long does it take from Grindelwald to top of the mountain?
Grindelwald-First > 25 min.
Kleine Scheidegg > 30 min.
If you’re interested in visiting Grindelwald for yourself, click here.