Engelberg is little known and underrated even by its home nation; this quiet town near a historic monastery in the centre of Switzerland has high north-facing snowy slopes with huge vertical drops – a perfect recipe for high quality off-piste skiing.
Arriving among Engelberg’s impressive Belle Epoque hotels, it’s easy to gaze up at the towering mountains and understand why a wandering monk was so impressed by the scenery he stopped in his tracks, had a vision and founded a monastery that later spawned both the town and the modern day ski resort.
For skiers and boarders, two mountains are more important than all the others: the mighty Titlis glacier, and the slightly smaller 2564m Jochstock. Lifts ascend almost all the way up Titlis to its second peak of Klein Titlis at 3028m, opening up a vast north-facing deep freeze well stocked with deep powder. This is the home of the famous Laub, a consistently steep 1000m freeride descent down the shoulder of the mountain. But the Laub is just one of Engelberg’s ‘Big Five‘ off-piste descents ,that also includes Sulz, Steintäli, Steinberg and Galtiberg, some of which have verticals that are almost twice as large. And ski tourers and true backcountry explorers will also want to tackle the High Five – five long itineraries that take you far from the town.
For those who want to stay on the piste, Engleberg has some nice runs but not a lot of them. Titlis and Jochstock have red pistes near the top and easier blues below. Across the valley on the sunny side of town is Brunni, which has lower, gentler, south-facing slopes. And a bus ride away is the small Bannalp ski area above Fell. Together these are more than enough for a novice (there are decent ski schools and nursery slopes), but a keen intermediate who does not want to try off-piste skiing will exhaust the groomed runs in about three days.
And that might be all that is wanted because Engelberg is easy to reach and a great weekend destination. It can also be combined in a two-centre holiday with Meiringen-Hasliberg (best for weaker skiers) or Andermatt (best for stronger skiers) which are both just over an hour away by car. Or Engelberg’s skiing can be supplemented with the other winter sports on its doorstep. There are cross country trails all around the town and up and down the surrounding lower slopes, a large natural ice rink at the Sportingpark, and a separate mountain dedicated to snowshoeing and tobogganing accessed from the nearby lift at Furenalap.
As a place to stay in, Engelberg was a town long before skiing became a popular sport, so the historic centre of the town and most (but not all) of the accommodation is a 15 minute walk or 5 minute bus ride from the lifts and pistes. It’s not a famous party resort, but it fills up at weekends with skiing enthusiasts, and there are more than enough bars and restaurants to have fun in.
Engelberg Pros & Cons
+ Extensive off-piste, easily accessible
+ Big verticals
+ Easy to get to / ‘weekendable’
+ Resort has character and history
+ Good ice skating in town, and snowshoeing / tobogganing at Furenalap
– Not enough pistes for strong skiers for a full week
– Ski areas are on opposite sides of town and not lift-connected
– Most accommodation is not close to the lifts and pistes
– No other major ski resorts within a short bus ride