Against the odds

The weather around here is unpredictable at best, but there are days when the odds are stacked and the outcome seems certain. So today was a surprise. At breakfast time, it was grey, raining and the temperature in our neck of the woods was over ten degrees. It didn’t seem promising at all.

On Mannlichen however the snow was smooth, with that slight glaze which occurs on damp days, and largely untrammelled by other skiers. It was very good skiing to the four man chair and still okay to Holenstein.

                 On Mannlichen 

There was even a brief burst of sunshine, but that soon went away. At Scheidegg later on things were much the same, with decent snow on Schwarzen and Fallboden. The rain picked up though. It was never cold enough to snow, but it was cold enough to chill the few skiers around. By 3.00pm, it was time to go home.

A day which was far better than seemed likely early on brought 7,232 vertical metres in 16 lift rides and 45 kilometres travelled.

Glued to the piste

This morning was drab. A grey sky overlooked a grey mountain. At breakfast time, it was eleven degrees on our balcony. The prospects for the day did not look good.

The snow on Mannlichen was very soft, but skiable and things didn’t seem too bad for a while. The sun showed up, which made it warmer still, but was preferable to the iron clad clouds of an hour earlier. The pistes were quiet and the chair lifts were running slowly. The cars on the gondola from Holenstein seems to be racing past the Mannlichen and Lager chairs.


         Clouds clearing 

As the day went on the sun faded, the clouds gathered again and it was warmer still. At Fallboden, on the flat section after the railway tunnel, I felt glued to the piste. Later on it rained, if only a few drops. The forecast for tomorrow offers more of the same, but for the weekend temperatures should drop and snow should fall. It will be welcome.

A day of slow lifts and sluggish snow brought 7,299 vertical metres in 17 lift rides and 46 kilometres travelled.

The Punch Bowl

When the sun shines as if it were high summer, the Punch Bowl saves the day. Like many parts of the Wengen ski area, it was named the best part of a century ago by British skiers enjoying a leisurely winter in the Bernese Oberland. The runs back to the Eigernordwand chair, in the shadow of the north face of the Eiger, were in great condition until late in the afternoon.

         Eiger north face in the shadows

Earlier, there had been some decent skiing on Mannlichen but by midday the snow was past its best. It is spring, but winter weather is still trying hard to show up, with some snow in prospect over the weekend. Whether it happens or not, the forecast may keep the mountain quiet on Saturday.

A very good day, courtesy of the Punch Bowl, brought 10,240 vertical metres in 20 lift rides and 60 kilometres travelled.


The first day of spring dawned clear with sun to follow. It was just a little colder than yesterday and a good ski day promised.

I wasn’t feeling as bright as the morning though. Whilst deeply asleep last night, a persistent call wormed it’s way into my consciousness. At 3.30am I was wide awake listening to the regular hoot of an owl. It was impossible to return to sleep, waiting as I was for the next chirrup. Nature surrounds us, but it might keep quiet at night.

               From Tschuggen 

A jaded skier, I left home slightly later than planned and was back in the village earlier than usual. In between times, there was some great skiing on Mannlichen in the morning and on Eigernordwand in the afternoon. After a cloudless night, the snow was crisp and crunchy until early afternoon. Even Wixi was in decent condition.

Another sunny day brought 8,254 vertical metres in 16 lift rides and 46 kilometres travelled.

All change, again

After yesterday’s snow, the sun shone this morning. It was warm in the village, but slightly chilly at Mannlichen early on. There were a few clouds as well, which came and went around Mannlichen and Lager. I made a quick tour around the tops and was back at the cable car for a second ascent by 11.30am. Wixi had been slushy even mid morning and the last few hundred metres to Innerwengen were very hard work.

                Clouds near the Lager lift

In the afternoon the Punch Bowl was the place to be. The snow was good until after the tunnel under the railway, where there were some impressive moguls. Schwarzen too was in good condition. The run to Innerwengen was better in the afternoon than it had been in the morning, despite the warm weather.

A warm day on the mountain brought 10,080 vertical metres in 20 lift rides and 62 kilometres travelled.

More winter

It was a good morning yet again, perhaps with a few more clouds than the last few days, but nothing to suggest it would be anything other than an early spring day.

The clouds rolled in towards midday. I still didn’t expect anything other than a grey afternoon with some flat light. On Lager at about 1.00pm a few flakes of snow fell. Nothing to write home about though.

              Early blue skies

An hour or so later it was snowing hard, big flakes of wet snow. It was difficult to see, with a heavy curtain of snow filling the sky. It had been quiet all day, but the few skiers around disappeared by mid afternoon. The snow turned to rain somewhere below Bumps T bar, but I think I was the only person around to see it. From there to Innerwengen was sludgy and difficult.

An unexpected winter’s day brought 10,360 vertical metres in 23 lift rides and 59 kilometres travelled.

The world in Wengen

It was yet another crystal clear morning early on, the mountains in sharp relief against an already blue sky. A busy Friday sometimes means a quieter Saturday, but not this week when the world arrived at our door.

The ski clubs weren’t around much, other than Bonigen, which had reserved one of the best pistes on the mountain, Distelboden, for races. However, everyone else did show up and by mid morning it was uncomfortably busy. I left Mannlichen early, hoping for better things on the other side of the hill, but at the Arven group of lifts there were long queues everywhere. In search of some unoccupied snow, I headed for Brandegg for the first time this season. It is pretty much a path, but a beautiful run still.

         From above Arven

By the time I had made it back to Scheidegg, the crowds were in the restaurants and a few good runs on Honegg were there for the taking. As always these days, the run to Innerwengen was very quiet.

A day of long lift queues and crowded slopes brought 8,121 vertical metres in 20 lift rides and 46 kilometres travelled.

Working from the piste

Another sunny day hove into view this morning. I misjudged just how mild it would be and was very warm all day. Tomorrow, I will leave a layer of clothes at home and will be cold all day I am sure.

Working from home has been common for a few years now, at least in the U.K., but today it seems that working from the piste was the only thing to do in the Bernese Oberland. Offices across the Canton must have been largely empty. A busy morning meant crowded restaurant terraces at lunchtime. Things quietened down this afternoon, when the only queues were at the Eigernordwand lift.

           Hazy sunshine

As the day wore on, the clear blue sky of the morning gave way to a hazy sunshine. The day skiers arrive and leave via Grindelwald these days, using the still new V bahn lifts, so the run home was more or less deserted. In the village, on the nursery slope, there was some sort of dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s Pool Race. The race normally attracts grey skies, but unless the weather gods have a trick up their sleeves, there should be at least some sunshine this year.

A warm day, with some crowded moments, brought 10,170 vertical metres in 20 lift rides and 58 kilometres travelled.

Where to ski

It was another bright morning leading to a sunny ski day. It was a little warmer than yesterday, but still the pistes were good. I expected some slushy snow to Innerwengen, but the run was much the same as yesterday. Indeed, it was better just below Bumps T bar, where the piste bashers had left some nasty, lumpy ice the day before.

All of which set me thinking about where to ski. As long as the Idle Skiers have been travelling to the mountains, well over thirty years now, the ski press has told us to aim for altitude. Wengen has always been reviewed harshly, being too low and not purpose built. I suppose that might have been true before snowmaking took hold. We would have had a very poor season now relying on nature’s benevolence.

       From Tschuggen at midday 

However, snow cannon cover most of the mountain these days. The cable car takes skiers to the top in five minutes. We have the best ski home of any resort I have visited. The few holidaymakers here this week could not have wished for better conditions. Maybe we don’t all need to travel to Val d’Isere after all.

Another exceptional day brought 11,361 vertical metres in 23 lift rides and 60 kilometres travelled.

Best of days

The temperature dropped last night and it snowed heavily to the Lauterbrunnen valley floor.

It was bright this morning however and the day looked promising. It turned out to be the best of days, cold with blue skies and nigh on perfect snow. The cable car shortly after 9.30am was full again, but as with the last few mornings, the skiers were soon lost on Mannlichen. The gondola from Grindelwald was quiet.

                          New snow at Wixi

It has not been the best of winters for snow by a long stretch, but today would be hard to beat during many ski seasons. Mannlichen closes on Easter Monday, but the Scheidegg season has been extended to 30 April and the skiing may well hold out well until then.

A great day on the mountain brought 11,433 vertical metres in 23 lift rides and 61 kilometres travelled.