The 7th most popular snowboarding destination in Switzerland.
Tuesday 5 July 2016 05:56 GMT
Southwest of Zurich and south of Interlaken, the Jungfrau region offers a wide range of terrain spread across three related, though not interconnect, ski areas. Overall, there are 44 lifts and railways serving these areas which comprise 213km of pistes for snowboarding. Since 33% of the runs are blue and 46% of the runs are red, that means only 16% of the runs are marked black (difficult). So, if you are looking for challenging groomed runs, this may not be the place for you. The three ski areas in rough order of difficulty include the following: Grindelwald-First, Kleine Scheidegg-Mannlichen, and Murren-Schilthorn.
There are three types of lift passes sold: the Sportpass Grindelwald-Wegen for Grindelwald-First and Klenie Scheidegg-Mannlichen, the Sportpass Murren for Murren-Schilthorn, and the Sportpass Jungfrau which covers all three ski areas. The later would not be too useful for a single day of skiing since it takes almost two hours to make it from Grindelwald to the Schilthorn summit via the trains and lifts. Typically, you would only visit one of the three ski areas in a given day due to the time required for transfer logistics.
If you are looking for powder snowboarding at Murren-Schilthorn, it is best to visit the ski areas in the Jungfrau in January and early February for the lightest powder and best coverage. With that said, if it has snowed overnight, you may find that many runs are closed the next day while avalanche conditions settle. Generally, if the run does not open at the start of the day, it probably will not open that day. This is very true at the Grindlewald-First ski area. Surprisingly, you may find many of the seemingly dangerous avalanche routes at Murren-Schilthorn are open after big snows, so make sure you use your own good judgement before jumping in.
The Murren-Schilthorn ski area is known for the steeper and more challening terrain of the three Jungfrau ski areas. Though this may not be saying much unless you are going off-piste. The Murren-Schilthorn area is truly a free-riders paradise if you know where you are going and area fully aware of avalanche conditions. There is tremendous off-piste opportunties for big powder runs here. The Murren-Schilthorn ski area has 53km of marked pistes served by 14 lifts, which are comprised of every possible type from train to tram to gondola to vertical lift to poma to rope to chair.
The town of Murren is the defacto base area of this ski area. It sits on top of a ridge about 1,000m above the Lauterbrunnen valley. Although it is possible to follow one winding run, which is shared with sleds and hikers, down into the valley, it really isn't practical to do several runs summit to valley. In fact, most people take the tram from the valley floor up to Murren and back having never skied to the valley floor.
From Murren to the Schilthorn summit is about a 1,300m vertical difference. However, since there are several runs that are typically closed due avalanche conditions, do not expect to arrive here and do top to Murren runs of 1,300m. In good ski conditions, the maximum vertical lap will probably be about 700m and that is pushing it. This is probably not a place to come looking for really big laps. You should expect to do laps of one or a couple of lifts in one section and then plan to move to another section of the area. If you are a serious free-rider and plan to spend a week here, you may want to hire a guide on the first day to learn safer off-piste routes that you can then explore in more depth on your own throughout the rest of the week, otherwise you may be bored.
Due to the proximity to both Bern and Zurich, the ski areas in this region get a heavy weekend crowd. Therefore, it is best to avoid the weekends.
Overall, it is important to note that the marked level of difficulty for most of the slopes are over-rated. In other words, compared to other ski areas in the Alps, the most difficult marked runs are not that difficult and are pretty intermediate. Also, on all levels of difficulty, you can expect to find extensive flat traverses on many pistes.
If you choose to explore terrain outside of the sticks marking the groomed pistes, watch out for barbed wire fences that may be partially hidden by the snow, especially in the glades and on the lower slopes approaching towns. Of even greater imporance, avalanches, rocks and cliffs are a further hazard for freeriders. If you go outside of the markers, you can expect to find plenty of rocks just below the snow surface. Many of the cliffs are not well marked or signed. If it is snowing heavily during the day, the ski patrol does not tend to close avalanche prone areas so you are on your own to monitor conditions.
If you are looking for a rowdy, Austria-style apres ski scene, this is not the place. Honestly, there really is not any apres ski scene. But, you can try checking out the Regina Bar and the Blumenthal Disco Bar.
To reach this area by train, plan to take one of the many international connections to Interlaken Ost, which is southwest of Zurich or southeast of Bern. From Interlaken Ost, transfer to the local Berner Oberland Bahn railway, which serves both Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. Once in either of those towns, there are a variety of Post Buses, trams and cog railways to get you to your final destination.
Note: If you plan to head to Murren for snowboarding by train, here are two great options offered by the Swiss train system SBB. First, there is the discounted Swiss Transfer Ticket which provides a round-trip train ticket from an airport directly to the town near the ski area, plus 50% off any additional train or bus tickets. Second, there is the Snow-N-Rail ticket which provides a round-trip ticket from anywhere in Switzerland combines with a ski lift pass for as long as you need at a total 20% discount (see: http://www.sbb.ch/snownrail ).
Overall, Murren-Schilthorn is the 7th most popular snowboard & freeride destination of all 81 snowboarding resorts in Switzerland. Several of the better snowboarding resorts are nearby Murren-Schilthorn including Grindelwald-First and Kleine Scheidegg-Mannlichen.