Engelberg is small Swiss town tucked at the end of a valley and surrounded by spectacular mountains that house some of the best off-piste skiing in Europe.
- The incredible selection of off-piste runs, including Laub – 1000 vertical meters of pure joy.
- The really rural Swiss town with real farmers and real cows.
- The Ski Lodge Engelberg and its sophisticated ski-bum vibe.
- The influx of Swedes every weekend – what’s not to love about Swedish skiers?
- A visit to the cheese shop in the monastery.
- Engelberg is best suited to advanced and expert skiers wanting to take advantage of the off-piste.
- Budget for a guide most days – they’re essential if touring the off-piste and worth every penny.
- The ski areas are a bit fragmented.
- Most of the hotels will require a 15-minute walk or short shuttle bus ride to get to the slopes.
Up until a few years ago Engelberg in Switzerland had been a well-kept secret. However, the recent influx of Instagramming pro skiers and its mountains being featured in ski films have seen Engelberg rise in popularity with a cult-like status. Scout fell in love with the place when we visited in February 2016. From the authentic little town with its classic Swiss cobblestone street, to the unbelievable off-piste and spectacular mountain scenery, to the crazy Swedes who love to ski hard and party harder, to the cows tucked happily in their huts, it’s all a perfect mix for down-to-earth, friendly, hard-core skiers. It’s like a mini Chamonix, with Swedes instead of Brits and with no ego (no offence to Chamonix or Brits).
Engelberg is situated just one hour from Lucerne, at the end of a lush valley. If arriving by train (the best way to get here), it’s the end of the line and the train stops right in the middle of town. Although it had been farmed for years, Engelberg was put on the map in the 1100s when an abbey was set up in the valley. It became a popular spa destination in the mid-1800s and when the first cable cars were built in the 1930s a skiing era was born. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s when a bunch of Swedish skiers besotted with the area started renovating old hotels that it became better known among non-local skiers. Today the monastery still exists (and is worth a visit to buy the local cheese) and it’s a thriving but laid-back ski town.
Engelberg is a haven for advanced and expert skiers who want to experience the area’s many incredible off-piste runs. The resort also has 82km of on-piste runs spread out among the different parts. For those who want to stick to the groomers, it’s a bit of fun for a few days, but it wouldn’t be our first choice for a week-long stay.
There are two main ski areas that make up Engelberg – Titlis and Brunni. Titlis on the eastern side of the valley is the larger area and is home to the Steinberg glacier. It is accessed by a new gondola, Titlis Xpress, that has a mid-station at Trubsee (1800m), and stops at Stand (2430m). From either station you can get out to access slopes and lifts, or you can continue on in the incredible Titlis Rotair (rotating cable car) to reach the peak of the resort area at Klein Titlis (3028m). One of the most amusing aspects of this journey from the valley is that it is happily shared by skiers and hundreds of tourists (mainly from China and India), no matter what the season or weather. The summit has been set up and marketed as a tourist destination – complete with ice caves, cliff walks and, of course, it wouldn’t be Switzerland without a chocolate and watch shop, even at 3000m. But the main attraction for skiers lies just underneath the top station in the form of an off-piste glacier run (caution must be taken as there are open crevasses and avalanche dangers). The ski area around this section consists of a few short chairlifts and groomed runs. For on-piste skiers the better skiing is over in the Jochpass area. Here there are also some nice off-piste runs that don’t require any hiking (we made plenty of powder laps off the top of Jochstock to skier’s right), but those willing to work for it will be rewarded with some great runs, particularly heading from the top of Jochstock back towards the base of the Engstlenalp lift. Titlis is also home to two other famous off-piste runs. The first is Laub – a 1000m, 35-degree, football-pitch-wide, off-piste run that connects with the beginner area at the bottom. It’s so perfect it’s hard to believe nature designed it. The second run that involves a bit more work is called Galtiberg which runs right from the top and goes all the way down to the head of the valley, near Furenalp, and from there you catch the bus back to town. Galtiberg is long and varied with some exciting terrain and awesome powder bowls but there are parts that are dangerous, with cliffs and tricky exits through the trees, so a guide is absolutely essential.
The second smaller ski area on the western side of the valley is called Brunni. It’s a bit lower (the top is 2040m) so has some tree skiing, but it’s mainly just a few intermediate and beginner runs. There are a couple of lovely off-piste runs that end up back down near the town, but will likely require a taxi pick-up at the end, or a long walk.
There are two beginner areas - at Brunni and lower down at Titlis. First-timers will probably be quite happy at Brunni, where there is a bunny slope almost right in the middle of town (its low elevation does mean that the artificial snow-makers often come in handy). The second beginner area is a bit more difficult to get to, at the base of Titlis. It has a few T-bar surface lifts and is a very quiet area for beginners to learn.
Overall, intermediates have a decent amount of terrain to choose from, however parts of it can be steep and the runs are quite segregated, so it may leave some skiers feeling a little frustrated and tired.
Due to the nature of the skiing and layout of the town and ski area Engelberg isn’t ideal for families. That said, there are two types of families that it would suit – families with older, advanced skiing teens who are just as keen and capable of skiing the off-piste as their parents. Or expert parents with first-timer kids – where the parents explore the off-piste all day while leaving the kids in ski school.Search Hotels
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Engelberg has a great selection of 3-4 star hotels in the center of the town. Some are within a 5-15 minute walk to the Titlis ski area, but most are an easy, free shuttle bus ride to either base area. Most are an easy walk from the train station. Parts of the village can be noisy in the evening, particularly weekends. Scout’s favorite hotels for a sophisticated ski-bum vibe are the Ski Lodge Engelberg and Spannort – both of which were old hotels bought and renovated by Swedes.Get your
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There is a happening but relaxed après ski scene and a handful of decent bars throughout Engelberg. The Chalet bar at the base of the Titlis Xpress often has a fun atmosphere and is a good place to kick off après. The Ski Lodge bar and Yucatan are popular places to move on to and later on there are a few bars and a club that often have live music and dancing.
Non-alcohol related activities include ice-skating and curling, cross-country skiing (there are some very scenic trails throughout the valley), sledding (including night sledding), as well as an indoor pool and tennis courts.
Engelberg is easiest accessed by train and most hotels are within a short walking distance from the station. Zurich airport is just 1-hour 20-minutes by road or 2 hours by train (via Lucerne). A shuttle bus also operates on Fridays and Saturdays from Zurich airport.
Engelberg town is compact and easy to get around on foot and there is a regular, free shuttle bus to get to the slopes – though it can get crowded at peak hour.
|Mountain Information||On-Piste Terrain|
|Base Elevation||3444ft / 1050m||Beginner||33%|
|Summit Elevation||9934ft / 3028m||Intermediates||57%|
|Vertical Drop||6561ft / 2000m||Advanced||10%|
|Skiable Runs||51m / 82km|
|Annual Snowfall||200in / 5m|
|Number of lifts||14|
|Operating Hours||8.30am –4.50pm|
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