The picturesque – and little-known – Swiss ski resort of Adelboden opened for the winter season over the weekend, with six inches of snow falling last week to make sure conditions were perfect for the first day’s skiing.
Little-known it might be to the wider world, but when Mountain Management Consulting and the University of Innsbruck asked 47,935 skiers and snowboarders “Where is the best place to ski?” in November 2014, Adelboden, which is located in the Bernese Oberland, was revealed as the third most popular ski area in Switzerland – with Zermatt in first place – and sixth best in the Europe, beating several better known ski areas such as Saas-Fee and Val Gardena.
Adelboden, however, is determined to make its mark this season. Along with the rest of Switzerland, it is celebrating 150 years of winter tourism, having played its part in its development as the destination for the first packaged winter sports holiday, which was organised by Sir Henry Lunn, one of the founders of Lunn Poly, in 1903. To celebrate, the resort will be staging several events with a fun and historic twist.
On Sunday 15 February, there will be Horned Sledge races down the FIS Ski World Cup run at Chuenisbargli. In days gone by, hay was stored in special barns high up in the mountains before being transported down the valley in winter by farmers on huge horned sledges. In 2015, 100 teams dressed in old-fashioned clothes will race down the mountains at break-neck speeds as they negotiate the perilous and winding descent, in an attempt to be the fastest team home.
The following month, on Sunday 29 March, there will be a traditional Hickory Ski meeting on Adelboden’s Engstligenalp, the largest plateau in western Switzerland that lies at 1900 to 2000 metres. Participants will be on hickory wood skis, the forerunners to modern skis, and traditional sledges, dressed in clothes of a bygone era. If you want to join in the fun and turn up in costume with old wooden skis, you’ll be able to use the ski lifts for free!
The resort has also put together a special package – Adelboden Time Traveller – that offers visitors a chance to sample Adelboden as it was in 1864. It includes two nights’ accommodation on a B&B basis, a two-day ski pass, private telemark skiing lessons, a full-body massage and a traditional meal in the Aebi mountain restaurant. Prices start from CHF562 (approx £370) per person.
Getting to Adelboden from south-east England is easy for snow sports enthusiasts with flights from London Southend to Berne (just a 45-minute drive from Adelboden) with Swiss airline Skywork (www.flyskywork.com), making even a weekend ski break a distinct possibility. Alternatively, a number of airlines fly from various UK airports to Zurich, from where it’s a 2 hour, 45 minute journey to Adelboden.
For more information on Adelboden, please visit www.adelboden.ch