If Val d’Isere is the naughty older brother who’s just left home and is creating a fuss, Engelberg is the little cousin who has just gone through puberty and who you never really hear about. Personified Val d’Isere is always telling stories about epic lines and truly epic nights to a snow and après hungry audience – and fair enough – it is freakin’ epic. Engelberg, however, has been quietly studying in the background; improving and growing.
This means that Engelberg is now a very good small resort and that now is a very good time to go (before the secret properly gets out). The slow old lifts that the resort used to rely on have been added to. Titlis, for instance, is a massive new gondola taking you up from 1050 up to 2428 before a frightening looking cable car takes over to get you up to the glacier at 3028, and getting on board is like going through a swanky business class lounge: all sleek and modern. Then, the views from the top are so breathtaking that if I became Miss World I’d wish not for world peace, but for the world to see that view. But skiing has never been about going up: it’s all about the downs. The ski map isn’t huge (and some beginners had a few problems with navigation) so don’t expect l’Espace Killy, but off the map is sensational, really fun and, when we were there, deep! I’m not a big hiker or explorer (not since a pretty unfortunate mistaken wrong turning last season required a three helicopter army to rescue us) but it was so easy here to find the spots you wanted, from just looking out of the lifts. Also, for piste-lovers, the ski down feels longer than other resorts. Maybe because it’s a simpler resort, it works: go up, ski down, go up again, repeat (like the less catchy b-side to Fatboy Slim).
PARTY and FOOD LOVERS:
Engelberg’s après and nightlife scene is silly amounts of fun, so for those that are like my mum and prefer to start the ski with a mulled-wine at 11am (on the dot) and potter steadily between mountain cafes, carefully alternating between the vin chaud and chocolat chaud before giving in and tipsily (shi****ced) demanding a bottle of rum and downing it from her boot (OK, I’ve exaggerated), you will find this resort most suitable. There are plenty of good (but pricey – see below) bars up on the mountain but at the end of the day its Chalet where you’ll recoup, swap tales and re-energise with a pint or an aperol spritz. The party atmosphere actually begins with a bang at lunchtime when the 30 piece semi-rock brass band, that seem to be everywhere, starts playing at Trubsee (where we had lunch on a sunny terrace on the first day). It is as inexplicable as it is loud and when they played We Are Young by Fun the crowd. went. wild. (We also noted that once their set finished they played some very hardcore looking drinking games before continuing throughout the night at various other venues. How they played the trombone after that – I am bamboozled. Also, why they were all dressed as wounded 18th century members of the imperial British Army was an equal mystery).
The problem with Switzerland is that it is SO expensive. The Swiss Franc will really Franc you off. We went with a big group so I’d booked restaurants in advance and, including wine, each night cost between £60-100. Hence, flash. I don’t suppose the Swiss economy is really worried about our view- but it was a real flaw.
On the plus side the food was delicious so here’s where we went:
Day 1 – Restaurant Bierlialp: we basically all had the chateaubriand and basically all thought it was the best thing ever, though their pizza looked very tempting. The meat was tender and came with a whopping dauphinois and sauce. The service here was also really good even with the complex bill splitting system we requested. (website)
Day 2: Yucutan: this is one of the main bars in town and it also serves cracking burgers and nachos, which makes it a lot cheaper than the rest of town. It also had a great atmosphere for heating you up for the night out. Advice/ criticism? 1. Don’t come here expecting a quiet meal, expect to dance and be merry – the brass band was there (naturally) and then another live band took over afterwards. 2. Don’t have the steak tartare. My friend and fellow blogger Andrea (go and see her blog) ordered it to bitter despair. (website)
Day 3: Alpenclub: my favourite restaurant was this cute, cosy, chalet-style restaurant upstairs in the eves of very ‘Swiss’ building. The fondue menu is a great shout- particularly if you’re in a large group- as you can order half cheese, half meat: perfect for carb-loading / protein diet! The service was a little slow and obtuse but feed me up and all is forgiven. (website)
It would also be useful for me to mention where to go afters. We partied hard at Hoheneck where there’s a great wheel of fortune for drinks (the only one you don’t want to win is the water) and live music at après and in the evening. Spindle is also a slightly larger ‘club’ right across the road from Hoheneck and, once I’d made friends with the DJ to put on less Euro-techno-Swiss-house and more crowd-bangers, it was awesome!
Where we stayed: Hotel Terrace (website) – a pretty decent hotel with awesome views based in the centre of town.
Who we booked through: Momentum Ski (website) for large group parties.
Top tip: The Stockli ski shop (website) at the bottom of the main Titlis lift has ski kit and (usefully for those with kit already) ski lockers to hire, meaning you can leave all your skis, boots and helmets overnight and avoid lugging them around town.