Skiing in the Jungfrau region, Switzerland
In Bernese Oberland of western Switzerland, the Jungfrau
region is a true sight to behold – home to three of Europe’s most iconic
mountains: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. It’s long been lauded for its looks - Byron
praised a “range of scenes beyond all description or previous conception” and
Tolkein took inspiration to create various parts of middle earth. The Schynige
Platte cog railway has been climbing the mountainside since 1893 and skiing has
sturdy roots here - in the 1920s, Sir Arnold Lunn fuelled the downhill skiing craze
with the opening of the Kandahar Ski Club.
Interlaken’s the largest town and gateway to the region,
occupying a unique position between two lakes: Thun and Brienz. It offers
plenty of places to eat, shop and stay – plus a lively pub scene in the
evenings. You’re further away from the pistes here, though taking the scenic train
or ski bus ride to the valley stations is barely a hardship.
The next biggest base is Grindelwald - at the foot of the
Eiger’s formidable north face, with ski areas on either side. You get to stay
close to the pistes while still being in a bustling, road-accessed town with
facilities like a leisure centre and all sorts of restaurants.
Picture the quaintest alpine village possible and you’ve an
idea of the smaller bases of Wengen, Murren and Lauterbrunnen with their
weather worn chalets and rugged surrounding mountains.
Lauterbrunnen’s landscape was Tolkein’s inspiration for the
elven realm of Rivendell, flanked by sheer cliffs with dozens of waterfalls.
Neither Wengen or Murren have public road access – you reach both by railway
from Lauterbrunnen which makes them all the more remote and idyllic.
From sunny Wengen, a train takes you up to Kleine Scheidegg and
creeps further up to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest train station and one hell
of a vantage point. Up amid the ski area (which arguably gives it the best
views of the peaks), Murren village accesses the Schilthorn peak with its Piz
Gloria restaurant – famous for its role as Blofeld’s lair in James Bond’s On
Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Two ski areas join hands to form the Jungfrau area –
Grindelwald-Wengen (totalling 155km) and Murren-Schilthorn (51km). In numbers, you
have 206km of pistes, altitudes of 796m - 2,970m, 2 valleys, 3 mountain ranges
and 45 lifts / railways.
Intermediate level skiers are excellently catered for, with red
runs in every sector.
There are gentler offerings for those who’d rather schuss slow
and steady, particularly around Grindelwald. Favourites include the ‘slow slope’
in the First sector and two scenic blues from Kleine Scheidegg into Brandegg
and Wengen. For anyone of any age needing a confidence boost or pointers on technique,
the snow schools in Grindelwald, Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg have an excellent
Those wishing to challenge their technique have plenty of
opportunity – not least the Diresttissima on the Shilthorn which is the
steepest piste in the region with an 88% gradient. There’s also the Inferno
race course, which leads nearly 15km from the Schilthorn into Lauterbrunnen. The
Lauberhorn FIS World Cup Race course can be accessed from Wengen and
Grindelwald. The off-piste is incredible and the Grindelwald-First area has two
freeride slopes to power down. With a mountain guide in the lead, you can tackle
the glorious Blumental bowl.
To keep the grandkids grinning, there’s a snow park in
Grindelwald First and a snow fun park at Jungfraujoch.
Those seeking the best snow will find the highest slopes
around Murren, while for views, the Schilthorn (the highest peak in the Bernese
Alps) is a fine vantage point.
In the bigger bases of Interlaken and Grindelwald you’ll
find everything from pub grub to Indian, Thai, Mexican… but don’t let that
distract you from the regional delicacies on offer. Naturally a fondue is a staple,
and the raclettes are fantastic – look out for the local Grindelwalder
Hobelkäse for another cheesy delight.
Rosti is a staple dish in Bernese Oberland (Bergrestaurant
Winteregg in Murren serves all sorts, with a side of magnificent mountain
views). Meringues are too, which originate from nearby Meiringen.
Not forgetting one of Switzerland’s other fortes, chocolate.
The Lindt chocolate shop up at Jungfraujoch does demonstrations and sells all
sorts of goodies to fill your pockets with.
It’s hard for restaurants not to be scenic in a region such
as this, but for the ultimate sightseeing, book a table at the world’s first
revolving restaurant at the top of the Schilthorn.
For a nightcap to end a glorious day, look to the locally
distilled Ice Label whiskey, which is matured in the ice caves up at
Where to stay
Where you stay really depends on the kind of holiday you’re
seeking – for a proper town, choose Interlaken. If you like the sound of a towny
feel but want to be closer to the slopes, go for Grindelwald. For somewhere
quaint, quiet and secluded, there’s Wengen, or for somewhere quainter, quieter
and more secluded, Murren. Quaint, quiet but not so secluded? Make it Lauterbrunnen
which has car access.
Hotels form the bulk of accommodation here, from the cheaper
backpacker bases down in Interlaken to luxurious hotels from the turn of the 20th
century, up in the mountain villages. You can also find holiday rentals and
pensions, with the larger bases offering more food shops and restaurants for
If you’re putting your trip together independently, you can:
Fly to Zurich with SWISS
Get Swiss rail information via SBB
Filter through accommodation on Jungfrau.ch
Alternatively, for some ready-made luxury, SNO have 5-star packages starting
at around £1,149 per person for a hotel, flights and rail transfers.
Photo sources: jungfrau.ch, Jungfraubahnen 2019