SKIING & SLEDGING AT THE FOOT OF THE EIGER
A few years ago, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to get to know the beautiful country we live in a little bit better. I’ve found some amazing places and feel like I should really be sharing them over here on the blog because I cannot recommend travelling within the country enough. So here’s to kicking off a new series on the blog: Discover Switzerland.
This weekend, Clive and I took the train up to Grindelwald and had a wonderful weekend. Grindelwald is a mountain village situated at the foot of the north face of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps, which is honestly one of the most impressive sights in the Alps.
Clive has read quite a lot about the dramatic climbing history of this north face (this is one of the books he recommends if you’re interested) so he was really excited to be in Grindelwald to see it up close. On the way up in the train, he was telling me all about the mountaineers who first conquered the north face in 1938. I’m not sure the photos really do it justice, but when you’re standing at the foot of the Eiger it is unfathomable (to me, at least) as to how anyone would want to climb up it. I can, however, thoroughly encourage skiing or snowboarding and even sledging at the foot of it though!
How to get there?
We travelled to Grindelwald from Lausanne by train and it all went very smoothly. We had all of our skiing and snowboarding equipment with us which always sounds like quite a faff but is never really that bad, but that may be because Clive insists on carrying 80% of our stuff.
The trip from Lausanne to Grindelwald costs just under 65 CHF return ticket with the demi tarif (so 130CHF full price) and the higher you get, the older the trains get and the more impressive the views get. I was in heaven.
From Grindelwald you can take the train up to Kleine Scheidegg, the mountain pass that connects the Grindelwald and Wengen valleys. It’s the centre-point of the Grindelwald/Wengen ski area and the starting point for ascents of the Eiger and neighbouring peaks.
What to do?
Sledging in Grindelwald
We arrived in Grindelwald on Saturday just after lunch. After a picnic in the train, we left our bags at the hotel and got the train up to Kleine Scheidegg (33 CHF per person). We walked around Kleine Scheidegg for a little while but rather than skiing on that afternoon, we decided to sledge down from Kleine Scheidegg on the Eiger Run. It’s an 8.5km route which takes you about 1.5 hours. We rented a sledge for two for 20CHF which you can return at the bottom of the run.
There are a few flats in between the 36% gradient descents where you have to walk but the views are so spectacular and we got lucky with the weather so they were actually quite welcome.
You really pick up quite a lot of speed on the steeper stretches and there are also “sledging moguls”, as I like to call them, where Clive flew off the front and I steamrolled over him on the sledge leaving him a nice bruise on his leg as a souvenir from the trip.
The moral of our sledging story: it’s probably best not to go sledging on a whim when you’re not dressed appropriately. I’d recommend wearing gloves (otherwise say hello to ice burns on your hands), not wearing jeans and making sure you both have snow boots on with grips (my Sorel boots were awesome, Clive’s Geox town boots weren’t).
Despite being totally unequipped, it was so much fun. We laughed ridiculous amounts, fell over a lot and had even almost perfected our technique by the end of the run!
On day two (Sunday), we got ourselves up and on the slopes despite our achy bodies from all of our sledging tumbles. There was a peek of blue sky in the morning but the skies quickly clouded over and it started to snow/slush/rain for most of the day. We were happy to be skiing and snowboarding in the right equipment rather then sledging on a day like that.
Unfortunately, the wind picked up in the afternoon which meant that a few of the lifts at the top were closed making it difficult to access the Wengen area, but we enjoyed the Grindelwald side with the Eiger peaking through the clouds from time to time.
Ski passes cost just over 70 CHF for a full day and just under 50 CHF for a half day and if you’ve never skied before, there’s a great offer for beginner skiers where you can pay 169 CHF for a day on the slopes, ski and boot rental, the ski passes and a day of lessons. I feel like there’s a good mix of steep and gentle slopes which would make this a really nice place to learn to ski or snowboard.
Where to stay?
If you are organised and book ahead (which we unfortunately didn’t), the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes is situated right by the Kleine Scheidegg train station and it is absolutely beautiful. A bit like the Riffel Alp in Zermatt, this hotel is also right on the slopes and means that you can hop on a ski lift just outside the hotel.
It has been a family business since 1840 and has the most spectacular views from every single window. I believe Andreas and Silvia von Almen are the fifth generation of the family to own and manage the hotel!
The two buildings sit right at the foot of the north face of the Eiger and have been so carefully extended and renovated over time. All of the recent restoration and investment has been concentrated on stylistic elements and as soon as you enter the hotel through the revolving doors, you feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1920s. We’re definitely booking ahead for our next trip to Grindelwald!
Where & what to eat and drink?
We didn’t get to know the restaurants in Grindelwald all that well, but we did find two gems on the slopes. We had a delicious goulash served in a carved out loaf of bread at the Alpengruss restaurant on the pistes and in the afternoon, we had these amazing apple fritters at the Brandegg Bergrestaurant on the ski down to Grindelwald. They apparently are world famous (yes, world famous doughnuts) and absolutely everyone in the restaurant was ordering them at the end of their meal.
Clive also discovered “Kaffee Luz” which is a typical Swiss drink from Lucerne which deceptively looks like tea but is actually a mix of boiling water, schnapps, coffee powder and sugar. This is a drink to get you moving if there ever was one.
We had such a lovely trip. It was short, perhaps too short – we would have loved to stay another few days, but it’s kind of crazy to think of the stunning views and places loaded with history that you can get to in just three hours. Here’s to many, many more Swiss discovery trips!!
Have you got any amazing places to recommend? I’d love to know. xS
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with My Switzerland.