Skiing and Snowboarding in Grindelwald, Switzerland
Ski Holidays in Grindelwald, SwitzerlandCredit: Flickr image by dominiekth http://www.flickr.com/photos/dominiekterheide/
Grindelwald evolved from ancient farming origins into a long, thin resort sprawling along the main road. In recent years it has expanded over the lower slopes of the mountain in all directions, but as most of the new buildings are chalets in the traditional style, there's no great feel of change. Unlike Wengen and Murren, it has a big year-round trade thanks to its honeypot attraction - the mountain railway cut into the Eiger rock face to the top of the Jungfrau at 3,454m, presently a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Grindelwald and Wengen share the ski slopes on Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen. From the Grindelwald side, a cog railway goes up to Kleine Scheidegg via Brandegg, while Mannlichen is served, by an ancient, super-slow gondola in pressing need of upgrading. A series of interlinked chairlifts give plenty of red running between the top stations and there's an attractive blue run from Kleine Scheidegg back to Grindelwald that is flat enough to allow enterprising first-week skiers a sense of going places. These slopes are too low to be snowsure, a problem the area is attempting to resolve by installing new snow cannons.
Grindelwald also has its very own mountain, First, on the other side of the main road and accessed via a gondola located away from the centre of town. The lifts at the top take you to Oberjoch, the starting point for a user-friendly and pleasingly underused complex of red and blue runs, plus the resort's top-quality black under the gondola back to town. Oberjoch is also the launch point for the area's best off-piste tours on Grosse Scheidegg and beyond.
When it comes to mountain huts, Grindelwald isn't in the same class as its neighbours, but there is a lot of choice, some of it of the mid-station cafeteria variety. The best of these are at Berghaus Bort and Berghaus First. The Pumuckle two-storey glass igloo is lively as well as architecturally modern. On the other side, the Brandegg station restaurant has famous apple fritters and a suntrap terrace straight under the Eiger. There's a challenging, snowsure terrain park on Oberjoch and a super-pipe above Schreckfeld, both in the First area.
Grindelwald's toboggan run is quite radical: it starts with a bus ride to Bussalp, followed by an optional two-hour climb up the Faulhorn - the beginning of a 15km descent, believed to be the longest in the world. Grindelwald also has a modern sports centre, with a large swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms (all free with resort guest card), and also an ice rink.
Grindelwald has 50 restaurants, most of them inside hotels. Barry's Napf, named after a famous St Bernard rescue dog, in the Eiger has a Mongolian barbecue. In the Hotel Derby, the underground Cava Bar has great cheese fondue, accompanied by Musicman Otto's disco, the elemental international oompah. The restaurant at the Hotel Fiescherblick is highly rated by Gault Millau, yet expensive. The Hotel Spinne gets the prize for the most eclectic selection of eateries, with Italian, Chinese (Wee Lee's, which also does Japanese) and Mexican options.
The Spinne, once again, and the Eiger are the key players. The Eiger's Gepsi Bar is friendly, having live music and theme nights, while Mescalero, downstairs in the Spinne, is by far the best club in town. The alternatives are the Challi Bar at the Hotel Kreuz & Post and the Plaza disco at the Hotel Sunstar, a basement cavern adorned with fake rocks. The Downtown glass bubble is popular for pre-dinner apres ski, while locals assemble at the open-air buvette in the bus station car park to sing along to Que Sera Sera. Grindelwald is that kind of town.
The five-star option is the formal Grand Regina, with a state-of-the-art spa and a convenient placement next to the station. The Spinne, the Eiger and the Kreuz & Post are on top of the four-star list, while the Fiescherblick is an exceptionally welcoming family-run three-star. For budgeteers, the Downtown Lodge features dorm accommodation.