Grindelwald

Both of us have always had a passion to ski the Alps, especially Emily since her parents did whilst living in Europe. We found a TAP flight via Scott’s Cheap Flights back in October to Zurich, which allowed us a nice launch point for a number of different ski resorts. After booking the flights we invited our friends whom lived in London to see if they wanted to join, and we ended up having a crew of five for this trip.

Thursday February 16th

Our flight was out of Newark and after work on Wednesday; unfortunately it wasn’t direct but the price was hard to beat! We landed in Lisbon early Thursday morning after a bumpy cross-Atlantic flight, then (after a long time in their customs line) caught the second leg to Zurich. As we approached Zurich the Alps, covered in snow, seemed to be an endless landscape below us. The Zurich airport is clean and easy to navigate (no surprise there); we picked up our rental at the airport from Thrifty, then made our way south.

We drove the main highway, stopping along the way to explore. Something that seems to be uniquely Swiss is a tunnel through the mountains every five minutes (or less)! The Swiss opted against the winding road in the mountainous region, instead opting to go straight through the mountain. One unplanned stop was the small village of Dietwil, which looked quaint as we drove by on the highway, and turned out so quaint it had little more than a church and houses! Another stop was Interlaken, a hub of outdoor activity year around. Garret had stayed here for a couple days during his post-college summer backpacking with friends, taking advantage of the outdoors opportunities with canyoning and hiking, so it was fun for him to see it again. We parked in the middle of the town and walked around, grabbed an afternoon bite to eat, then made our way into the mountains for our primary destination – Grindelwald!

The church in Dietwil.

Tunnel vision!

Balmers Hostel, where Garret and friends stayed whilst backpacking Europe.

Downtown Interlaken.

Grindelwald

When researching which ski resort to try out, Emily researched “small quaint ski town” and saw Grindelwald as the place to try! Google images revealed a picturesque mountain town, with the cutest downtown surrounded by breath taking, snow-covered alps. Reviews of the skiing were positive (and how could they not be…it’s the Swiss Alps!) so we were sold on our final destination. It turned out to be a fairly easy (if you have mountain driving experience) 2hr drive from Zurich. Upon arriving in the late afternoon/early evening, we headed straight to our hotel, dropped our bags, then drove down the main street to find our ski rental shop before it closed. We had reserved rentals online ahead of time at Buri Sport, and received a 20% discount on their site as well. It turns out the owner is from New Jersey, and she gave us some good pointers for the mountain and especially where to eat. (Rental note – we opted for insurance on the equipment, and to do that they simply reduced the discount to 10%.) One of the best parts of our rental experience was the equipment being stored onsite, and with the shop located right next to a shuttle stop and the train station, so we never had to carry anything to/from the hotel.

Downtown Grindelwald, nestled in between mountains.

After securing our rentals, we bought ski passes at the train station then drove back to the hotel to unpack and relax before dinner. We had a reservation at Kreuz & Post based on the Buri Sport owner’s recommendation, and this turned out to be one of our better meals (get the schnitzel and/or the chicken!). By now exhausted from the jet lag, we passed out so we could get on the mountain early the next morning.

Excellent Swiss food at Kreuz & Post.

Lodging

We secured our ski lodging about three months before going on bookings.com, finding the Hotel Jungfrau Lodge for $130/night. The room was great, being large enough to store our ski clothing plus a balcony overlooking the stunning Alps that overshadowed the town, meaning we woke up to a stunning view every morning. Parking and breakfast (your typical European kind) were included in the price, and location-wise it was great in that we were able to keep the car parked and walk on the main street.

Hotel Jungfrau Lodge.

View of our room.

Friday, February 17th

Day 1 of skiing had us tackling Schwarzhorn mountain, which was accessed via a gondola located on the main street. We had been told the Alps were a different type of mountain to ski than the Rockies, and we experienced these differences within the first hour. A snowstorm had come in by 9, and the skiing portion of this mountain had no trees. Therefore, the exposed runs were swirling with snow; visibility was almost non-existent. From the very first run, we lost depth-awareness because everything was white. We could only judge by the poles on the run boundaries – the Swiss keep it pretty simple in terms of signage on the mountains.

We stayed on the mountain for lunch, which was a nice break from the blizzard, then went on a couple more runs before finally calling it around 2:30 because of the lack of visibility – it was far more work than fun at that point. To get down we took a long run down the mountain, and at the bottom was a shuttle stop and a fun shuttle bus-turned-bar, the Bus Stop Apres Ride Bar. Since the shuttle was a few minutes out, we grabbed a drink and got out of the snow.

The lift to nowhere.

Celebrating being able to see the lift!

Switzerland.

Blizzard selfie/always wear a helmet.

Venerable hay storage for the animals.

No trees and only poles to guide.

A well-earned bier.

Take shelter!

Warmed up with a drink at Bus Stop Apres Ride Bar.

After dropping off our gear at the shop we walked back to our hotel and switched gears, as we had a massage to go enjoy! We walked along the Main Street to the Sunstar Alpine Hotel, where Emily had booked our massages. The spa treatment was great – we enjoyed a relaxation room that had windows showing the stunning mountains surrounding the town. The massage was great and exactly what we needed!

Lots of snow in Grindelwald as well.

The view of the mountain and beautiful snow covered trees with an ombre effect from our relaxation room .

Mountain and chill.

For dinner, we walked around town, window shopping and looking at the different restaurants, and tried to get into Hotel Restaurant Bellevue-Pinte, which is said to have the best fondue in town (their dinner time was booked the entire time we were there). We found a great alternative, Eiger Selfness Hotel’s “Memory“, where we enjoyed another round of Swiss eating with fondue and rösti with brautwurst. Following dinner, we went upstairs to Gepsi Bar for a nightcap of more wine and chocolate fondue (previous research indicated this was the only chocolate fondue in town!). At the end of the night we connected with our friends Aquene, Abbe and Alex, who had flown into Zurich and drove to Grindelwald, to give them their hotel key before everyone called it a night.

Rösti!

Fondue take 1.

Fondue take 2.

Saturday, February 18th

What a great day of skiing! For this mountain we took a train from downtown up to the mountain, right below the incredible north face of Eiger mountain. For lunch we ate on the mountain, and after a full day of skiing took a long run back into the outskirts of Grindelwald.  The run ended at the Grund train station, where we celebrated with a drink at Restaurant Grund. A five minute train ride later we were back in Grindelwald, and went to the local watering hole, The Avocado Bar. The ‘Cado had built out a jump in their backyard, and people (none of us!) could ski from the second story down, do a trick, and try to land it, while everyone else grabbed a beer and watched them mostly fall, and occasionally land, their jumps.

Woke up like this.

The train at Grindewald going up the mountain.

Much better weather today!

The breathtaking Alps.

Prost!

Eiger’s North Face.

Alex, Garret, Emily and Abbe (pic by Aquene).

Jumps at the Avocado Bar.

For dinner, we had reservations at Restaurant Belvedere (reservations are important because the restaurants are not large). They have a great wine menu, and a variety of excellent food (seafood, steak, schnitzel, rösti). Exhausted by the end of dinner, we called it a night to get in one more day of skiing!

Sunday, February 19th

On Sunday we had yet another outstanding day of skiing, with bluebird skies and not too much of a crowd. Alex’s buddy Tim, who lives in Switzerland, met up with us that morning. We once again had lunch on the mountain, then went on a few more runs before partaking in another long run back to the Grund station. After dropping off our ski equipment one final time, we went back to the hotel to packed our bags before departing Grindelwald for some exploring in Luzern.

Overlooking Grindelwald from the slopes.

Yes, more schnitzel and fries.

Lots of powder throughout the weekend.

The crew.

Eiger providing a great backdrop.

The runs back into town actually intersected with streets periodically.

Luzern 

We decided to explore Luzern, where Tim lives, after Abbe and Alex described it as a small city (~80,000 people) surrounded by mountains and next to a giant, beautiful lake. They were not mistaken! Luzern is beautiful, and now one of our favorite places in Europe. We walked around downtown, across the canal, with mountains on every side and on the edge of Lake Luzern. Tim’s lovely wife Mirjam joined us, and after drinks on the dock at Seebistro LUZ we went for a final Swiss dinner at Rathaus Brauerei. It was a fun experience and the town was getting ready to celebrate Carnival later that week, adding to the atmosphere. We will definitely be back to explore more!!

Tim and Mirjam’s lovely neighborhood.

Downtown along the canal.

Art on the Spreuerbrücke bridge.

Chapel Bridge Kapellbrücke, next to a remaining piece of the old city wall.

Excellent architecture in Luzern.

Overlooking the canal leading out to Lake Luzern.

Getting ready for Carnival!

Great times with Aquene and Abbe (and Alex)!

One final meal of Rösti!

Lodging

We left Lucerne and drove to the airport back in Zurich, where we had a night at the Park Inn by Radisson reserved. The Park Inn was nothing special and our “non-smoking” room reeked of smoke. However, it was inexpensive and offered a free shuttle to the airport, which was only about 5 minutes away. Upon returning the car we called it a night to catch a few hours of sleep before our 6:20am flight Monday morning that began the journey back to NYC! That flight across the Atlantic proved to be pretty uncomfortable as well, especially the landing, so our experience with TAP was overall subpar.

(De)Parting Words of Advice:

  • Based on our experience of these flights would not put TAP at the top of our recommended airlines.
  • Reserve a place at least 3 months out, and if you are a large party see about renting one of the houses closer to the skiing.
  • One can either take the train or a rental from Zurich to get there, just depends on your plan/schedule.
  • Reserving your rental skis ahead is a great way to ensure you aren’t spending time chasing equipment rentals (they even have ski jackets and pants to rent).
  • One can get their ski pass at their hotel or at the train station.

Until next time!

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