Wondering where to go skiing/snowboarding in Switzerland? Fancy learning to ski in the Swiss Alps? Wengen could be the perfect place for you…
Welcome to Wengen, Switzerland (Pronounced ‘Ven-gun’)
Tucked away in the heart of the Swiss Alps, the chocolate box village of Wengen is a tiny, family-friendly resort that’s perfect for novice snow bunnies who want a bonafide taste of the ‘ski bum lifestyle’ without necessarily being a pro.
There are some gnarly runs (apparently), but on the whole the slopes here are best suited to beginners and intermediate types, and for those who, like me, also want to explore Switzerland’s much-lauded cuisine and landscapes.
There are also a number of excellent schools and instructors on-hand to get you started (more on this to follow).
Why I loved Wengen
Wengen is very much a village and not a resort. It’s the sort of place that quickly becomes familiar, where the same faces keep popping up, whether you’re on the lift or the slopes, at the bar or in the supermarket.
Its famed for its friendly locals and laid-back vibe and, as someone who has only been skiing two or three times, I felt extremely comfortable and welcome regardless of my poor snow skills.
In short: I didn’t feel out of my depth or like the new kid at school, which is how I have felt at “hipper” snow resorts elsewhere in Europe.
Things to Do, See, Eat & Drink in Wengen, Switzerland
Whether traversing the slopes, seeking out dramatic views over the Lauterbrunnen Valley or getting lively with the locals at the cosy après ski bars, this idyllic hamlet is an ideal
Here are a few pointers to help you plan your perfect Swiss snow holiday!
1. Perfect Your Plough with a Confidence-Building Ski Lesson
Whether you’ve never skied before or, like me, could do with a refresher course to relearn your parallel turns, I would highly recommending taking a class or two with the Swiss Ski and Snowboard School will have you schussing in no time.
My instructor Sabine Näpflin was a fantastic teacher and had the patience of a saint. It took me about ten runs on the baby slopes, but she had me ready for the red runs within an hour.
2. Hit the Slopes
Wengen is famous for hosting the annual Lauberhorn World Cup ski race (every January), which is the longest ski race of its kind in the world. It dates back to 1930, which means it’s also one of the world’s most historic ski races.
Broadly speaking, however, Wengen is best-known for its beginner- and intermediate-friendly slopes and most skiers/snowboarders here are more interested in perfecting their snowplough than getting air time on the halfpipe.
The village of Wengen itself also has a number of baby slopes that are ideal for learning and warming up on before riding the cable car up to the blue and red runs of Männlichen.
Tip: Reachable via the Wengen–Männlichen Aerial Cableway, the Männlichen–Kleine Scheidegg region boasts 110 km of intermediate-friendly slopes and 30 km of toboggan runs, as well as some serious views of the iconic Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains.
3. Warm up with Lunch on the Mountain
You don’t really have to go far to find timber-clad bars, restaurants and food stands that you can literally ski up to.
Bratwurst and Glühwein
I enjoyed meeting some of the locals over piping-hot bratwursts and glühwein (hot wine) at the top of the Männlichen slopes.
Although I must admit, they seemed quite perplexed as to why I was ski-less and waving a bulky camera in their faces – goes with the territory.
Beers and Burgers
I would also recommend grabbing a post-ski-lesson beer ‘n’ burger at the lively Schneebar Figeler bar, before (or perhaps after) tackling some of the bigger runs.
They offer good vibes and après ski essentials like glühwein and jagertee (a fortifying mix of rum with tea, red wine, plum brandy, orange juice and various spices).
They also host Wengen’s annual pool race, whereby a pool is constructed at the bottom of one of the slopes and skiers challenge each other to see who can skim across it the farthest.
4. Climb the Mighty Jungfraujoch – AKA “The Top of Europe”
This is one of the reasons I loved Wengen so much and demonstrates the fact that you don’t even need to go skiing to enjoy a holiday here. Although I should probably mention that this is also the place to go if you are looking for a more pro-level ski adventure – check this ski experience out if that’s what you’re after.
Located at an altitude of 3,466 metres (11,371 feet), Jungfraujoch is home to Europe’s highest train station and is listed by UNESCO as a “World Heritage Site of the Swiss Alps”.
I suffered what I can only describe as severe altitude sickness and felt both severely drunk and hungover at the same time.
To be fair though, I was actually horrifically hungover as I had celebrated my 34th birthday the night before – all in the name of research for this blog post of course.
James Bond’s Sphinx Observatory and Aletsch Glacier
With its breathtaking (quite literally) mountainscapes, the train ride itself is a special and memorable experience, but the real magic happens once you arrive at the top.
At 3,571 m (11,716 ft), the summit is home to the Sphinx Observatory, one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world (and apparently used a filmset in a James Bond film).
From here you can enjoy and photograph the spectacular vistas of the Swiss Alps and the Goliath Aletsch Glacier.
Love photography? If you’re a photography nut like me you might be excited to hear about the specialised Jungfrau photography tours on offer.
They’re not cheap, but they will ensure you get to visit all the right spots to capture the best of the landscapes (I felt quite frustrated at some moments as I knew I wasn’t in the right place to capture what I wanted).
The Ice Palace and Historic Jungfrau Railway
Don’t miss the Ice Palace, which is built in a series of ice tunnels beneath the glacier, and the Alpine Sensation Tour, which tells the story of the Jungfrau Railway and pays homage to the sacrifices made by the many miners who lost their lives during its construction.
As 84-year-old Englishman Glyn, who visits the mountain every year, reminded me: “It’s even more impressive when you consider that it’s 100 years old! Makes you wonder how they ever managed it.”
Tip: If you’re interested in exploring Jungfrau from Wengen, you can hop on the train (there are a few connections but it’s not too difficult). I would also recommend joining one of these organised tours if this is something you’re particularly excited about experiencing (and so you should be).
5. Explore Switzerland’s Renowned Cuisine
As the sun begins to dip behind the icy peaks, and shifts of powder pink and purple fall upon the silken snow, it’s time to ski into a restaurant and indulge in a traditional Swiss feast.
With endless hectares of alpine meadows and pasturelands to draw on, it’s no surprise that Switzerland is a mecca for cheese and meat lovers. And a gnarly bar of Swiss chocolate is never far from reach, of course!
There are countless options in and around Wengen, but for a great introduction into the regional specialities I would recommend booking a table at Bergrestaurant.
It’s situated right at the foot of Kleine Scheidegg’s bustling slopes – just a quick train ride from Wengen – which means you can literally ski right to your table.
The dishes draw heavily on local produce, with much of the fruit, veg and herbs being grown in the property’s very own garden.
Try the traditional Swiss goulash, a rich and soulful stew, as well as the “Alpinpasti” platter of mixed cheeses and meats, which beautifully showcases what the local land has to offer.
For something a little more contemporary, try the creative carbonara made with a creamy Swiss cheese and hunks of bacon – a gratifying way to warm up after a day on the slopes.
6. Get Stuck into the Local Après Ski Scene
For me, the concept of après ski (after-ski drinks) is every bit as exciting as the actual skiing bit. My first day/night in Wengen also happened to fall on my birthday, so I had double the reason to celebrate.
It doesn’t take long to make new friends in Wengen. You’ll likely bump into your ski instructor at the bar, or maybe someone from the ski rental place. And I found the staff to be particularly friendly too.
Free shots for my birthday? I really shouldn’t but if you insist…
Après Ski Bars in Wengen
Tanne Bar ~ The cool-but-casual Tanne Bar is a great place for beers, cocktails and shots. Owner Ronald (the giant guy behind the bar) comes from Holland and treats his customers to a wide range of artisanal gin and tonics and has a rather impressive collection of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, which you can find displayed proudly out back.
I also recommend the sweet but lethal strawberry daiquiris and, if you dare, the flaming B52 and AC/DC shots. I have zero memory of how they taste or what they are made with. But I certainly had fun, and that’s what après skis are all about!
Hasenstall ~ Just a quick moonlit stroll to the subterranean Hasenstall party bar. Open well into the early hours, this is the place to let loose make new friends and enjoy the DJ’s bass-thumping jams.
Make it Happen
Rent Your Ski Gear
Located on Wengen’s main street, SkiSet Wengen is a local rental shop operated by couple Colin and Tracy Willmott from Worcestershire, England. They provide a warm and familiar service and will get you kitted out with the right gear for the job in no time.
Where to Stay in Wengen
I stayed at the gorgeous 4* Silberhorn Hotel, which is conveniently located just footsteps away from Wengen train station and the heart of the village. The staff were excellent and I also enjoyed dining in the hotel’s restaurant, especially with Edward’s nightly piano show. Ideal for couples, groups and families – there’s also a spa and wellness centre, which comes in handy during those first days on the slopes.
Other recommended hotels and chalets in Wengen, Switerland:
Chalet Miravalle (Apartments) ~Traditional wooden chalet apartments within stumbling distance of the ski lift (and bars) of Wengen. Ideal for couples or families looking for convenience and comfort without breaking the bank.
Chalet Gerbera (Apartments) ~ As above, but with even better reviews.
Hotel Edelweiss (2*) ~ A fantastc budget hotel located right in the heart of Wengen. Excellent reviews, rooms and prices.
Hotel Belvédère (3*) ~ A “proper Swiss” hotel with breathtaking views towards the Jungfrau mountain. Straight out of a painting.
Hotel Schönegg (3*+) ~ One of those handsome 3-star hotels that looks and acts more like a 4- or even 5-star. Fantastic location and views.
Hotel Beausite Park (4*) ~ One of the most popular hotels in Wengen, boasting its own pool, steam, sauna and massage facilities. It’s located at the top of Wengen’s beginner slopes (where most beginners learn to ski, making it a great place to stay for those who want to fast-track their progress.
Hotel Sunstar (4*) ~ An excellent 4-star family-friendly option with modern facilities and a primte location just opposite the ski lift.
Hotel Alpenrose (3*) ~ A gorgeous 130-year-old family-run hotel known for its friendly service and excellent dining options. Fantastic location too.
Languages: Swiss German and English
Currency: Swiss Francs (CHF)
Airport: I flew to Basel (BSL) with Ryanair.
Travel Time from Airport: 3.5 hours by train
Wengen Ski/Snow Season: November to April
Note: I was fortunate enough to travel to Wengen (for my birthday!) on a press trip with Ryanair. All views, words and photos are my own. The video is theirs though, made by my very talented regazzo Matteo Poddie.