‘Don’t go’, they said. ‘Mürren for New Year? Far too crowded. Mad idea.’ That settled it. When parents say stay, I go.
If Scotland’s 16 year olds can vote on the future of their nation, at 17 I could find Switzerland unassisted. And as for too much company on my New Year adventure, bring it on. Skiing is a sociable activity, isn’t it?
I already knew the village of Mürren quite well from family holidays, and it’s the sort of place where you can’t help bumping into people. One family I have got to know through ski school has had a base in Mürren since the First World War. A quick email to see if they were going to be around, and they offered me a bed for the first couple of nights. My holiday was taking shape.
The prospect of travelling alone was terrifically exciting. There are lots of changes between Basel airport and the little train that trundles across the mountain to my car-free destination. But Swiss railway personnel all speak perfect English, so it was not actually difficult.
Mürren may not be a big resort, but it knows how to make the most of its slopes. After my parents’ dire warning about queues, I jumped out of bed and raced to catch the first lift of the morning, to find myself battling with all of five other skiers. The snow at the top was really good, but with reduced options lower down it was clear that I would have to find other ways to entertain myself.
This proved to be quite easy. Mürren starred in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service back in the 60s, and the themed exhibition at the top of the Schilthorn is good for an hour or two. There’s masses of film trivia and bobsleigh and helicopter simulators too. I met up with my friends and another family for lunch in the revolving restaurant, where the 007 Burger always works for me. In the teenage gang that I seemed to have joined, a group decision was taken to split our days between skiing and other outdoor activities.
One afternoon we rented mountain bikes from the village in the valley, Lauterbrunnen, and cycled to Interlaken and back. Another day we hit the sports centre in Mürren for a kick about and water polo, which may be the most exhausting sport yet invented.
It was a relief to get back to a traditional winter sport that can be enjoyed in a sitting position, or better still, lying down. ‘Promise me you’ll wear a helmet for tobogganing,’ one parent had said. ‘Sorry!’ I yelled, as I flew through the air after taking a hairpin too fast. Luckily, it was a soft landing.
On the 30th the gang took itself across the valley to show Wengen (also known as The Dark Side) how to ski. The North Face of the Eiger would have to wait, because anticipation was building as New Year’s Eve drew closer.
Local ritual dictates that the big night begins with drinks in someone’s chalet, which is open house for the whole village. I then went with the flow – toboggan in hand (plus helmet this time) – on the last ride of the day to the Allmendhubel mountain restaurant for snowballing. A noisy cheese fondue was followed by a hilarious descent in the pitch dark. Once the stragglers had made it down we swapped wet rags for glad rags and ventured out once more – Showtime!
I’ve heard Mürren described as sleepy after dark. Well it may not be Switzerland’s answer to Las Vegas, but Mürren has the Tächi Bar, and how many bars do you need for a party? With its disco ball and strictly come dad-dancing clientele, the Hotel Eiger’s nightclub is a period piece. Anything goes on New Year’s Eve and the Tächi Bar gives the year a great send-off, pumping out the sounds of the last millennium until sunrise.
After a few jackhammers I stopped worrying that I might have outstayed my invitation to stay ‘a couple of nights’. The problem of where to sleep could wait for another day.