Wengen

Take your time exploring this young bride

wengen_orig - Lunchmag

The runs up here in the Jungfrau (young bride) region of Switzerland’s Bernese Alps are some of Europe’s best for my money, with a vertical drop of over 3km in a few miles.

And I love these names – they fall trippingly off the tongue: Come stand with me on the Kleine Scheidegg and gaze across the blinding snow at the Eigergletscher up towards the Jungfraujoch.

The Jungfraujoch, named by a less enlightened age, the young bride’s yoke – (not that some brides don’t need them – yokes I mean) is the dip between the Mönch and the Jungfrau.

The Swiss could teach me a lot about skiing, but then, my less kind friends would point out, so could the Tahitians, Papua New Guineans, Sudanese and other peoples not generally known for their skiing prowess.

Right now I’m skiing behind a fellow who is a Swiss native on a difficult run called the Schlit (worth skiing for the name alone, really), watching his turns and trying to keep up, you realise these people ski like they were born wearing a pair of 176cm Rossignol powder skis (ouch! Pity their moms).

We get to the bottom of the Schlit and begin to head back to the Kleine Scheidegg, an easy powder run in front of the mighty Eiger, said by some to be the highest mountain in Europe (those who don’t have a clue what the highest mountain in Europe is).

The Eiger is such a treacherous mountain that in the 1920 it killed pretty well anyone who came near it, particularly its north face. Now, thanks to improved climbing techniques people run from the Kleine Schidegg to the summit in a few minutes.

And if you absolutely have to come to the Jungfrau, then you may as well stay in the intimate and cool Hotel Caprice, which also happens to be one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World brand’s finest.

Wengen is a tiny car-free village in the Bernese Oberland and the 18-room Caprice could have been tailor-made to enable people like me to swan around the world in complete ease.

After a dinner of autour du homar (lobster the chef’s way prepared as a bouillabaisse), gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb cooked for seven hours to eat with a spoon, forgotten vegetables and a garlic jus).

The bouillabaise is a song, the lamb hearty enough for a girl who has just spent the day skiing with only a short break for beer, swine and cold potato salad.

I settle in front of the roaring open fire and take in the Jungfrau, so close you could almost reach out and touch it.

The Caprice is one of the few places that look out into the valley – “traditionally hotels were closed off because the cold was something you had to fight and after a renovation it has been opened up, while still blending in with the natural environment.”

A word of advice. If you do go to Wengen, allow more than the paltry two days that I did.

To explore the whole region: the Keline Scheidegg-Mannlicehn, First-Grunewald and Murren-Schilthorn, allow seven or so days to work out your faves and ski them a few times.

The runs are so long you basically have time to get where you are going, have a few tries, grab lunch, consisting of swine in various forms, drink a couple of absurdly large, icy cold beers, and then start back to the Caprice. Then it’s back to the hotel balcony to see the last rays of sun caressing the peaks of the Jungfrau across the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Time for a quick beer before dinner, you can head out to the Tanne Bar and mix with the locals and pop into a local restaurant for supper, which I did one night with a few drinks on board. Order a fondue and in the clean mountain air you will soon be gorging yourself on cheese like a crazed Welshwoman who has just won the rarebit lottery.

The Caprice is an easy train ride up the mountain from Interlaken. Etihad airways flies to Geneva from Abu Dhabi every day. Don’t leave your run too late, the last train up the mountain from Interlaken is before midnight.

The hotel is a one minute 30-second walk from the station.

Iris Potter

The Caprice
Wengen 3823. Switzerland
www.slh.com/caprice/
1 800 251 958 (toll free)

www.slh.com

http://www.caprice-wengen.ch/

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