The traditional Swiss villages of Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren come closer to the fairytale image of an alpine ski idyll than perhaps anywhere else in Europe, with their quaint cog railways, rustic ambience and stunning mountain scenery.
Grindelwald is a ski resort in the mid-sized Jungfrau ski area, but skiing is only part of its appeal. You don’t need skis or a snowboard to be stunned into silence by the brooding cliffs of the Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau mountains. And nor do you need them to ride up on the railway tunnelled deep into the heart of the Eiger, only to emerge at 3545m on the edge of the Aletsch glacier – the biggest glacier in the Alps and the source of the river Rhone – with views across the 4000m peaks of the Bernese Oberland and north into Germany.
And whilst the skiing is less remarkable that the scenery, Grindelwald has enough of it to satisfy most skiers and boarders provided they first and foremost want a relaxing holiday rather than a test of skill, bravery or endurance. The Jungfrau ski area is split into three sectors. The first is First – that’s its name although it’s pronounced ‘fierce’. This is the area behind Grindelwald village, with south-facing slopes that can get slushy in the afternoon. It has runs to suit all standards, and mountain restaurants that are natural sun-traps. The next is Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen: these are the gentle, intermediate-friendly slopes on the other side of Grindelwald that lead back to the village or across to Wengen. And last, there is Murren. It’s a bit of a journey to get there from Grindelwald (ski down to Wengen, take the train to Lauterbrunnen and a cable car back up) so it’s not a trip you will want to make every day, but this is where the highest and steepest runs are, so keen skiers will want to go there at least once.
As a village, Grindelwald is a bit stretched-out, and not quite as picturesque as Wengen or Murren,, In the middle of winter, the towering peaks above it ensure it gets very little sun. But these are minor quibbles: all in all it’s a charming Swiss mountain village with wooden chalets and streets full of character that are nice to wander around. And unlike Wengen and Murren you can drive there, or get a transfer from the airport direct to your accommodation, which makes it easier to reach.