Grindelwald, Switzerland: a ski rep's view of the Wetterhorn
- Recommended for:
- Winter Sports, Mid-range
As a rep for Ski Club of Great Britain, I get to know resorts pretty well. Grindelwald is my favourite. Quiet, welcoming and ringed by high mountains, it's ideal for intermediates but loved by all
The resort – and why I like it
Grindelwald is a typically picturesque Swiss village on a sunny promontory above the Lutschinen valley – and even by Swiss standards, the views are spectacular. There is a wonderful backdrop of high mountains on all sides; the Eiger, the Mönch and the Jungfrau frame part of the view, while on the other side is the very distinctive Wetterhorn. Until the Eiger became more famous, this was Grindelwald’s iconic symbol.
While the skiing isn't particularly challenging, there is some demanding off-piste terrain while an abundance of varied red runs and wide, carving pistes make Grindelwald an excellent destination for intermediate skiers who want to stay within their limits and enjoy those wonderful views. What's more, when you stop for a break on the mountain or head back to the village for the evening, you will always feel welcome.
Grindelwald typifies all that we expect of Swiss hospitality; the locals know they depend on tourism and are keen to defend their reputation for service at all levels. This will start with the extremely friendly and helpful staff in the tourist office, continuing at your accommodation and in local shops, and filtering right down to the people you meet on the street.
For a spectacular location, a friendly, traditional village and excellent skiing, there is nowhere else I'd rather spend the winter.
An overview of the pistes
First This separate ski area, reached by gondola from the top of the village, is good for cruising but relies on two long drag lifts. There are excellent runs back into the village, if the snow is behaving.
Kleine Scheidegg Reached in style by traditional Swiss mountain railway, Kleine Scheidegg offers a great variety of grades and options for skiing to Grindelwald, Wengen or across to Männlichen.
Männlichen Can also be reached by long slow gondola from valley floor. Not for cold days!
Excellent bowl for practising carves
Mürren This nearby resort is recommended for a day trip, if only to experience the car-free quiet of the village. Catch the Interlaken train as far as Zweilütschinen, then transfer to the train for Lauterbrunnen. Then, after the cable car to Grütschalp, take the train to Winteregg (to ski) or to Mürren village (for sightseeing). On top of the Schilthorn, Piz Gloria restaurant – famous for its appearance in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – is a massive attraction too.
Who goes there?
Grindelwald best suits intermediate skiers because the pistes are generally not too challenging. They are well-groomed – and the snow management, using a multitude of cannons, is as good as it gets. Beginners have their own area at the top of the village. The glitch is that it’s separate from the other ski areas – fine if you are all beginners together, but requiring careful planning if you are more experienced and meeting up with friends or children who are beginners. The appeal for more advanced skiers, of course, is that the surprisingly extensive and accessible off-piste is not skied out very quickly.
This has to be the run under the Oberjoch chair on the First ski area. From the top, the piste is wide with a uniform gradient – a massive confidence-booster. Once into your stride, it becomes perfect for carving wider and faster turns before offering a choice of easy trails back to the lift, or more of challenge down some bumps. At 2,500m, Oberjoch is deceptively high – so snow conditions are always best here. After new snow, there is a safe, gentle powder slope to lose your skis in – and for added variety, there is even a public race course where you can time your runs… not that any of us skiers are ever competitive!
Where to have lunch
Jagerstubli Location: at the bottom of the Männlichen runs. Offers the best rösti in the whole Bernese Oberland. Small, friendly and cosy. Most of the food is from the owner's farm.
Station Café Location: Kleine Scheidegg. Never underestimate Swiss station cafés – especially this one. It's always busy, but it gets top marks for food choice, service and value for money.
Mary’s Café Location: Inner Wengen. This place serves consistently good plats du jour. If you can, check out the week’s menu early in your stay, choose the day you like, book… and enjoy!
Wengernalp Location: below Kleine Scheidegg, towards Wengen. It's pricey, but well worth the money if you appreciate good food. As you dine on the terrace, snuggled under fur skins, the stunning views of ice falls below the Silberhorn make it a unique experience.
Where to eat at night
All the following are on the same main street in Grindelwald, so ask in hotels or shops for precise directions. If dialling from the UK, prefix all numbers below with 00 41 and omit the first zero.
The Spotted Cat (033 853 12 34). Occupying the ground floor of the Hotel Bellevue (or Steuri Pinte, as it is officially known), this cosy restaurant offers good-value traditional fare in a rustic atmosphere. Dishes such as veal liver, marinated beef or a traditional Swiss cheese fondue can be enjoyed, along with views of the Eiger at sunset.
Kreuz & Post Wellbeing Restaurant (033 854 54 92, www.kreuz-post.ch). Located in the Hotel Kreuz & Post, this is the place to go if you’re very hungry. With some selections, they pile your plate high – then, just when you think you have finished, they come back with the second half…
Barry’s (033 854 31 31, www.eiger-grindelwald.ch). Named after a famous avalanche rescue dog, Barry's combines lots of atmosphere with a great dining experience. Choose from familiar international dishes or Swiss specialities imaginatively adapted. Retire to the Gepsi bar afterwards (see Party time, below).
Bar Ristorante Latino (033 853 53 03, no website). Modern décor, plus authentic Italian food ranging from simple pasta dishes to spectacular seafood and fish. Has an extensive wine cellar.
Where to go for après-ski atmosphere
Grindelwald does not have a busy après-ski business. Bars come and go, many of them collapsing after a season or so – and most skiers return home to their hotel bar for a tipple. However, there are a couple of places to try:
Teepee at Kleine Scheidegg, right opposite the station buildings. Ski straight into this rocking tent; if you stay too long, you can always take the train home – very civilised!
Espresso-Bar (033 854 88 88, www.spinne.ch) at the north end of the Spinne Hotel block, opposite the Eiger Hotel. This has a proper après-ski atmosphere and is really central, so not too far from any of the hotels afterwards..
Gepsi-Bar at the Hotel Eiger (033 854 31 31, www.eiger-grindelwald.ch). This is Grindelwald's most popular bar, with live bands most weeks. As the action winds down, roll cross the road to ..
Mescalero Disco at the Hotel Spinne (033 854 88 88, www.spinne.ch). For plenty of noise, lights and happy people enjoying themselves, head for Mescalero – the main nightclub in Grindelwald.
Challi-Bar at the Hotel Kreuz & Post (033 854 54 92, www.kreuz-post.ch). Resident English DJ, Steve, keeps the atmosphere buzzing here. As a keen drummer, he invites touring rock/jazz bands to jam with him most weeks – like Jools Holland on ice! Highly recommended.
Where to stay
Grand Regina Alpin Well&Fit Hotel For the best of five-star Swiss, book here. Experience the high life in the friendly formality of the restaurant after relaxing in the amazing Alpin Well& Fit Club health centre, which has three themed steam rooms.
Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof If you’re after a romantic holiday, this place is for you. The refurbished reception area is really lovely, and the service exceptional.
Sunstar Hotel Grindelwald At this modern hotel, and others in the chain, there is no extra cost for single rooms if you book direct.
Derby Hotel Grindelwald This family-run hotel is great for those who want maximum convenience: from reception, you step directly on to the station platform.