Engelberg - a skier's paradise
Scandinavian Traveler flew to Zurich and took a train straight from the airport. Two hours later, we arrived in the center of Engelberg, 50m from the hotel and a few hundred meters from the nearest lift.
Up until about 10 years ago, this was a relatively obscure ski resort. However, when word of a mountain with unlimited off-piste skiing and direct access to a lift system began to spread among Scandinavian ski enthusiasts, tourists started to flock in.
Engelberg has never been the destination of choice for partygoers. You come here for the skiing.
Quick facts on Engelberg
Highest piste: 3,020m
Highest drop: 2,000m
Blue/red/black pistes: 7/12/2
Total piste length: 82km
Thanks to a close collaborative relationship between the tourist board and local businesses, Engelberg is set to grow from a sleepy village that can boast some magical skiing to an alpine resort that is up there with the best. Proof of this can already be seen this winter in the shape of a new cable car that has been built on the mountainside.
The first skiers reached the summit of Titlis in 1904. The mountain’s north face is a dream to ski down after a snowfall, and snow is guaranteed here. Engelberg’s high elevation and geographic location mean that snow falls from two directions, resulting in a combined snowfall of more than seven meters during an average winter.
Quite simply, Engelberg is a skier’s paradise.
Engelberg March 13, 2015
Sweaty and breathless, we kick off our skis and take in the scene that greets us.
The sun is high in a clear blue sky. All around we see snow-clad peaks and below us, we can discern how the pistes run down to the village of Engelberg. Like ants, skiers move along and through the system. It’s a magical sight.
Daniel Perret, our guide, points to five half-meter-high stone formations next to where we’re standing. They look strangely out of place.
“Don’t climb over those stones, or you’ll be taking the Engelberg Express,” he says without cracking a smile.
What he means is that we risk falling several hundred meters down the rock we have just climbed up – a fall that he says will not end until we’re down in the village.
It has taken us just over an hour of climbing to reach this point. Walking on skis along and up the imposing rocks to the summit of a mountain is as strenuous as it is exhilarating.
And we know what the payoff is.
A winding trail extends into virgin snow across vast expanses on the south side of the mountain, all the way down to a small icebound lake where we pause for lunch. We fill our water bottles from a bubbling brook, and a Swiss cheese baguette has never tasted better.
This is a summit tour at its best. With climbing sheaths under our skis, the potential to find places with virgin snow is endless, and the effort is well worth it when the mountain opens up and offers us this sort of skiing.
We head back to the lift system by walking over the lake. Lunch has given us fresh energy to take on the challenge of Mount Titlis. Here we find another of Engelberg’s major attractions: off-piste skiing that is only a couple of pole strokes away from the ski trail.
With the snow whirling up around our knees, we attack the mountain that leads us sharply down back to the village.
Here’s the lowdown on where to find the off-piste adventure that best suits your tastes.
From Klein Titlis you can also reach a huge off-piste trail on Galtiberg, a 2,000m drop right out into terrain filled with glaciers and imposing mountain walls. In other words, a guide is your life insurance policy here as well. Once you reach the end of the trail, you’re probably at the farthest point in the valley and, if you’ve timed things right, you’ll be able to catch the bus. Otherwise, call for a taxi – it’s a long way back to Engelberg.
Grab your chance
Has snow fallen during the night? Don’t miss the chance to ski the classic Laub trail – a 1,200m drop and as big as 10 soccer pitches on a perfect slope.
Text: Jonas Fond
Published: December 12, 2016