Ski the Famous Bern Region, Switzerland
The colossal peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau dominated the Interlaken-Jungfrau region, which has been at the centre of skiing and mountaineering for more than 200 years. The 4,158m-high Jungfrau was first climbed in 1811, which kick-started tourism in the Swiss Alps. Almost 150 years on, Heinrich Harrer released The White Spider, his legendary book describing the first successful ascent, in 1938, of the North Face of the Eiger – nicknamed ‘Mordwand’ or ‘death wall’. Sir Arnold Lunn organised the first ski slalom race in the village of Mürren in 1922, while the first men’s World Cup downhill took place in Wengen in 1967. The region now draws 30,000 spectators every year for the FIS World Cup’s Lauberhorn races, one of the best-attended events on snow.
Winter sports in Interlaken
There are some ski resorts you visit where the add-ons – the extra stuff you can do when not on skis, are a bit half-baked. This is not the casein Interlaken. The Interlaken region – a viewpoint from the top of the world, boasts an abundance of temptations to draw you off the slopes for the day, or at least a few hours. Top of Europe ICE MAGIC is a little winter paradise swandwiched between mountians and lakes, which consists of six icefields connected by winding paths. There’s skating ahoy, and you can try curling and ice hockey on the fields. For an adrenalin hit, the paragliding and skydiving options are extensive, too. But perhaps the pick in Interlaken is the winter kayaking on lake Brienz. Think air as crisp as it can get, and reflections of snow-covered mountains on the water.
Skiing in the Jungfrau region
Don’t let the history scare you. The Jungfrau region may have seen some of the most gnarly mountaineering since humans began climbing, but the ski slopes offer something for everyone. The resorts of Grindelwald and Wengen are linked and great for beginners and intermediates, but Wengen also has the 4.5km Lauberhorn – the pick of the expert pistes and the longest downhill World Cup race on the circuit. There’s tough skiing in Mürren, too, including the 14.9km Schilthorn to Lauterbrunnen run. It hosts the annual ‘inferno’ event, the world’s biggest amateur ski race, with downhill racing, giant slalom and cross country.
More than 200km of pistes make the resorts of Adelboden-Lenk and Kandersteg a joy. But it’s the niche activities that stand out. In Kandersteg, the 14km cross-country Höh panorama trail is a beauty, and some of the cross-country routes are floodlit at night. The brave can even try exciting 3.5km downhill sled run. Meanwhile, the Grand Masta Park in Adelboden is a winter base camp with more than 30 kickers, rails and obstacles, making it one of the Alps’ best parks. Lenk hosts the Europa Cup Ski and Snowboard Cross, while in January thousands of people attend the FIS Ski World Cup at Adelboden’s Chunisbärgli. And if you take a winter hike to the UNESCO-listed Oeschinen Lake, you might just fall in love with the entire region.
Glacial in Gstaad
The only glacier ski area in the Bernese Oberland region, the Glacier 3000 has 30km of varied slopes (14.5km blue; 5.5km red; 10km black) as well as stunning freeride options with descents of around 2,000 vertical metres. There are Freeride Days every spring to show skiers the ropes and the options available. There’s moreto Gstaad then just the glacier, though. Nearly 40km of black runs are accessible on ski pass, and the largest resort, Rinderberg/Saanerslochgrat/Horneggli (try saying that after a few glühweins), is a 90km dream for beginners and intermediates. The Eggli/La Vidermanette resort, meanwhile, is home to 7.5km stretch of drops 1,160m through the valley.