Skiing in Wengen
The two ski resorts of Wengen and Grindelwald are to all intents and purposes one big ski area, with 110 groomed runs, a vertical elevation of 1,046 m and trains from both resorts crossing over the Kleine Scheidegg ridge – as if a kind of symbolic frontier.
Wengen Ski Area Overview
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.
Beginner Skiing in Wengen
Wengen has plenty of terrain for beginners. There are nursery slopes in the centre of the village and as much as 30% of slopes in the combined Wengen and Grindelwald ski area are suitable for beginners.
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.
Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Wengen
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Intermediate Skiing in Wengen
Wengen is where all levels of intermediate skiers come into their own. There’s almost nowhere that intermediates can’t enjoy, without ever having to worry that they might be getting out of their depth.
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.
Advanced & Expert Skiing in Wengen
Wengen and Grindelwald’s combined ski area includes 110 groomed runs, of which 20% are designated for advanced skiers and boarders. You have to search for the tougher skiing runs, though there are some out there if you know where to look.
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.
Boarding & Freestyle in Wengen
Wengen has plenty of easy terrain for learning to snowboard including plenty of long blue and red runs which are well served by trains and chairlifts, though some T-bars are unavoidable and with so much gentle terrain so too are some flat sections.
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.
Mountain Restaurants in Wengen
Wengen has a reasonable number of mountain restaurants offering tasty food and good service, amid dramatic high mountain scenery and some of the best in Switzerland, including the Eiger North Face.
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.
Restaurand Allmend 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
Eigergletscher Tel: +41 33 828 78 88
Eigernordwand Tel: +41 (0) 33 855 33 22
Grindelwaldblick Tel: +41 33 13 74
Hotel Jungfrau Tel: +41 33 855 16 22
Restaurant Mannlichen Tel: +41 (0) 33 853 10 88
Mary’s Cafe Tel: +41 33 855 25 75
Bollywood Jungfraujoch Tel: +41 (0) 33 828 78 88
Crystal Jungfraujoch Tel: +41 (0) 33 828 78 88