Sweeping snowy slopes, glistening lakes and charming wooden alpine chalets. This is Grindelwald, situated in south central Switzerland and the Bernese Alps. This appealing town was the destination for us for a four-day ski holiday. What made this extra special? It was my first ever attempt at skiing at the tender age of 33... You're probably smirking at that fact, and yes, there were some comical moments, and yes, I will tell you about them in this post.
But before we get into that, let's talk about Grindelwald a bit more. The village is scattered on the slopes of the Lütschine Valley (Lütschental), part of the Grindelwald Valley in the Bernese Oberland. Offering an abundance of activities including skiing, hiking and fishing, Grindelwald is a popular Swiss resort all year round. For skiing in particular, Grindelwald is ideal, being surrounded by 4000m peaks of the Eiger and Jungfrau and with 213km of pistes up to 2970m.
The closest airport is Zurich, which was our arrival point. From here, there is the option of hiring a taxi which takes 2 ½ hours, but we opted for the train. After some time figuring out our departure platform, we eventually made it onto the right train. From Zurich Airport, the train went directly to Interlaken Ost, and from there, we jumped on a 2nd train direct to Grindelwald. Despite a mid-afternoon arrival time, we were lucky enough to enjoy some of the scenic views before dark. Overall, an enjoyable journey, very bustling but both comfortable and very Swiss efficient.
We stayed at the Hotel Spinne, a perfect location for tourists with its warm and clean rooms, spa facilities and a convenient shed for storing our ski equipment. We were in the heart of the village where most of the convenience stores, restaurants and various ski rental shops existed.
Upon arrival, we settled for the night before getting up early to retrieve our ski equipment from Inter Sport (a well known store for rental gear). We needed boots (big 12.5 sized ones for me), skis and poles. Boots had to obviously fit well, but at the same time be tight enough to support your ankles. Skis and poles had to match your height so they ranged in length, and we had some very helpful assistants to support with that. One thing I'd say, it's a pain in the buttocks to get your feet in unless you push the tongue of the boot forward. I felt like some of us were on the cusp of dislocating a shoulder.
With our ski equipment on, we headed to the 'advanced' ski slopes of Bodmi. I joke, this place was known as the nursery slopes - but let's not dwell on the details. This is the perfect place for beginners to practice on less intimidating slopes and find your feet, to become more accustomed to the snow. The first time I slotted in my boots to the skis, I immediately slid backwards and fell on my side down a small hill. Not the greatest of starts, and I spent about ten minutes trying to get up from the snow with the help of my partner's dad - who also ended up falling over too.
Once I managed to get to my feet, I ascended the 'magic carpet' - a conveyor belt that takes people up to the top of the slope to either ski or sled back down. My first attempt at that was actually quite terrifying. I had been told about the snowplough move - which involves making a pizza slice shape with your feet to emergency break - but that was not enough, I came crashing down again. It was only until we had lessons with the ski instructor that it finally clicked for me on how to properly control my feet with a better understanding of the physics of snow ploughing but also putting weight on each foot to control direction. By the end of the day I was enjoying it a lot. We did a few runs and also practiced the platter/button lifts - another form of transport uphill.
We returned back to our hotel and made use of the spa, which involved the usual suspects: a jacuzzi, steam room, two types of saunas and an ice room too, but what we loved was the heated infinity pool that looked over the mountains outside; absolutely stunning.
My main concern with Grindelwald was the food variety, especially as a veggie. It was predominantly meat-based dishes such as veal, beef, ham, pork, currywurst. Very light on alternatives and it all comes with a huge price tag. This part of Switzerland they speak German and you can definitely see the German influence for cuisine. Steins did the trick, though.
The next day, we took the cable car up the mountain to what's known as the 'First'. From the top, you can experience breathtaking views of the Eiger North Face, the most prominent north face in the Alps, and one of the most captivating mountains in the area. We decided to take on one of the 'Blue' runs - known as the easiest of the others: red and black. Overall in the 'First' they are considered fairly intermediate runs.
Our journey through the blue run was an eventful one. Lots of turns with steep drops and varying slopes. At first I was thinking... am I really ready for this? And truth is, no, not really. But we smashed through it, with some funny moments such as me flying past my group without being able to stop as if I had a rocket up my backside.
We approached the steepest drop of the trip, where I stood still from the top for five minutes, contemplating if I'd survive it. Looking down the path before me made me question, "Why did I sign up to this?" It was one of those moments in life where your internal monologue is telling you to not do it, to have some sense, but then you think, "No, let's do this. There's no going back." I shot down the slope at pace, knees bent, feet pressed firmly down, thinking "this is going well..." only for me to lean back because of the wind pressure and to be flung forward - yards ahead of me, sliding along the floor, skis flying off my feet in various directions, and my leg twisting in unnatural positions. It hurt, but... I did it.
The next day we took a cable car to Mänlichen mountain with another set of blue, red and black ski runs to choose from. The blue run we did this time felt a lot harder at first, but as we progressed through it, I travelled through to the end quite smoothly. It was really starting to click for me and I enjoyed it a lot. It was the last time we skiid on the trip and I came away proud with how we all did. I'll definitely be doing another ski holiday.
Our last day we took a trip up to the Eiger. This also had some great ski tracks, although by this point I was so battered and bruised from the previous days of skiing. We got the train back down the mountain which I'd highly recommend. Stunning views all the way down, and you get to spectate all of the other more-professional skiers, we even saw one with a husky which did well to keep up.
Overall, I'd highly recommend Grindelwald for the skiing in the winter, the views of the mountains, and the Hotel we stayed in with spa facilities and infinity pool, but for me the food and overall cost of things could be very off-putting to many. Our flight back to Heathrow was cancelled three times, so there was a lot of pain around that which I won't go in to, but I came away from the holiday positive, realizing for many years how much I've missed out on such a beautiful part of the world as well as an exciting sport.