The feeling is akin to the first time you see the Grand Canyon, Kruger Park, or the Great Wall of China. Prodigious peaks are covered with snow, where in summer, waterfalls careen to the depths below or in winter form icy blue glaciers. These are the Swiss Alps and a range of mountains, one more stunning than the next, that tower throughout the country. And of course, around the world, they are known as the mecca for skiers with unforgettable ski experiences just as you’ll find in the quaint Grindelwald ski resort.
Located at 3000 feet above sea level, Grindelwald is an ideal mid-sized and centrally located resort. The village is part of the Jungfrau ski region with nearby sister ski resorts of Wengen, Lauderbruden, and Murren among others. The area is what you think of when you conjure up images of Switzerland with classic 19th-century wooden chocolate chalets, farmlands, and snow-dusted rocky mountains at every turn.
The ski experience is first-rate as well with top-notch facilities, miles and miles of runs, and plenty of ski lifts to get you there. After the skiing day is done, the après ski does not disappoint with bars and restaurants ideal for warming up and filling up.
The most iconic and daunting landmark in the region is Mt. Eiger, a majestic 13,000-foot mountain that towers over the region. Along with its two nearby peaks, the Jungfrau and Mönch, these mountains create the Jungfrau ski region with an ample offering of pistes for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. The north face of the Eiger is a nearly 6000-foot-high mass of rock, ice, and snow. On the opposite side of the Eiger is the Jungfrau-Aletsch range which includes the Great Aletsch Glacier and the most glaciers in the Swiss Alps. Long before refrigeration, ice was harvested from this region to supply wealthy Europeans across the continent. This clear blue ice is an amazing sight to behold and holds the distinction as a UNESCO World Heritage Area.
10,000 feet below the peak of Mt. Eiger sits the tony ski village of Grindelwald. Getting there and around the Jungfrau Ski Region couldn’t be more convenient via the Jungfrau Railway that connects the region’s ski resorts and the city of Interlaken. The journey there is just as enjoyable as the slopes themselves on their well-maintained trains with roof observation windows allowing guests to take in all of the stunning natural beauty of the alps, pine forests, and farmlands. Throughout the region, a system of cablecars and smaller trains connects travelers to quaint villages and ski resorts. A must-have experience while in the region is the Eiger Express which is a brand new state-of-the-art 3S cableway that whisks guests from Grindelwald to the Eiger Glacier station in just 15 minutes.
The town of Grindelwald is exactly what most would be after in a ski holiday. Don’t expect the jet-set glamour of St. Moritz or Chamonix. The vibe is much more laid back with the main street that cuts through the town and on either side there are cafes, hotels, and plenty of shops selling the latest ski gear. There are turn of the century churches with gothic domes and where it seems that every building and home in the village is positioned to take in the views of the Eiger.
The skiing in Grindelwald Wengen is exceptional, especially for the beginner and intermediate skier with plenty of moderately steep ski slopes to choose from. There are 130 miles of piste and the highest lift reaching 10,000 feet with 66 ski lifts as well as more options available in the neighboring Murren-Schilthorn and Kleine Scheidegg providing a total of 350 miles in total piste for the region. The longest ski run is the Lauberhorn-Grindelwald trail which is 8 miles with a vertical descent of 4500 feet and for expert skiers seeking the most difficult run, feel free to test your fate on the appropriately named “Oh God” run.
Many skiers may not want to bring their gear when traveling from afar. Not to worry, there are plenty of ski rental options with Intersport being the most popular in the region. They’ve got retailers and rental locations at most of the ski lifts where you can quickly pick up the latest gear with goggles, boots, and top brand skis and get out on the slopes quickly.
There’s plenty to do in Grindelwald for non-skiers as well including winter hiking through the gorgeous alpine trails as well as some world-class tobogganing including the longest toboggan run in the Alpes at 8 miles long. In the center of town, there is a sports center complex with a large indoor ice rink as well as a pool. Throughout the year there are special events as well from ice sculpture competitions to concerts.
For Après ski, there are lots of bars and cafes on the main strip of town for a cold pint or warm cup of gluvine. During the ski day, the place to be on the slopes is the Berghaus Männlichen. Guests arrive by aerial gondola from Grindelwald while overlooking all of the ski action in Männlichen. The Berghaus Männlichen is a restaurant, bar, and hotel with dining options from a quick self-serve lunch to a first-rate dining experience. The restaurant serves frosty local beer and great steaks, burgers, and plates of pasta to give you the energy to finish off your ski day. In good weather, their outdoor terrace makes a great place to take in the alpine panorama and some sun rays in between runs.
Grindelwald offers numerous of places to stay during the ski holiday from cozy chalets to grand Victorian-style hotels. One of the most storied hotels in the Hotel Belvedere Grindelwald. This town treasure was started at the turn of the last century by the current owner’s grandfather. Four generations have welcomed international guests and along the way have kept the hotel current and provided all of the amenities needed by today’s travelers.
The hotel may be old but it definitely doesn’t feel that way with modern and sleek décor, a spa with saunas and an outdoor saltwater mineral pool heated to a balmy 84 degrees. The accommodations are just as exquisite with many offering views of the Eiger from their private balconies. Dining is a standout as at the Restaurant 1910 · Gourmet by Hausers fine dining restaurant which is a member of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and offers a gourmet menu of regionally sourced and sustainable produce crafted into fine Swiss and international cuisine.
On the other side of town is an old hotel established in 1864. But don’t let that fool you. The new owners are making a statement in the regional tourism circles and have created something new and exciting, receiving rave reviews from the industry and guests. The Hotel Glacier is located facing the Eiger and is named after the glacier from which ice was once harvested that sits a short distance away. The hotel has become known for its gorgeous haute design and edgy interiors that look like they just fell off the pages of Architectural Digest. The hotel’s most coveted accommodations are the Signature Rooms with cozy hot tubs outside made just for romantic couples to heat up after the day on the slopes.
Beyond the scrumptious décor, the Hotel Glacier offers a degustation dining experience that is one of the top in town if not the region. The restaurant is on par with a Michelin Star experience with a seasonal degustation menu with produce sourced from the local area if not the hotel’s own gardens. The creative carte du jour includes next-level dishes with preparation techniques from fermentation, smoking to dry-aging. Hotel Glacier’s facilities include massage services as well as the spa area with sauna, steam room, and outdoor jacuzzi with stunning views of the Eiger North Face.
Grindelwald offers an exceptional ski experience for all levels. But it’s the vibe of the town that makes it special from wonderful après ski outings to its tony boutique hotels. This is what most think of in a traditional Swiss ski experience and Grindelwald offers that and so much more.
*First image courtesy of Moments of Gregory
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