April 2001--It's not unusual for ski resorts around the world to stay open late into the spring and sometimes early summer, but relatively few offer skiing 12 months a year. The Swiss resort of Engelberg, nestled in the Alps of Central Switzerland, features skiing on a glacier above the town throughout the year along with enough outdoor sports to keep visitors busy in any season.
I visited Engelberg in March with two friends, part of a two-resort tour thatended in Grindelwald. Our first night, we acclimated to the new time zone with a wine tasting and an excellent dinner at the Hotel Hess, one of Engelberg's best restaurants run by wine consultant and part-time ski guide Eugene Hess.
Early the next morning, we were ready to ride the gondola up Mount Titlis, the highest peak in Central Switzerland at 10,623 feet. I separated from my friends for the morning to go off with a local ski guide nicknamed Snow Pig to look for steep off-piste skiing. It had been a warmer than normal winter, but snows the previous few days provided good skiing in the higher reaches of the mountain.
Via a dramatic ride in the world's first revolving gondola, I rejoined my friends for lunch at a pizzeria atop Mount Titlis. While the gondola climbs, it turns 360 degrees giving visiting sightseers and skiers a panoramic view across the Alps. The ski areas, which offer 100 kilometers of pistes, over 6,000 feet of vertical, 28 lifts and 14 on-mountain restaurants, usually don't close until the end of May.
After May, the glacier on Mount Titlis remains open for skiing throughout thesummer enabling visitors to ski the glacier in the morning, then play the town's nine-hole golf course or go swimming in nearby Lake Lucerne in the afternoon. Visitors can also hike along the miles of mountain trails or go kayaking, bicycling, bungy jumping, canyoning, play tennis or go paragliding, something like parachuting off a mountaintop.
For dinner that night we took a cable car up to the Fluematt, a charming, traditional alpine restaurant perched high above Engelberg. After looking over the menu of classic Swiss dishes like noodles baked with cheese and onions, I decided on a grilled bratwurst with rosti, a Swiss specialty of roasted potatoes, and washed it down with a locally brewed beer.
Engelberg is not as well-known internationally as many other Swiss resorts, and its clientele are mostly Swiss skiers who come from nearby Lucerne or Zurich, one hour away by car. I found it friendlier and more casual than some of the larger, and more famous Swiss ski resorts.
After a day of skiing, I went off to sample the town's nightlife. The village is relatively quiet at night compared to other resorts in the Swiss Alps, but a disco called the Spindle Bar starts hopping after 10:00 p.m. The most popular aprés ski place in town is the Yucatan, a Mexican restaurant with a large bar that packs in a young crowd and has the casual atmosphere of a California beach bar.
Engelberg dates back to 1120 when a Benedictine monastery was built at the site. That monastery and two subsequent ones burned down, but a beautifully constructed baroque version rebuilt in 1749 has become one of the town's primary tourist attractions. It isn't hard to see how the abbey founders picked the site as a place for meditation, surrounded as the town is by spectacular views of the Alps. They probably never imagined how many people would someday come to the spot to enjoy its many mountain adventures.
Engelberg-Titlis Tourist Center
Tel: 4141 639 77 77
Tel: 4141 637 18 22
Flugschule Engelberg (paragliding)
Tel: 4141 637 07 07
For more information contact: