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From the Aletsch Arena piste map to the best ski hire and ski schools, here's our guide to this very relaxed, family-friendly Swiss ski area.

Aletsch Arena CREDIT Tristan Kennedy
Photo: Tristan Kennedy

With a reputation as something of an insider’s ski area, the Aletsch Arena at the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage Site is a family-friendly ski area of 104km centred upon the three car-free, ski-in, ski-out holiday villages of Riederalp, Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp, set on a high plateau, with views of over 40 four-thousand-metre peaks and the largest glacier in the Alps. Thanks to the altitude between 1,845m and 2,869m, perfect winter sports conditions are guaranteed from December to April.

The ski domain has a healthy range of beginners’ slopes, four snow parks, half-pipes and floodlit night runs. And there are plenty of opportunities for ski touring, tobogganing, winter walks and snowshoeing. However, the main appeal of the Aletsch Arena is undoubtedly the ski-in, ski-out nature of its villages, along with its spectacular views - look one way and you've got the Matterhorn rising up in the distance, spin around and you have the Great Aletsch glacier, the biggest glacier in the Alps. The viewpoints of Moosfluh, Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn offer views of the glacier and the 4,000m peaks of Valais.


Aletsch Arena - Ski Map & Pistes:

Overall, the Altesch Arena offers about just as many easy runs as intermediate runs, so children and beginners certainly won't be left out. The Aletsch slopes are mostly wide-open cruisey reds and blues, so popular with families, and also a lot of older skiers, who clearly love the easy pace of life here. Kids, especially, will love the Gletschi Family Funslope on Bettmeralp, where they can play on rollers, with a speed booster, a snow tunnel and banked turns.

The uplift to the ski area is via gondolas and cable cars from three valley points - Morel, Betten and Fiesch. From Fiesch, for example, the cable takes you up to Fiescheralp, where the mid-station sits at 2,212m and the second part of the ride takes you up to the Eggishorn at 2,926m. From here, the only way down is on a great black piste, back to the Fischeralp. However, there are also many blue and a few red pistes on the Fiescheralp.

On the Bettmeralp, ski school children can enjoy life in the Kindersonnenland und Snowgarden as well as the "Prinzenland" at Lake Bettmer. At the Kühboden on the Fiescheralp and on the Riederalp, there are more children's parks with large play and practice areas.

Once you've got your ski legs, a great way to experience the slopes here - and the best of the views - is with the Aletsch Arena circular ski tours. For families there's the easier, fun option of the leisurely Gletschi Tour, while intermediate skiers will relish the more challenging Glacier Panorama Tour. The route of this unique panoramic ski circular tour takes you to the breathtaking viewpoints of the Aletsch Arena on four occasions. The one-day circular tour begins on Riederalp, although Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp also make suitable starting points. The trail is clearly marked throughout with red trail signs with the glacier symbol.

For fun: try night skiing on the Riederalp or Fieschertal (Tuesday until March).

Aletsch Arena - Off-Piste, Backcountry & Ski Touring:

While there's not much quality off-piste terrain here - some from Eggishorn or Riederfurka - the uncrowded nature of the place means you'll enjoy what there is. However, a full-on backcountry ski tour here is truly sublime. A highlight has to be the Aletsch Glacier ski tour. With a guide, you'll take the cable car from Fiesch to Fiescheralp and then head on up to either Talegga or Eggishorn (depending on weather conditions).

After a short traverse to Tälligrat, you get a wonderful descent onto the Aletsch Glacier itself, followed by a circular glacier tour crowned with the ascent up to the viewpoints at Moosfluh or Tälligrat. From there, the last stretch brings you back to Fiescheralp. You can also sign up for a multi-day hut-to-hut ski touring safari on the Aletsch - the longest glacier in the Alps.

Aletsch Arena - Restaurants, Bars & The Town:

Three alpine villages of Bettmeralp, Riederalp & Fiescheralp all offer ski-in and ski-out accommodation. All three villages are car-free and only accessible by cable car or gondola in winter. At over 1,950m, Bettmeralp is one of the prettiest alpine ski villages in Europe and probably the best place for a family holiday at Aletsch Arena. At 2,212m, Fiescheralp is the highest of the three. Most of the chalets are ski-in ski-out and close to all services.

Four other Aletsch villages are in the valley below. Three of them are linked to the ski lifts Morel, Betten and fiesch, and the fourth, the smaller hamlet of Lax, has a train station for a quick rail trip to either Fiesch or Betten to catch the lift up.

You won't go hungry here, either. For mountain restaurants, try Restaurant Chüestall, a former cow barn, now one of Aletsch Arena’s most popular slopeside restaurants. Try the dauntingly-named cholera - a local dish that's a kind of vegetable pastry which dates back to 1836, when there was an epidemic of the disease. Locals baked whatever food they had in the house into pastries, because they were too scared to go outside in case they got infected. Or the Panoramic restaurant, Bettmerhorn, for a lunchtime stop with wonderful views, or the Restaurant Riederfurka. For a novelty apres-ski spot try the Bahnli Bar Bettmerhorn, a bar set up in an old cable car. More conventionally, the Lounge and Bar Corner, Fischeralp, has a cosy atmosphere where you can drink or eat almost around the clock, making it popular as an uncomplicated meeting place for guests and locals alike.

For more active off-slope activities, there are 72km of winter walking trails and guided snowshoe tours, plus you can go cross-country skiing, tobogganning, ice skating and even paragliding. The high-speed sledding on the Moosfluh Sledge Run, the Blätz Sledging Slope and the Fiescheralp-Lax Sledge Run are fun for the whole family.

Aletsch Arena - Ski Hire:

You can rent everything you need for the perfect day of snow sports from the various sports shops in the region. Examples are the Intersport Volken Rentstation in Fiescheralp, Aletsch Sports West in Riederalp and Mattig Sport in Bettmeralp.

Aletsch Arena - Ski School:

Whether it’s your first time on skis or a snowboard, or if you want to improve your technique or simply explore the alpine landscape with a private ski instructor – the Swiss ski and snowboard schools on Riederalp, Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp offer something for everyone. Check out Swiss Ski School Fiesch, the Swiss Ski School Bettmeralp and Ski School Bürcher Alpin.

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