I’m sure my fellow blogger from Grindelwald, Richard, was booked up for lessons last week, as the slopes all over the Jungfrau region seemed busy with half-term skiers. I joined them with my family in Wengen, a resort I have been to many times before and draws us back most years to see friends who live there.
This year’s school half term week was one of the busiest weeks of the season, with almost the whole of the UK having the same week off. The Skiset shop owned by our friends was packed, and so we didn’t get to see much of them. A quick ski with their now teenage daughter who skis on the Wengen demo team, was all we managed, plus the morning ‘hellos’ whilst speedily ‘kitting up’ to make the morning ski school starts.
The main Swiss Ski School for little ones starts at 9.30am, and most mornings we managed to catch one of the regular trains up to Kleine Scheidegg, or make a dash to the cable car if we’d beaten the main queues. Skiing at half term is all about knowing the tricks to dodge the queuing – and with a bit of knowledge and insider info it is easy to do this. We knew that getting off at the second train stop from Wengen en route to Kleine Scheidegg at ‘Wengernalp’ offers fast access to the six-man Wixi chair via a short blue run where we then had the long, red Wixi piste to ourselves for at least one or two runs each morning.
Another tip is to use the Coggins ski club, part of the established Downhill Only Club’s (DHO) set up. Children age 8+ who can ski ‘racing snowplough’ or more advanced, can join these daily sessions (Eagles for the 13yrs+ teens) from 8.45am-3.30pm. It’s a long day, but the children are almost first up on the mountain with this early start. They have an absolutely brilliant time, make new friends and really improve their stamina on skis. My daughter skied with DHO’s new instructor, Holly, and loved her first Coggins experience. The DHO run a race later in the week, which everyone can take part in – it was great fun in glorious sunshine.
Travelling off the peak Saturday travel days of half term also ensures you miss the worst of the transfer day crowds, but we had to book an extra night’s accommodation for our arrival on Friday night (our apartment booking started on the Saturday). Ten years ago I stayed at the Hotel Falken as part of a Ski Club GB organised group, and knew that they are welcoming to families. So we booked one of their family rooms with a fun mezzanine level, which our kids loved. Visiting this 120-year-old hotel, now run by Sina Cova, is like going back in time – with its parquet flooring and gorgeous antique furnishings. Dropping by later in the week, the hotel was full of families; early kids’ teas and the welcoming atmosphere (including Buddy the dog) see families returning year after year.
In all the years I have been visiting Wengen, I have never managed to make it to the Waldhuettli (Forest Hut) in the woods above the village. This year my daughter and I joined some friends for an evening in the hut. Walking up from the village, through the trees on the snowy sledge path in pitch dark was really magical. Wengen’s village lights twinkled below us and we spotted the space station in the clear starry night. Eventually we made it to a little wooden hut with its windows emitting soft yellow light out into the dark surrounding woods.
Tino, the owner of the hut and local ski instructor, greeted us outside. The hut only seats about 20 people, so with our party of ten and one other group, the hut was full and provided a special atmosphere for the evening. Cheese fondue, cheese raclette or a meat and pineapple combination, make up the simple menu, served with wine and kirsch. By 9.30pm we were sledging back to town, full of cheese and schnapps and having had a really memorable evening.
For further information on the Hotel Falken see www.hotelfalken.com