Get us on the subject of adventure in Switzerland, and we’ll almost certainly talk your ears off. We’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time in the mountainous country over the last few years, and been lucky enough to experience many of the nation’s top outdoorsy offerings. One of the Swiss trips we’ve been on in the last year, that we’ll still be thinking about many decades from now, was our mission to check out the best of the Bernese Oberland in winter. For it, we packed up all our camera gear (again) and took Dave Searle along with us for the ride. The short story, after getting there, is that we loved every second. The longer story is, well, something you can uncover below.
“On the subject of adventure in Switzerland… we’ll almost certainly talk your ears off”
As part of the trip, we shot this film; a film we hope captures just what a special destination this area of Switzerland is. We’re biased, of course, but we think you should set aside 10 minutes aside now and give it a watch. Searle, an IFMGA mountain guide who lives in Chamonix, is our presenter and, as you can see, he ends up having an excellent time. If you want to read what we got up to instead, continue scrolling down the page. We’ll tell you everything you want to know (and loads of other useful stuff as well).
Jungfraujoch // Top of Europe
It’s in Switzerland, and it’s the highest railway station in Europe. With that information at the forefront of your mind now, you probably don’t need us to tell you that the views up here are absolutely stunning (they are though, they really are). From this epic spot, you’ll feel an ice cool alpine breeze stream across your face and get a picture perfect postcard view that’s so picturesque it might just take your breath away. On one side of it, you’ll get a view of the Mittelland up to the Vosge. On the other side of it, you’ll get a view of the Aletsch Glacier flanked by some four thousand metre peaks. The Jungfraujoch is 3,454 metres above sea level and, whether you’re visiting in winter or summer, has the power to make you feel like you’ve left earth’s atmosphere and gone to another world. We can’t recommend it enough.
Speaking of things to do in the Bernese Oberland that wouldn’t feel out of place on an isolated alien planet, a wander through the icy tunnels and caves of the Jungfraujoch’s Ice Palace are worth a look. You can find the Ice Palace at the top of the Jungfraujoch. If you’ll pardon the wordplay, it’s a cool experience.
No visit to the Bernese Oberland in winter can be considered complete until you’ve taken a velogemel out for a spin. A cross between skiing, cycling, and sledding, this mode of mountain transportation is a chance to get historical while simultaneously getting a cheeky little hit of adrenaline at the same time. Velogemels have been used by the Grindelwalders, to get around in winter, since 1911. They’re fully weaved into the area’s longstanding traditions and culture. Fancy getting seriously competitive? The World Velogemel Championship is held in February, in Grindelwald, and anyone can take part. It’s coming home?
Riding the Eiger Run, from Alpiglen to Brandegg, is a special experience. You will, if you’re anything like us, enjoy the novelty of sliding about on a velogemel so much that you’ll find yourself later that evening running through it all again over some tasty local raclette. If only it snowed more in the UK, and there were more mountains to velogemel down, we’d ditch our full-suspension MTBs in a second. That’s the conclusion we ultimately reached. Sorry wheels. You’re out. Wooden bikes that are a bit like sleds are in.
You didn’t really think we were going to spend a bunch of time talking all about wintertime adventures in the Bernese Oberland without doing a section on skiing, did you? Of course, and this should almost go without saying, the quality of the skiing on offer is an absolutely massive pull to the area.
Consisting of 102 km of slopes, down at the foot of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, Kleine Scheidegg / Männlichen is the largest ski resort in the Bernese Oberland and Jungfrau region. It’s incredibly beautiful in that classic Swiss-way, it’s got more than enough skiing terrain to satisfy even the most ‘from sunrise to sunset’ type piste shredder, and it’s home to the world famous Lauberhorn downhill (aka the longest downhill course in the world). What more could you possibly want? Pack your ski gear, and get going.
The ski touring opportunities in the Bernese Oberland are outstanding as well. Our tip for ski touring here is to get high above the Haslital, and soak up the views from Gibel. In good faith though, we can’t just put that one out there and not mention some of the other gems in the area. For the extreme ski tourers who like to get high, there’s a pretty full-on Jungfrau ski tour (near Jungfraujoch) which involves, among other things, circumnavigating glacier cracks on the ascents.
Starting from the Mönchsjochhütte, you’ll have to overcome a crevasse under the Rottasattel which can be complicated. The last ascent up to the summit is climbed without skis, and the descent will go back down the way you came up. Epic stuff.
Another route that’s definitely worth a look is Höji Sulegg. Provided there’s enough snow down to the Lauterbrunnen valley, this one’s a really eye-opening adventure and features a long descent. Just watch out for that rough trail through Guferwald. It’s narrow, and can be challenging. Some other Bernese Oberland ski touring routes we think you’ll enjoy include Faulhorn, starting from the Oberjoch summit station, Gemmenalphorn, a short but stunning ski tour above Lake Thun, and Burg (Bussalp), a beautiful and beginner-friendly backcountry mission starting from Bussalp.
We couldn’t possibly finish a discussion of ski touring in the Bernese Oberland without giving a shoutout to the reassuringly knowledgeable mountain guides in the area. During our trip, we teamed up with Yannick Glatthard. Yannick is an IFMGA mountain guide, and really did know the area like the back of his hands. He underlined to us the degree to which mountain-lovers in the area are able to live and breathe them to a level where their authority on the subject can simply come about naturally. There’s plenty of Yannick-types in this corner of Switzerland, types that can help you to make the most of the region’s ski touring opportunities (and more).