Navigating a ski resort in Europe is not an intuitive experience. Many of the resort areas are vast and comprised of multiple ski areas within a single destination. Language barriers create additional complexity.
Last week’s Photo Friday post featured Grindelwald in the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland. Grindelwald is a stunning winter destination and the ultimate Swiss Alps ski experience. Due diligence, however, is required to ensure you experience more pleasure than pain. It’s worth it!
A few things to know and consider:
Unless your kids are accomplished skiers, it’s essential to understand where to find the beginner terrain. In Switzerland, these slopes are identified on ski maps in blue.
Note, however, that blue runs are usually not optimal for true beginners or very young children. What’s nice about Grindelwald is that they have an area called Bodmi that is dedicated to true first time skiing for kids and adults alike. Bodmi has a magic carpet going up a gentle slope and a button lift up a slightly higher, easy slope. This area is filled with kids skiing and sledding. There’s a rental shop and ski instruction right at the bottom of the hill. It couldn’t be more family friendly!
The other nice thing about Bodmi is there are no advanced skiers here so families don’t need to worry about being run over or into — the number one concern when skiing with kids.
As luck would have it, Ciao Bambino Approved Hotel Bodmi is just steps away from this kid-friendly wonderland. I just stayed here for a second time and recommend it highly for comfortable, clean, and friendly accommodations run by a charming Swiss family. Read my review for details and to get best pricing using our availability button.
The Jungfrau Region includes three lift systems: Grindelwald – First, Kleine Scheidegg – Mannlichen, and Murren – Schiltorn. Welcome to skiing in Europe. Each one of these areas is vast and can occupy ski enthusiasts for days at a time. On this trip, we only skied at Grindelwald – First, however, the tourist office has confirmed that there are significant blue runs within each lift system.
Transportation Between Ski Areas
The transportation network in Grindelwald is extensive and relatively efficient. A train, bus, or gondola is required to move from one lift system to another and this can take time.
HOT TIP: You can buy ski passes that incorporate all three lift systems in a daily pass, but I wouldn’t bother with kids. There is plenty to do within any one of the single ski areas and going back and forth is logistically intensive.
If you are visiting the region for a week, you can experience all the different areas. Grindelwald – First and Kleine Scheidigg are 30-minutes via train or gondola from one another. It’s significantly more complicated to get over to Mürren just for the day as it involves a few transfer points. My recommendation is that you stay in Mürren when you ski in Mürren, even if this means switching accommodations during the week.
Transportation Within Ski Areas
At Grindelwald First, it’s only possible to ski to the base via red runs (intermediate). Depending on where you are staying, this will most likely involve skiing to a place where you take a bus back to your accommodation. Busses run every 30-minutes or so depending on the period.
A one-day ski pass for kids ages 6 to 15 is 31 CHF per day. Weekly passes are available. As a rule, the kids passes are 50% off the adult passes and ages 16 to 19-year-olds can access passes at a 20% discount off the adult pass price.
HOT TIP: You can buy a special package on Saturday where kids up to 15 ski free with their parents! The crime is I was just there on Saturday and paid for our son to ski (boo hiss). I wasn’t aware of this package. Now you know.
One thing that is different about lessons in Switzerland is that there is usually an array of ski schools in larger resorts (vs. just one school like we have at US resorts). Every village has a an official Swiss ski school and private schools. I can’t comment on the quality of one choice over the other at this point.
HOT TIP: It is important to note that on weekends, it is usually impossible to have a single child join a group lesson. Most group lessons are week-long courses where the same kids join an instructor each day of their vacation.
Private half or full day lessons are available over weekend days. This solution is quite expensive for a single child (more or less 250 CHF for a few hours). If you are traveling with a few families and can coordinate lessons, this is the best way to make weekend lessons cost-effective.
Toboganning is an extraordinarily popular activity in Switzerland. All of the ski resorts in this area have marked toboggan runs and it’s common to see as many people carrying sleds on the gondolas as skis and snowboards.
HOT TIP: There is a 15k(!) toboggan run that goes from Faulhorn to Grindelwald. It is the longest toboggan run in Europe according to MySwitzerland.com. Note, that getting to the top of the run involves a 2-hour hike. To avoid the long walk, families can take the bus to BussAlp and ride the last 8km of the run.
We learned the hard way last weekend when we arrived at the popular (and delicious) Berghaus Bort that lunch can be an insane affair if it is ill-timed.
HOT TIP: Arrive for lunch no later than Noon. Reservations are recommended at any kind of hot spot.
Grindelwald – First gets more sun from December through early February. In late February through April there will be more sun in the other areas as well.
As a consequence, First can get slushy in the afternoon towards the end of the season and will be the first to close, typically in the middle of April. Murren is the last to close towards the end of April.
Thrill Seeking Older Kids
Young adrenaline junkies can use the First Flyer zip-line for free with their ski pass. Note that the minimum weight limit is 35 kilograms or 77 pounds. When you see the First Flyer in person, you will understand why this rule is in place.
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