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A Best of the Alps Resort


Grindelwald CH-3818
Telephone: (41) (33) 854 12 12
Fax: (41) (33) 854 12 10


(German speaking region) Three of the most photographed mountains in Switzerland—the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau—are the spectacular backdrop for several major ski areas. Grindelwald is the largest of these. (See map and also refer to listings for Interlaken, Mürren and Wengen, all part of the Jungfrau Region.) The individual resorts maintain tourist offices for hotel bookings, information and other services, but they are united in their marketing efforts.

Elevation: Village: 1,034 m (3,392 ft); Top: 3,454 m (11,329 ft)

Vertical: 2,100 m (6,888 ft)

Longest Run: 15 km (9 mi)

Terrain: World famous runs, with 158 km (93 mi) of downhill in or near Grindelwald, and another 55 km (31 mi) in the region; 34% beginner, 50% intermediate, 16% advanced

Skiing Circus: The various ski areas connect or can be reached by short walks or quick bus or train rides

Lifts: 28 local; 44 in region

Types: Jungfrau Region has 5 cable cars, 3 cogwheel trains, 2 gondolas, 18 chairlifts and 16 surface lifts

Lift Capacity: 44,000 p/h

Ski Season: December through April

Summer Skiing: Small lift on Jungfraujoch glacier

Cross Country: 31 km (19 mi) of classic and skating tracks, 100 km (62 mi) of winter walking trails

Tobogganing: 50 km of tobogganing trails

Ski School: 200 instructors in all disciplines

Mountain Restaurants: 27, including glacier restaurant on Jungfraujoch

Other Winter Activities: Curling; helicopter skiing; ice skating/natural/artificial; mountaineering; paragliding; sauna; sleigh riding; snow rafting; sports center; snowshoeing, snowtubing, ice climbing, winter hiking

Après-Ski: Bars, discos, concerts, folklore evenings

Shopping/Services: Many shops; 50 restaurants

Credit Cards: AE, DC, MC, VISA

Child Care: Ski nursery school; Tel: 33 854 1280

Lodging: 2,700 hotel beds in 46 hotels; 6,000 chalet and apartment beds; 2,800 in camping and lodges/dorms

Transportation: Gateway Airport: Zürich, 195 km (121 mi)

Closest Provincial City: Interlaken (20 km)

By Auto: Zürich-Bern-Spiez-Interlaken-Grindelwald

By Train: Intercity to Bern and Interlaken, transfer to regional train to Grindelwald

Best Deal: 7 nights in one-star, "budget" hotel, breakfast, ski-pass for Grindelwald-Wengen, free entrance to sports center, from 717 Swiss francs.

Other Information: Jungfraujoch is reached by Europe’s highest cog railway, which tunnels through the Eiger and the Mönch. Ice palace here is a “must see”

Rates: See Rates section


Jungfrau Mountain Map, click to enlarge.
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Jungfrau Mountain Map (click to enlarge)

Spotlight On Grindelwald

(Originally written for
by Ted Heck


Few trail maps hold as much promise of great skiing and stunning scenery as the one of Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region, where Grindelwald is the major village.

This one shows Grindelwald in the heart of glacier country, with an imposing array of mountains, including the Wetterhorn and Schreckhorn and that amazing trio of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

Underneath them are the “circuses,” those unique-to-Europe interconnects of slopes and lifts that make skiing in the Alps so attractive. The map identifies more than 40 lifts in the region and outlines terrain with 132 miles of maintained trails, most of them groomed out of vast snowfields above the tree line.

A dotted line indicates a railway that pierces the Eiger and Mönch and deposits sightseers (and skiers on recess) at the 11,333-feet-high Jungfraujoch, highest railroad terminal on the continent. The astounding vista outside is complemented inside with a spectacular ice palace.

The major skiing areas include south-facing First and Oberjoch, a 4,800-feet drop down to Grindelwald that has dance-floor-smooth slopes at the top, followed by steep and moguled spots, and finally meadows and farms.

On the other side of the village, underneath the north face of the Eiger, are the popular Kleine Scheidegg and Männlichen arenas. Behind them is exciting landscape on which the famed Lauberhorn downhill race is held. It is a corkscrew run that takes World Cup champions two and a half minutes to navigate on the way to the finish line in Wengen. Sunday skiers take longer, using photo opportunities as an alibi.

Across a vast canyon from car-free Wengen is another resort with sterling ski pistes - the tiny village of Mürren, also traffic-free. Looming above it is the Schilthorn, a mountain topped off with a revolving restaurant that makes lunch a 360 degree visual feast. And you know the restaurant, even if you’ve never been there in person. It was villain Telly Sevalas’s headquarters in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only one in which George Lazenby played the James Bond role. (Huh, George Lazenby?)

Mürren and Wengen have aficionados; so does Interlaken, a colorful city from which skiers bus or train to these villages and Grindelwald.

Those skiers who prefer Grindelwald can cite many reasons: closer to the action, more hotels and restaurants to choose from, wider shopping opportunities along the lively main street, a full calendar of events, and a reputation for looking after families.

The family orientation is evident in the Sport Center in the middle of the village. You can swim, skate, learn curling, watch hockey, and climb a wall if you are not up to the Eiger.

January visitors can watch the Lauberhorn race and the International Curling Championship. Kids will marvel at the work of artists from around the world in the Snow Festival. Working with a theme, they sculpt statues and intriguing designs out of snow and ice.

Accommodations have a spectrum from regal five-star hotel to modest pension. The four-star Hotel Belvedere facing the awesome Eiger Mountain and near the train station, will offer half-board for $230 per person per day and overwhelm you with service. And there are a lot of alternatives that the tourist office will help you find.

Grindelwald is one of the 13 classic mountain resorts in five countries that promote jointly as “The Best of the Alps.” The Jungfrau Region is in central Switzerland in the canton of Bernese Oberland, 120 miles from the Zurich gateway.


Recent Adventures

by Ted Heck


It is not startling information that older folks go to the bathroom more frequently than others in the household. This fact caused a happy coincidence on First mountain, when two of us nodded greetings in the men's room of the mid-mountain restaurant.

Waiting outside for this other old guy was his daughter Margrit, whose eyes widened when she saw me. We had talked about skiing together the day before, when we met in her office. She is an administrator for the Best of the Alps marketing group, of which Grindelwald is a member. BOTA is one of the sponsors of The Blue Book. Margrit and I had not made a date to ski and yet here we were.

Her father Sam Brawand is a retired dairy farmer, who is back skiing after several hip operations. He and Margrit knew where the best snow was and we had two pleasant hours in the vast white arena. The sun was shining and the awesome Eiger was always in view---along with fierce-looking glaciers across the valley.

Lunch was a bonus. Sam speaks English well and we traded stories about cows and milk. I had spent some years on the processing end of the industry and I could brag about the number of cows that farmers squeezed for milk that we bottled.

They also seemed impressed when I ordered "Rösti mit Spiegelei," strings of roasted potatoes topped with a sunny-side-up egg--- my favorite lunch in a mountain restaurant.

Happy Coincidence Number Two. The next day I spent several hours alone attacking the Männlichen slopes, another large area popular with skiers from both Grindelwald and neighboring Wengen, just across a ridge. I was tired and decided to quit early

and ride down..

I was about to enter a gondola alone when an attendant asked me if I minded riding in a special gondola, one painted gold. Was this a new kind of scam that hadn't made its way yet to America?


The attendant turned out to be Managing Director Daniel Zihlmann of the lift company, who was supervising a photo shoot for new promotional material. He rode with me, while a photographer skied beneath us and shot from various angles, getting great pictures of the terrain. We talked about the lift: at 3 ½ miles it is the longest gondola ride in Europe, with a vertical drop of more than 4,000 feet. It has 220 four-person gondolas on its cables; 199 are red and labeled Männlichen, 20 are yellow and advertise Ricola, the cough drop marketed with a yodel. And the one painted gold, with velour seats and a table. It is a VIP car available for special rides.

"You know, Daniel," I said. "I am a writer and familiar with model releases. I should expect some sort of consideration for this."

"No problem," he replied as he pointed to the ice bucket and glasses on the table. "Have some champagne."


A Romantic Ride In the Golden Gondola


Eight months after my ride with Managing Director Daniel Dihlmann, I asked him if he’d give two friends of mine a similar ride—and I’d provide the champagne. I was back in Grindelwald, not with Connie this time, but with her grandson Louis Topper. He had lugged his snowboard from Sweden, where he spent a semester of his senior year studying mechanical engineering and robotics. Louis is Connie’s grandson and had bugged me for years about an alpine romp.

Louis stayed with me in the Hotel Belvedere, poring over trail maps in front of the fireplace and often staring at the awesome north face of famed Eiger mountain and numerous glaciers on neighboring peaks.We skied vigorously, dined regally in the hotel’s elegant dining room, even solved some of the world’s economic problems during our six-course dinners. I held his attention for a week, a pretty neat trick for a guy four times older than his guest.

But then his focus changed dramatically. His girlfriend Lina Del Bondio arrived from Italy, where she had also been an exchange student. (They are both seniors at the University of California in San Diego.)

When Louis said he wanted to take Lina up onto one of the mountains for sightseeing, it seemed to me that the Golden Gondola would be an enchanting way to do it. Herr Dihlmann agreed.

I took this photo of Lina and Louis before I sent them off on their romantic ride, which they’re still talking about.

*  *  *


(The skiing Louis and I had done began first on First Mountain, the closest area to the village. Bright sunshine and broad, treeless, packed powder slopes: just the ticket for me and OK with Louis, until he could spot a gully where he could cut across in the deep. After sausage and roasted potatoes in a mountain restaurant, we skied all the way down to Grindelwald, past colorful chalets and farm buildings. The vertical drop of 4,800 feet was more than that of any ski area in the United States.

It snowed off and on during our stay, creating postcard worthy images for our cameras. We rode Jungfrau Railway trains that laced mountains and several ski areas together and allowed us to visit the villages of Wengen and Mürren. We dangled from cables of many of the 45 chair lifts and gondolas that move skiers, snowboarders and winter walkers throughout this mountain paradise.

We did not ski on the Schilthorn crest, because of a whiteout, but we made the long journey up to the revolving restaurant for its incredible panorama and its historic locale of James Bond episodes in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service.")

Two Seasons Later

I was back in Grindelwald, sitting without a sweater on the patio of Hotel Belvedere, studying the north face of the Eiger. Bright sun, cloudless sky, 50 degrees.

On the street below, I heard the clop-clop of a horse-drawn carriage. A few minutes earlier, several paragliders floated down from another mountain. It was too warm to ski and my rental equipment was still in the Buri shop. (Small-world note about a mini reunion: The American owner of the shop looked at my Lehigh cap and said she, too, was a graduate of the university, some 40 years after me.)

  Editor Ted Heck takes a break beneath the fearsome north face of the Eiger.  

Two other peaks were hidden behind the Eiger: the Mönch and Jungfrau, a group that make this region one of the most visually attractive vacation spots in the country. I did see them yesterday in a relaxing reconnaissance of several ski areas, in anticipation of playing in the snow.

The train station is only a few hundred yards from the Belvedere. My Jungfrau pass allowed me to climb aboard a train that runs beneath the Eiger up to Kleine Scheidegg, the junction for trains from other villages. It's a transfer point for tourists who go up to the Jungfraujoch, to visit the ice palace or stare down at the Aletsch glacier, at 14 miles the longest in Europe.

I walked around the area, gawked at more glaciers, watched skiers swing down to a complex of ski lifts. In the mix were hikers and adults and kids on sleds.

My circular tour continued down to the resort village of Wengen. Skiers were on both sides of the track at times, and I had a brief glance at a stretch of the famed Lauberhorn downhill course. A visual bonus was spotting the Schilthorn peak in the distance above another resort, the village of Mürren. In Wengen I browsed in a supermarket and bakery before crowding into a cable car that whisked me up a rocky cliff to the top of Männlichen mountain and another ski area.

From there I soared for half an hour in a gondola, looking down at skiers swinging along groomed trails through the vast snowfield. The runs appeared to be in good shape, despite the warm weather.

The self-guided circular tour helped me decide on Männlichen, when I skied the next day.

After scribbling these words while sitting in the sun, I had the challenge of transcribing it on a computer with an alien keyboard. It had extra keys for umlauts, a relocated semicolon and transposed z and y.

There was a disadvantage of sunbathing instead of skiing. I was less inclined to page through a six-course dinner or make choices from 28 varieties on the cheese table.




Hotel Belvedere
Hotel Belvedere


                                Spotlight On Hotel Belvedere

                                                                                    by Ted Heck

Connie and I have been in the charming Hotel Belvedere in summer and winter and we are at odds on which season is better. She chooses the warmer time, when window boxes riot in many colors, cows graze in meadows and only glaciers are white. I prefer to be here when everything is coated with snow and bright sun blankets everything in sparkling sequins.

All 57 rooms have a balcony and a spectacular view of mountains. My fiancée waves her hand toward the north face of the Eiger and asks, “Isn't the landscape just as gorgeous anytime?” I suggest we ask owner Urs Hauser how his other guests vote. “They’re just as divided as you are,” he says. “Our business is really a year-round one, except for November, when we’re closed. But summer versus winter is a fifty-fifty proposition. A lot of our guests would rather hike in the forests with my wife Sylvia. Just as many, like you, would rather be out skiing. In winter I ski with guests over on the Schilthorn peak above Mürren or we go curling or tobogganing.”

Regardless of the season. the “four-star superior” hotel rates high in hospitality, which has been a Hauser trademark for three generations. Urs’s grandparents opened the Belvedere in 1907. Old posters on several walls transport guests back to the time when men in suits and women in skirts and high button shoes walked the glaciers and the Hauser family began entertaining vacationers from Europe and the United Kingdom. Photos of award ceremonies attest to the tradition of quality and service. The hotel celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007 with many events, including a week-long hike from the Italian speaking canton of Ticino over the Alps back to Grindelwald.

Urs also published an attractive history book about the Belvedere. It’s a Conversation piece in the hotel’s rooms…and on the cocktail table in our home.

Our 21st century room was on the fourth floor. To the left we could see the train station, 300 meters or so away and a five-minute easy walk from the buzzing centre of the village. To the right were slopes of Männlichen, where I usually spend the first day of a skiing holiday. Sprinkled below the awesome Eiger were chalets and barns to further justify the name Belvedere, an Italian word for beautiful view.

The room had all the amenities one expects of a boutique hotel with a “superior” four-star rating. The Belvedere belongs to Selection Swiss, a group of 14 leading, family-run hotels that focus on “complete relaxation” and treat guests as if they were related. They are also a member of the Swiss Quality Hotel association.

Connie slept well in the huge double bed, a treat she doesn’t normally get in higher resorts. She has accompanied me to destinations where she needed an oxygen tank to offset acute mountain sickness. But in Grindelwald, where the Jungfrau is more than 13,000 feet high, the village is at only 3,300 feet.

Rooms we enjoyed most were lounges and dining room, all of which face the Eiger. In addition to an intimate bar and a French Provincial parlor, there is a modern sitting area with a large fireplace, around which skiers relax in the après-ski scene. The dining room was memorable, with efficient waitresses fluent in English. Elaborate buffets at breakfast had so many choices that simple breakfasts back home seemed dull. Dinners of six courses included a salad bar of two dozen items and an equally large cheese table. The international cuisine has won many awards and the Hausers are happy to introduce guests to their chef and his spotless kitchen. It is not unusual to see Urs and Sylvia working in the restaurant themselves. The smoke-free environment gives them an advantage in attracting Americans.

The house each night recommends a red and white wine to accompany the choice of entrees. Connie usually abstained, so I was content with a $12 carafe of Swiss wine, while a pianist played guest requests. I noticed the wine list contained some French vintages worth more than $500. Urs has a $2,000 bottle in his cellar that some Russian guest will probably order.

A local resident who walks in for dinner pays about $90 for the gourmet meal, but a guest who signs up for half-board pays only $30 more than the bed and breakfast price. It has always been a mystery to me why some skiers pass up a half-board bargain to dine around and get lesser meals. The half-board rate here per person per day ranges between $230 and $380, depending on the season and room chosen. The package deal, including a six-day ski pass, costs between $1800 and $2200. (Prices used to be much lower, but the US dollar has declined dramatically in the past two years.)

Connie and I did not use the hotel’s wellness facilities, spurning the sauna, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi. The outdoor one has salt water at body temperature. We also ignored the large indoor pool, as do most summertime guests, who may pick the hotel because of the pool, yet don’t use it. Skiers in winter are big pool users after a day on the slopes. In any season, however, there are women ready to offer massages and beauty treatments.

So, who are the guests at the Belvedere? Urs Hauser happily reports that about 10 percent of his customers year round are Americans, primarily because of strong recommendations the Belvedere gets in guide books. (That percentage is higher than that of the village as a whole.) Other figures are English 25 percent all year and Germans eight. Swiss account for 30 percent in winter, Japanese 30 percent in summer. Forty percent of guests are repeat customers; some of them have been coming for 20 or more years. Among them are families of four to nine members who like the suites and game rooms.

Urs doesn’t need to chase group business in summer, but admits that ski clubs and other small groups are in his sights in winter. He smiles when he talks about professionals, such as doctors and lawyers who use the conference facilities in ski season. Their meetings are generally scheduled before lifts open and after they close. Presentations stop when the hotel’s free ski bus operates. I can relate to that, recalling how I rushed to the slopes on the private bus, despite having work to do. Enterprising Urs Hauser bought an additional hotel six years ago—the Steinbock on the other end of the village’s main street. It has a different clientele and style, but it is a three-star and quite comfortable. It is popular with U.S. ski groups, who usually book the entire hotel.

If the famed Jungfrau Region is in your plans, you should check out and


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