Grindelwald has more terrain, but during a typical day's skiing you'll hardly be aware of which resort you are skiing in - especially if you are concentrating on the outstanding scenery. Apart from gazing up at the celebrated north faces of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, the big attraction in Wengen is its world famous Lauberhorn run - one of the toughest and longest (4.5km)World Cup downhill races, which begins at the top of the Wixi chair. During the Lauberhorn Races in January, Wengen finds itself under siege, with thousands of spectators flocking to the village. But unlike some downhill courses (Kitzbuhel's Hahnenkamm for example) the Lauberhorn is only really scary when you are skiing seriously fast. But be careful on the steep Hundschopf section - there's a red run that provides an easy alternative.
Fundamentally both Wengen and Grindelwald provide a really extensive network of blue runs and pretty easy reds on wide-open, rolling meadows which make it ideal for lower and average intermediate skiers and boarders. Even many of the black runs are no more than good reds. In total the combined ski area includes 110 groomed runs, of which 30% are suitable for beginners, 50% for intermediates and 20% designated as advanced, nearly all of which can be tackled by confident intermediate skiers and boarders. The longest run is 15km and there's snowmaking covering 60% of runs which helps compensate for variations in snowfall.
Once you reach Kleine Scheidegg from Wengen, there's a lot more skiing on the Grindelwald side. If you set off from Kleine Scheidegg towards Wengen, you are, for the most part, heading back down the mountain rather than accessing lots more terrain. Although there is some enjoyable skiing on the way down, once you reach Wengernalp you are pretty much committed to continuing on all the way back to Wengen unless you catch the train back to Kleine Scheidegg from Wengernalp station. Once down in Wengen you can get back to the heart of the ski area by taking the cable car to Mannlichen, on the Grindelwald side. Or of course take the next train back to Kleine Scheidegg.
Try not to miss the dramatic (but expensive!) rack-and-pinion train ride from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch (3,454m) via Eigergletscher (the highest point from which you can ski) and two station stops where you can look out from inside the Eiger through dramatic viewing windows down to Grindelwald and the Eismeer glacier and station. This really is quite an extraordinary journey that takes you through the north face of the Eiger and then into the Monch on its way to the highest railway station in Europe. From the top of the Jungfraujoch, on a fine day, you can see more than 200 peaks.
Trains dominate the Jungfrau resorts in a way that's rarely found elsewhere in the Alps, providing a colourful but slow backbone to the skiing, particularly in Wengen and Grindelwald - less so in Murren where trains are not really used as alternatives to ski lifts to get you to the slopes.
Wengen relies more on its quaint rack-and-pinion trains to get people up the mountain than Grindelwald. Without them, the only way to access the main ski area would be the giant cable car to Mannlichen. Although there are other lifts of course on the Wengen side, they are all lifts which you can only access by first getting onto the slopes using either the trains or the Mannlichen cable car.
The railway climbs from Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg via Allmend and Wengernalp. At the top it makes sense to move towards the Grindelwald slopes as there's more choice of routes - though it doesn't really matter which way you aim. There's good intermediate skiing in almost all directions, with some 20 lifts radiating out across an extensive area. The Wixi chair which serves the Lauaberhorn area is due to be replaced by a new six-seat chair lift in 2012.
You can even use then trains to "beat the lift system." By working out when the last sensible time to be up the mountain is (before it gets dark, as the lifts are closing) you can take a late train to Kleine Scheidegg, have a last drink and ski down to Wengen as the sun is beginning to set. Don't leave it too late though or the ski patrol won't be happy!
Wengen Railway Station
Tel: +41 (0) 33 828 70 50
Mannlichen Cable Car
Tel: +41 (0) 33 855 29 33
There are quite good nursery slopes at various locations - in the village centre (behind the ice-rink on the Figeler slopes) at Wengernalp (on the way up, to Kleine Scheidegg) and on the Grindelwald side of Kleine Scheidegg itself, where the snow is normally better.
And because so much of the combined area is so suitable for early intermediates, beginners can quickly advance to some real treats - long runs they might not have thought themselves capable of at the beginning of the week. Even the long blue run that snakes back down the mountain to Wengen can be "do-able" for a keen novice, although it can get busy at the end of the day.
There are two ski schools in Wengen, one of which specializes in private tuition, but best for beginners and for children especially is the official Swiss Ski and Snowboard School which also runs the "Snowli" Swiss Snow Kids Village in the centre of Wengen.
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It's almost as if Wengen and Grindelwald were expressly design with intermediates in mind. And that's without even mentioning the inspirational backdrop of breathtaking scenery, which includes the notorious Eiger North Face.
Since much of the skiing on the Wengen side ends up taking you all the way back to the village, during the day it's probably better to concentrate on some of the long runs leading down to Grindelwald from Kleine Scheidegg or Mannlichen, which can be as long as five miles through rolling terrain mixed in with some gladed skiing, returning by gondola or train.
The combined Wengen and Grindelwald ski area includes 110 groomed runs, 50% of which are designated red runs for intermediates. The vertical elevation is a modest 1,046m from 2,320m down to 1,275m and the longest run is a whopping 15km.
Within the ski area itself, there are some good off-piste opportunities, particularly around the foot of the Eigerwand on and around a sublime run called the White Hare. But care and advice should be taken as there is sometimes serious avalanche danger there.
Highlights for advanced skiers and snowboarders include the Lauberhorn World Cup Downhill, which is not really that hard unless taken at top speed, but nonetheless, take care and slow down when you approach the tunnel under the railway.
The celebrated and aptly named Oh God run (once off-piste) involves skiing over a big camel bump near the top. There are a couple more black runs in this area. There are also two ungroomed itineraries - one under the Lauberhorn chair, and another down to Wengernalp - where the snow is often good enough to help yourself to deep powder turns.
There's also good backcountry skiing from the Jungfraujoch down the Aletsch glacier, whether on touring skis or by helicopter, returning by train via Lauterbrunnen. This classic tour is 23 kilometres in length - the longest glacier in the Alps - via the Konkordiaplatz and Lotschenlucke into the Lotschental valley.
Heli-skiing and boarding is also possible for strong experienced skiers and boarders, every weekend from the end of January until mid May, weather and snow conditions permitting, and during the week on a request basis, The helicopter flights include spectacular views of the Swiss Alps and 4,000m peaks including the Eiger North Face and the opportunity to ski up to 2,500 m vertical from a height 3,900m all the way back to the valley level.
Contact the Swiss Ski & Snowboard School in Wengen or Swiss Alpine Guides in Interlaken for more information about guiding off-piste and heli-skiing in the Bernese Oberland.
Because the combined Wengen and Grindelwald ski area is for the most part relatively unchallenging, there are inevitably a few flattish sections and traverses. Some draglifts survive among the more user-friendly chairs and gondolas, and the trains offer alternatives even though they are rather a slow way of getting up - or down - the mountain.
Towards the Wengen side of the Kleine Scheidegg area, there's Jumper's Corner off Wixi chair, and Jump Street, halfway back to the village, served by a draglift, with a halfpipe and jumps. Some of the blue runs in this area can be too gentle for boarders so if you're not in the park, you'll probably want to be on the Grindelwald side of the mountain or head to Murren for the steepest slopes and the best freeriding.
Wengen is traditional and very family oriented, apres ski and nightlife in the village are relatively limited compared to some other resorts and the snowboarding culture has not exactly taken off in a big way. There's no terrain park in Wengen, other than a small terrain park at Wengeralp, which is sometimes built and sometimes not, so boarders and freestylers searching for terrain parks have to go to Murren or to the First ski area behind Grindelwald, each of which is a major trek there and back.
At Kleine Scheidegg, the Bahnhof Restaurant, right outside the station, is well known for good food and good service and attracts skiers and non-skiers alike. The Bellevue des Alpes is a grand 19th Century and iconic hotel at 2,070m at Kleine Scheidegg, with restaurant and a large sun terrace with seating for 150.
The Eigergletscher restaurant has dramatic close-up glacier views - it's where the mountain railway going up to the Jungfraujoch tunnels into the mountainside. The Grindelwaldblick, a short walk uphill from Kleine Scheidegg, is worth the effort for good quality food, attentive service and good value of money menu.
The Hotel Jungfrau at Wengernalp is listed in Guide Michelin and has wonderful views to go with an equally wonderful menu - some say it's the best food on the mountain. The Restaurant Allmend, close to the top of the Innerwengen chairlift and a train stop, has a sun terrace with stunning views of the valley and is worth visiting for lunch or for a drink late afternoon.
Mary's Cafe at the bottom of the celebrated Lauberhorn downhill race course right by the Innerwengen chair lift is arguably the best known mountain restaurant in Wengen. Its lunchtime speciality is Suppentopf, a soup made from vegetables, beef and sausage, topped with cheese.
The Bollywood and Crystal restaurants situated at the Top of Europe station at Jungfraujoch are among the highest mountain restaurants in the Alps with incredible views, but they can only be reached if you buy a special train ticket, which is not inexpensive, but it's a worthwhile excursion.
Tel: +41 (0) 33 855 58 00
Bahnhof Rostizzeria Restaurant
Tel: +41 33 828 78 28
Bellevue des Alpes
Tel: +41 (0) 33 855 12 12
Tel: +41 33 828 78 88
Tel: +41 (0) 33 855 33 22
Tel: +41 33 13 74
Tel: +41 33 855 16 22
Tel: +41 (0) 33 853 10 88
Tel: +41 33 855 25 75
Tel: +41 (0) 33 828 78 88
Tel: +41 (0) 33 828 78 88
The charming Alpine village of Wengen is mostly traffic free and fairly quiet at night. It's all pretty sedate, even idyllic and less than one kilometer from end to end so nowhere is very far from anywhere else, but parts of the village are quite hilly.
The main square, with its ice-rink and nursery slopes, is dotted with some quite grand old hotels. It's an easy to walk to everywhere along the side-streets and footpaths. But some have quite steep inclines and might make you huff and puff when retracing your steps from a local bar to your hotel, depending on where it is, or if you over indulge in apres ski.
The first recorded mention of Wengen as "Dorf auf de Wange", the village on the slopes, was in 1268. Then a small hamlet at the foot of the Jungfrau, it remained a poor mountain village until the late 19th Centrury when the first licenses for Inns on the pass at Klein Scheidegg were granted to Wengneralp in 1834 and Klein Scheidegg in 1835.
Travellers were accommodated in private houses until increasing numbers of guests led to the building of four small guest houses. Then in 1880 the Pension Wengen was built with a capacity of 100 beds. The building of the Bernese Oberland Railway in 1890 and the Wengneralp Railway in 1893 brought further growth in tourism in summer.
The opening of the Wengen-Wengneralp-Kleine Scheidegg mountain railway in 1909/10 was the foundation of the growth of winter sports in Wengen. Still a relatively small mountain village, today Wengen is a flourishing summer and winter resort with over 2,000 beds in 21 hotels and a further 2,300 beds in 400 apartments.
There's an adequate selection of shops in Wengen including four sports shops, a few grocery stores, a bakery, a Swiss Made souvenir shop, a book shop, a Stationer's, a pharmacy, a florist and a newsagents kiosk at the railway station, but there's not much else in the way of retail therapy.
For apres ski on the mountain, the Tipirama wigwam at Kleine Scheidegg is vibrant and fun immediately after skiing and the Lauberhorn Startbar at the start of the World-Cup downhill-course is normally pretty lively, especially during the World Cup races in January.
The Hotel Brunner (the only ski-in, ski-out accommodation Wengen) has an outdoor snowbar and is a big favourite with British skiers. There's also a snowbar near the Figeler nursery slopes in the centre of the village and the small bar at the Hotel Eiger is a fun place to end up after skiing.
The Tanne bar in Dorfstrasse is a small traditional bar with Swiss, Norwegian and Union Jack flags flying outside. Open daily from 4pm Tanne is a friedly place to relax and enjoy a homemade gluhwein after skiing or for cocktails and champagne later in the evening.
There's another nice bar in Dorfstrasse, look for a wine bar with dark wood facia, wooden door and two big feature windows which offer an inviting view of the interior, but it's quite new and there was no name outside when last visited.
Rocks Bar has plasma screens showing Sky Sports live and serves draught Guiness as well as beer, wine and cocktails. Also, Rocks has a Happy Hour from 9-10pm to entice people out of their hotels after dinner.
Sina's Pub also has a big screen TV, live music, karaoke and quiz nights but it's further out (near Club Med) and mention of karaoke and quiz nights will likely deter rather than attract the vast majority of Wengen's visitors.
For those who like dancing, there's the Blue Monkey nightclub and a "welcome to the party" at Hasenstall in the basement of the Hotel Silberhorn in the centre of Wengen.
Many of the best restaurants in Wengen are in hotels and a number of these restaurants have been awarded 13 or 15 points by Gault Millau. Most restaurants in Wengen, including hotel restaurants, open for lunch from 11:30am until 2pm and open again for dinner between 6pm or 7pm and 9:30pm. Compared to some ski resorts, 9:30pm is quite an early finish, but that seems not to bother the majority of Wengen's guests - mostly families and couples rather than die hard apres skiers.
For fine dining, Chez Meyer's Le Grand restaurant at the Hotel Regina is Wengen's is probably best restaurant with 15/20 Gault Millau points for excellent French cuisine complemented by first-rate Swiss and Italian wines, and outstanding service. Caprice at the stylish Caprice Hotel (a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World) is highly regarded for Swiss, European and international gourmet dishes (13/20 Gault Millau points) and has some of the best views in Switzerland.
The Baren at the Hotel Baren gets good reviews especially if staying and eating here on half board terms. Don't be put off by the hotel's 2-star rating, the restaurant is listed in Guide Michelin and Guide Bleu for good food and good service, and is full for two sittings most nights. The Schonegg restaurant at the Romantik Hotel Schonegg also has 13/20 points by Gault Millau.
Pizzeria Da Sina has a family friendly menu and now gets good reviews for its fillet mignon and salmon steaks as well as for pizza and pasta dishes, but is too often criticised for poor service and for being somewhat overpriced. Pasta & More, another mid-prices Italian restaurant, is part of the Victorial Lauberhorn hotel and serves good food but loses points for being awkward about serving tap water or for charging for it.
If you're hungry and in a hurry or looking to eat at the lower end of the scale, Santos "fine food" in the main street is a fast food establishment for burgers, nuggets, hot dogs and french fries. Likewise, Crystal Bar offers a choice of sandwiches, hot dogs, currywurst, cheese toasts and goulash soup, but has been criticised by some for being unfriendly and for poor service.
In the whole Jungfrau region there are 100km of winter footpaths, 20km of showshoeing trails, 95km of toboggan runs, 34km of cross-country skiing (though none in Wengen itself), natural and artificial ice rinks, curling, glacier ski tours, ice climbing, heli-skiing, paragliding and snowtubing
There are 100km of winter walking paths in the Jungfrau resorts including 70km of winter walking paths in and around Wengen. For more information and maps contact the tourist office in Wengen and for guided tours contact Kaderli Tours; Tel: +41 (0) 33 855 36 81.
There are numerous toboggan runs totalling 95km throughout the Jungfrau region including two toboggan runs in Wengen, namely the 4,500 m long toboggan run from Wengernalp via Almend to Wengen and the 5,000 m long Rita's Speedway toboggan run from Mannlichen to Holenstein.
Wengen is too hilly for cross-country skiing so there are no cross-country trails in or around the village, but there's a 12km long cross-country ski trail nearby at Lauterbrunnen, which is just 17 minutes by rail from Wengen.
Wengen has a natural ice-rink (1200 m²) and a partially covered artificial ice-rink (2,700 m²) with a wide range of facilities and perfect conditions for ice-skating surrounded by spectacular mountain views. Open daily in winter from 9:30am until 6pm every day except Thursday (10pm closing) with skates available for hire for ½ a day or a full day at low cost. The ice-rink in Wengen has 11 curling lanes in winter and 3 covered lanes in summer. Book a curling lane for one hour at a time with or without instruction. Curling shoes are also available for hire. Tel: +41 (0) 33 855 25 65.
The Beausite Park, Regina, Wegener Hof, Victoria Lauberhorn and Edelweiss hotels have wellness facilities which are available to non-residents, subject to an entry fee. The best facilities are at the Beausite Park Hotel (Tel: +41 (0) 33 856 51 61) and include a swimming pool, steam bath, showers with aroma therapy, waterfall and massages on request. Open daily from 10amm until 4pm and on Thursday evenings from 7:30pm until 10:30pm.
Located between the lakes of Thun and Brienz at an altitude of 567 m, Interlaken is a popular tourist destination with many things to do in winter and summer and is easy to get to using the Jungfraubahn mountain railways. The train journey from Wengen to Interlaken via Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken Ost takes about one hour.
Visit the Jungfrau Park's five themes of the Mysteries of the Worlds and a multi-media show about the Swiss Alps and UNESCO world natural heritage site of the Aletsch glacier - the biggest glacier in Europe and the source of the river Rhone. Located in Interlaken, the park is open daily from 10am until 6pm. Tel: +41 (0) 33 827 57 57. Web: www.jungfraupark.ch.
Enjoy some of Jungfrau regions most popular excursions including a train journey from Wilderswill (584 m) to Schynige Platte (2,076 m) or travel from Interlaken Ost by train or paddleboat steamer to Brienz then on Switzerland's only steam cog mountain railway to Brienzer Rothorn (2,350 m).