Switzerland, with its snow-clad slopes, warm food and warmer people, makes it oh-so-easy to have a winter adventure straight out of your childhood dreams
WORDS: SHEENA DABHOLKAR
PHOTOGRAPHS: JYOTHY KARAT
I’m standing in my hotel balcony wearing the entire contents of my suitcase. I can’t feel my face, but I’m certain there’s a stupid grin buying real estate on it. In the two weeks before my departure, I called everybody I know begging for extra woollens. I’m now in Engelberg, a quaint town in central Switzerland surrounded by the Alps and, from here, it’s only going to get chillier.
Here’s a fun fact: I’ve never even seen the snow up-close before. I’ve been thrown in the deep end, and the lake is literally frozen. This is Winter in Switzerland 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Powder.
I’m doing my best to ease into the programme, which means a spot of sledding, an activity that needs no skill at all. My sled looks like an upside-down laundry basket, and I’m supposed to just get in and hurtle myself down a hillock that’s more slippery than usual as there hasn’t been much snowfall lately. I’m breaking into a cold sweat, but, when it’s over, one Swiss minute later, I’m exhilarated. It’s the best thing I’ve done with six layers on.
I’m on the bunny slopes at Klostermatte, great for families and tailored to suit beginners. The best part about it is the ‘magic carpets’ – conveyor belts that take you uphill whether you’re sledding or skiing. When there’s enough snow, this is a good place to get ski lessons, as it will save you the cost of the cable pass, which you can then use to go to the sunny side of the mountain.
I’m famished, and skip today’s ski lessons for a meal at Bergrestaurant Ristis, a mountain bistro accessible from Talstation Brunni, but I learn something anyway: on aerial cableways, always keep your camera handy. The bird’s-eye view of the valley is staggering. At Ristis, I get my first taste of two typically Swiss dishes – rösti, crispy potatoes, and spaetzle, tiny dough dumplings sprinkled with cheese. The setting is sublime – I’m surrounded by fir trees and snow-covered crests with the sun on my face and the occasional paraglider soaring past, throwing shadows on me.
The rest of the day is spent in Engelberg, strolling the streets of the town and hopping into a horse-drawn carriage. I snuggle up under a warm fur blanket as we canter past fields blanketed in snow, stacks of firewood, and a moon that makes an appearance while sunlight still sparkles off the peaks.