Mürren, Switzerland Winter Holiday Guide
Skiing and Snowboarding In Mürren, Switzerland
Mürren is pivotal in British winter sports history. In 1910, it became the very first resort to admit package holidaymakers when Sir Henry Lunn persuaded the authorities to run the railway in the winter months. His son, Sir Arnold, launched the first ever slalom race in 1922. Six years later, he and 16 of his friends climbed on skins to the peak of the Schilthorn (2,970m) and set off for Lauterbrunnen (800m), taking their own line through 14.9km of powder snow. This was the first 'Inferno' race. The modern version, an all-comers' competition with uphill and downhill sections, draws in 1,800 entries, leaving at 12-second intervals.
Although Mürren gets the best snow in the Jungfrau area, its pistes are small and not perfectly defined. The main event is the Schilthorn, accessed by two cable-cars and familiar to all Bond fans as Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. On the reason that it is not easily raided, it makes an ideal villain's hideaway, but as a ski mountain it has severe limitations. The most crucial is the black factor: the beginning is seriously steep and very bumpy if it hasn't been groomed, while the Kanonenrohr (gun barrel), the only route back to Mürren, is rocky and easily closed by poor snow conditions, which entails that everybody has to download from the mid-station. Add in the wind factor, which usually closes the cable-cars, and the odds on skiing the Schilthorn on any given day are not good.
You are left with two other possibilities, the red and blue runs from the Allmendhubel, reached by train and draglift from the village centre, to Winteregg, and the pleasantly open slopes on the Schiltgrat, fine for a modest cruise before lunch but not exactly the stuff of day-long challenge. When the snow does fall the powder shots are splendid, with runs off the back of Schilthorn, into the Blumental and down through the forest to Gimmelwald.
Mürren has top-notch mountain huts, all of them dishing out Swiss specialities - air-dried meat, rosti and sausages. As its name suggests, the Sonnenberg is a favourite with sun-seekers, but the Suppenalp is more atmospheric. Best of all for food and friendliness is Pension Gimmelwald at the Stechelberg mid-station. The Piz Gloria revolving restaurant makes one full circuit an hour, but because of its unique position it gets by with not-so-great food and grumpy service.
There is a funpark featuring a quarter-pipe and jumps on Schiltgrat. The steep terrain above Mürren is a blast for confident riders, but novices are better off in Wengen.
The modern Sports Centre sticks out like a sore thumb among Miirren's pretty chalets, but it does have squash, badminton, a large swimming pool, sauna, steam baths and fitness room, plus an ice rink.
Most of Miirren's restaurants are inside the big hotels, with the notable exception of Stagerstubl, a local haunt serving quality mountain fare - the rosti is particularly good. As many packages are half-board, some hotels serve the set dinner in the main dining room and a la carte meals in a second restaurant. In the Eiger, for instance, the food in the Stubli is superior to the half-board. Mürren's nightlife is pretty chilled. The Baloon Bar in the Palace and the Tachi Bar in the Eiger, draw in the crowds before dinner. Afterwards, the Tachi becomes a disco. The Eiger Guesthouse has a cheerful bar and pool room.
Both routes up to Mürren, train from Lauterbrunnen and cable-car from Stechelberg, arrive at opposite ends of the village. The four-star, family-run Eiger, is quite comfortable, with a pool, and is opposite the station, as is the Eiger Guesthouse, an excellent budget choice. The nearest billet at the cable-car end is the charming three-star Alpenruh, while the Jungfrau is recommended for comfort, cooking and central position.