Located in the German-speaking heart of Switzerland and also at the heart of Europe, Interlaken offers winter sports fans access to some of the most spectacular skiing in the Alps, with their base in a service-packed small city in a spectacular lakeside setting. Traditionally a 'summer' resort, Interlaken had long been attractive to winter sports enthusiasts because of its prime location and the fact that its excellent hotels and other facilities offered very low rates during the winter. Its status became 'official' however with the launch of the the Jungfrau Top Ski Region, more than 205km (128 miles ) of trails in ski centres above Grindelwald, Mürren and Wengen, all linked to Interlaken by a mountain railway included in the pass. The average length of runs in the area is a remarkable 6 - 12km (4 - 9 miles). With the pass it's possible to ski a different ski area every day for a week. The name 'Interlaken' actually means "Between the lakes" - Lake Thun and Lake Brienz to be precise and water is omnipresent throughout the area, with idyllic clear mountain streams and waterfalls running off the hills and into the lakes. Interlaken offers dozens of water-based activities too, throughout the year, if you ever get bored of sliding on the cold white variety you can always enjoy anything from a cruise on a lake steamer to just feeding the ducks or even frog watching! Visitors first started arriving at Interlaken long before downhill skiing was conceived. One of them, Lord Byron, famously remarked "It's a dream" on first seeing the town. The first hotels opened their doors in 1806, complementing the existing monastery hospice (now the four star hotel Interlaken) with the boom years beginning in the 1860s. Much of the beautiful architecture and grand design date from this 50 year era up to the First World War, but the impressive exteriors hide equally impressive fully modernised interiors, enabling Interlaken to offer the best of old and new. In the early days, when the likes of Goethe and Mendelssohn popped by, Interlaken was promoted for its healthy climate, as well as the spectacular views and, although the majority may head there in winter for the skiing, that healthy climate is still there!
Interlaken has no skiing of its own, with limited local skiing at Habkern, but it markets itself as the ideal base for skiing the different resorts in the Jungfrau (Grindelwald, Wengen, Mürren) linked by ski bus or rail (trips to Zermatt are also arranged). It's certainly a beautiful place to stay and guests profit from low season hotel rates during winter.