I travelled there from Andermatt, with the major part of the journey on the stupendously scenic Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn narrow gauge railway, the Glacier Express. There are few finer ways of travelling from A to B (or in my case A to A, Andermatt to Adelboden) than on the Swiss rail network.
After boarding the 10.37am from Andermatt my journey took me through a high-altitude Alpine snow-covered landscape of craggy peaks and ancient villages – the stops were at tiny hamlets where passengers boarding or disembarking were mostly couples or very fit-looking elderly groups carrying skinny skis for cross-country excursions.
We passed through the Furka Base Tunnel, a nine-and-a-half-mile marvel of engineering at more than 5,000-ft, and snow-cocooned villages of weathered farmsteads and solid gasthofs such as Oberwald, Obergastein, Reckingen and Niederwald – the latter the birthplace of famed hotelier Cezar Ritz, who is buried in the local cemetery.
The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn might be narrow-gauge (3 ft 3 3⁄8 ins to be exact) but the carriages are wide-bodied and supremely comfortable with panoramic windows – and to-the-second timekeeping that mocks the metres-high mounds of snow through which it chugs.
A change at Brig for a mainline train brought me to Frutigen, and bus Number 230 was waiting for the last leg up to Adelboden – there’s nothing like a frequently stopping bus full of shoppers, mothers and toddlers and pensioners on a day out to make you feel like a local.
The Cambrian Hotel is all of a 14-second walk from the bus station and by the time I’d checked in I felt as if I already belonged in Adelboden. It’s a tranquil place, set on a sunny mountainside at the head of a long valley in the Bernese Oberland and built almost entirely in chalet-style. The British connection here is long-standing – Adelboden was the destination of the first packaged wintersports holiday, organised by Sir Henry Lunn in 1903.
Raucous the village isn’t. Quiet and peaceful restoration of body, spirit and soul is its forte – not only in the village but on the slopes too. The ski area is uncrowded, unrushed and also with a gloriously peaceful atmosphere. And there’s lots of off-piste to be found, often conveniently adjacent to the groomed runs so you can dip in and out as the mood takes you.
The main portion of the skiing stretches across to the village of Lenk, with another section a short bus ride away on the far side of Lenk.
The slopes are a little fragmented and the gondola from Oey to the main skiing is just outside the village, reached by a skibus, hotel shuttle or the little connecting lift from the village. But this is a wonderfully old-style resort where the ski area has grown organically, with the character and atmosphere to go with it.
Talking of organic, my first lunchtime stop was at what must be one of the Alps’ most rustic and wholesome huts – the Chumi Hut, which is more barn than mountain restaurant. It’s where local farmer Hansueli Hari serves famous burgers from his own herd of shaggy Highland cattle – which in happier times, for them at least, spend their formative years grazing these very slopes during the summer months.
So impressed were we that before we knew it we’d agreed to visit pre-burger members of the herd at Mr Hari’s farm. The encounter with these ferociously-horned but disconcertingly amiable beasts was in a blizzard at the crack of dawn the following day – it was a poignant meeting and waving goodbye to them brought mixed emotions and a resolution to order the cheese on toast and baked potato on my next visit to the Chumi Hut.
Back at the flawlessly efficient and warmly welcoming Cambrian Hotel my ties with Adelboden were strengthening by the hour. Dining with Intersport ski shop owner Robert Hari, who had sorted great skis for us, could only help. As did spending an evening learning everything there is to know about malt whisky from local expert Thomas Hari. And discovering that in the 1870s the first hotel was opened by a local teacher. It’s still going strong and owned by the same family – whose name is, yes, you guessed, Hari.
For more on skiing in Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com
Swiss International Air Lines has more than 170 flights a week from London City, Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Dublin to Zurich, Geneva or Sion. And Swiss take your skis or snowboard and boots free of charge!
The Swiss Travel System has a range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Travel Pass gives unlimited travel throughout the rail, bus and boat network. Prices from £171.