News from the snow
Kandersteg is a picturesque, traditional village with a long, long history in the midst of stunning Alpine scenery. It has maintained its relaxed and friendly character through centuries of hosting guests, first traders and for the past few centuries, tourists - for the last 100 years in winter as well as summer. It's location with a short easy transfer from Swiss capital Berne is an added bonus. The village grew up at the northern end of the trade route from Italy over the Simplon Pass, which was busy for millenia. It was dangerous too and eventually the poor farmers of the area built the village church which still stands today from 1510 partly in order to give travellers a place to pray before and after making the Alpine crossing. The church bell was cast in 1541 and is still used to ring in the New Year. Tourism began some two centuries ago after a visiting doctor wrote of his experiences of the beauty of the area and the healthiness and good nature of the inhabitants. At that time in the late eighteenth century medical advice was actually against staying in the mountains and mountain air generally believed to be unhealthy. The doctor's review, along with improved access and facilities led to a growth in tourists. In the summer of 1860, two Englishmen, a vicar and a doctor and an American arrived in Kandersteg and asked for a guide to take them to the top of the Blümlisalp (3663 m above sea level). The young Fritz Ogi was the only person with enough courage to take the job. He became the founder of a mountain guide dynasty. The latter half of the twentieth century were boom years for Kandersteg bringing true stability and some prosperity to the locals for the first time. New hotels were built. Mark Twain stayed in the village for the night of August 23rd, 1878 and then hiked over the Gemmi Pass. His humorous but accurate account of his journey can be found in his book "A Tramp Abroad". The guest book at mountain guest house and restaurant Schwarenbach half-way across the Gemmi Pass has inscriptions from many famous personalities such as Alexander Dumas, Picasso and Lenin. Winter sports began more than a century ago, visitors initially attracted for the curling, but they have never really been the all encompassing attraction that they are at many other top ski centres. Kandersteg has far more to offer than many ski centres and a much greater proportion of its clientele visits, year round, for the hiking, fishing, flora and fauna or just the stunning scenery than is the ski resort norm.
Picturesque, traditional village (a winter resort for over 100 years, visitors initially attracted for the curling) in the middle of stunning Alpine scenery. In the village there is an indoor and outdoor ice rink and an indoor climbing wall.
Three of the seven lifts serve Oeschinen which has nine kilometres (six miles) of runs graded from easy to difficult-intermediate (blues and reds) and supported by snow making. A chairlift accesses the area from the edge of the resort and there are four drag lifts serving the different runs. There are several cosy mountain restaurants.
Sunnbüel is accessed by cable car rising to 2000 metres above sea level and has six kilometres (four miles) of easy to medium difficulty downhill pistes (all graded blue). There is a cosy mountain restaurant. Sunnbüel is the starting point for many ski tours in the Gemmi and Wildstrubel area.
A third ski option is found along the Lötschen valley at Lauchernalp. Here there are pistes for all ability levels from beginners to expert skiers. Here you can also follow in the footsteps of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Watson by following their ski touring route from when they came from Leukerbad in the Rhone valley over the Gemmi pass to Kandersteg. From here they carry on to Meiringen where the ski addict Doyle allowed Holmes to enjoy a tussle with his arch enemy Professor Moriarty.
Rail links also make it feasible to make day trips to other ski areas including Zermatt, Grindelwald and Wengen.
Cross country skiers have more than 50 kilometers of prepared tracks for skating and classical cross-country styles from 1200 to 2000 metres above sea level.
There are well-prepared cross-country tracks around Kandersteg itself and high alpine tracks at Sunnbüel. The night trail is illuminated until late in the evening.
Cross country skiers should buy a trail pass as a contribution to the maintenance of the trails. These are sold at the trail or at the tourist office.
There are, however, limited organised facilities for children. The ski school accepts children aged four and over for a few hours each day (week days) - sometimes in the afternoon as well.
Babysitting is available locally but that's an expensive option if you are looking for more than a few hours.
The Chalet-Hotel Adler is typically cosy and snug and offers roesti-corner, bio-beef from a wood fired grill and fresh blue-lake trout served up to 10.30pm. The Oberländerstube in the Hotel Alpenblick also offers traditional Swiss food in a rustic environment. Specialities include local steak, An Emmentaler salad in a crisp basket, melted cheese sandwiches, raclette, fondue and roesti.
The Hotel Blümlisalp's restaurant offers market fresh ingredients, delicious fish dishes, tempting desserts. and is a member of the "Guild of Good Cooks". The Landgasthof Ruedihus offers traditional Swiss ambience and creativity and finesse in its cuisine combined with simplicity, natural and traditional recipes.
The Waldhotel Doldenhorn is another good choice for great food, being rated by both the Gault Millau and Michelin guides.
The Hotel zur Post in the village centre is also normally popular with two traditional, but fully automated, bowling lanes. The Blümlisalp also has bowling (reserve ahead!)
The Alpenblick has live music on Fridays from a traditional Swiss folk group.