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Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 7:19 am
by jamesdeluxe
I've posted enough reports and articles so you know that when on a destination trip, given the choice between a well-known major ski area and a smaller one that's off-the-beaten-path and frequented mainly by locals, I almost always go for Door #2. This being said; there are a few bucket-list places that have been on my radar for many moons and the Jungfrau region is one of them. There are three separate sectors, each of which can be given their own day: from left to right Grindelwald First, Kleine Scheidegg/Wengen, and Schilthorn/Mürren. For this day, we skied the middle one:
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With the exception of my sunny afternoon at Axalp on Monday, we'd basically had five straight days of overcast skies and less than stellar visibility so with Wednesday's absolutely perfect forecast, there was a fair amount of pent-up demand and unsurprisingly a Little Cottonwood Canyon-style procession of cars going up to Grindelwald:
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Still, we got a great parking spot only a two-minute walk from the base area at Grund, where you buy your ticket ($66), which includes your train ride in a cog railway up to the village of Kleine Scheidegg -- about half an hour covering 3,700 vertical feet. The only thing I like more than skiing is skiing and riding trains, so this was right in my sweet spot even though we were packed like sardines. Once there, it's basically like an urban train station surrounded by huge mountains, scheduled departures to Wengen, and a separate train that takes you up to the Jungfraujoch (the "Top of Europe") at 11,300 feet:
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Here's the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes, where Clint Eastwood and film crew headquartered during the shooting of his 1975 spy movie "The Eiger Sanction" -- haven't seen it in decades so I have to make a point of checking it out again soon.
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Despite all the people on the train, once on the mountain, every single lift was ski-on. The three major peaks that are staring you in the face most of the day are the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau. Here we are directly below the Eiger North Wall with Mönch to the right:
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There are 100km/60 miles of marked trails in this sector, plenty for a day of sublime cruising. About five inches of snow had fallen overnight but due to a thaw the previous week resulting in a refrozen subsurface, the offpiste looked better than it actually skied. No problem, the groomers were plenty of fun.
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We eventually headed toward Wengen on the World Cup course:
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... and stopped for refreshments with a view before dropping into the village:
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Gorgeous conditions in the Männlichen sector:
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Around 3 pm, we completed the circuit by returning to Kleine Scheidegg:
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Then skied 2,500 verts down through the woods to Brandegg:
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And caught the train back to Grund:
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In short, the Grindelwald absolutely lived up to its advance billing and the photos don't really convey how spectacular the setting is.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 9:11 pm
by rfarren
That’s where I did my honeymoon. Nikki and I hiked from the top of the firstbahn to Grindelwald. It was very different looking in September.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 11:24 am
by Tony Crocker
The Jungfrau region is touted by Rick Steves among others as one of the most scenic destinations in the Alps for summer tourism. Ski reviews are generally less enthusiastic.

Rob and Nikki sound very lucky on that honeymoon. It rains a lot in the Alps in the fall.

IMHO Chamonix and Zermatt are the places that combine excellent ski quality with mind blowing scenery the best.

Liz loves unusual rock formations and so rates the Dolomites as high as anywhere for scenery.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 12:29 pm
by jamesdeluxe
Tony Crocker wrote:The Jungfrau region is touted by Rick Steves among others as one of the most scenic destinations in the Alps for summer tourism. Ski reviews are generally less enthusiastic.

Don't dismiss the skiing in the Jungfrau, especially the section in this report. Those were some of the most enjoyable groomers I've ever done -- it doesn't look like much on the maps but looong descents, consistent double-blue pitch, perfect conditions: easily a Top 5 on-piste day for me.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 9:38 pm
by Tony Crocker
I envision the Jungfrau as a similar ambience to the Dolomites, and we certainly had no complaints there. We knew going in that there wouldn't be much off piste skiing. You probably had more long descents, though those town elevations look very low for March.

Schilthorn is the only really high lift served skiing in the Jungfrau, sort of like Marmolada in the Dolomites. I'm guessing that descent from Schilthorn is one of the most impressive pistes in the Alps.

Did you ever ski the Grindelwald/First sector? Fraser says it's a bit too sun exposed for late season. Conditions look very nice on the sectors you skied. I don't know if you were selective in your pictures, but skier density looks quite low by the standards of European pistes.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:44 am
by jamesdeluxe
We were supposed to go to Grindelwald First (the sector to the looker's left in the trail map) on our final day in the region, but due to fog pretty much everywhere within a two-hour drive, it became a no-ski day. Was a shame that we missed First -- this is how it looked on a sunny day exactly four years earlier. Even with Dolomite-level scenics, the two other sectors are considered the big events.

Yes, I assume that Jungfrau is terrain-wise a similar kettle of fish to the Dolomites, i.e. known mainly for the on-piste. Actually, I saw plenty of tempting easy-to-access offpiste; however, due to the hardscrabble subsurface, it wasn't worth the trouble when we were there.

Our first two runs near the Kleine Scheidegg railway station had pretty ghastly (for my standards) skier density -- see the mention of pent-up demand after five poor-visibility days. Fortunately, once we'd gotten away from the major crossroads, trails were mostly empty as represented in the photos and lifts were uniformly ski-on.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:56 am
by Tony Crocker
due to the hardscrabble subsurface

which goes with the territory at low altitude/varied exposures in March. We are hoping with our April trip to Val d'Isere that there will still be a fair amount of off-piste winter snow at altitudes/exposures comparable to some of the best late season spots in North America.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:10 pm
by rfarren
Tony Crocker wrote:
Rob and Nikki sound very lucky on that honeymoon. It rains a lot in the Alps in the fall.


Oh it rained for sure, but it cleared up for a chunk of our trip. The top of the Jungfrau was a blast one of the days as we were above the clouds, but our last day in Grindelwald was gorgeous, and honestly I’ve never seen mountains as dramatic as that.

I think if we do a Euro ski trip I’ll give up on the idea of “going after it” for ski conditions. Rather a more relaxing wine and dine experience seems of more interest to me.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:26 pm
by Sbooker
Tony Crocker wrote:
due to the hardscrabble subsurface

which goes with the territory at low altitude/varied exposures in March. We are hoping with our April trip to Val d'Isere that there will still be a fair amount of off-piste winter snow at altitudes/exposures comparable to some of the best late season spots in North America.


I have zero experience as far as Europe goes but with the reported snowfall this season I would think you would have to try really hard not to have a good time at Val D this April. I believe April skiing at 'Espace Killy' in a normal year is decent. Even if you miss out on winter snow I would think spring conditions should be pretty enjoyable. Then there is the views which I imagine should be nothing short of spectacular.
I will be interested to hear how your experience compares to your previous April trips to Mammoth, Bachelor, Whistler and the Colorado hills.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 1:40 pm
by Tony Crocker
Sbooker wrote:I will be interested to hear how your experience compares to your previous April trips to Mammoth, Bachelor, Whistler and the Colorado hills.

My standards are quite high in that regard. But I will be surprised if Val d'Isere is not comparable in snow preservation, at least on the 60% of terrain Fraser says is above 2,500 meters. We will be dropping in at Mt. Bachelor on the way home April 28-29, which is their last weekend before they cut back lifts and operating hours.

rfarren wrote:I think if we do a Euro ski trip I’ll give up on the idea of “going after it” for ski conditions. Rather a more relaxing wine and dine experience seems of more interest to me.

Not mutually exclusive. I expect Val d'Isere to score high in both departments. Zermatt certainly did. Even in less commercial ski regions like Monte Rosa and any number of places James has been, you can get your fair share of quality skiing along with the wine and dine.

But yes, the Dolomites should be on Rob and Nikki's short list, especially since Rob is fluent in one of the local languages.

Re: Grindelwald/Wengen, CH: 03/14/18

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:07 pm
by Tony Crocker
Congratulations to Rob and Nikki on their baby! The discussion on taking babies/toddlers on ski trips is moved here: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=12635