These boots are made for snow walking!             
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These boots are made for snow walking!             

Barry Borman ditches the skis and explores the beauty of the serene Swiss Alps on foot 

A scenic landscape of Interlaken
A scenic landscape of Interlaken

If the crunch of crisp snow underfoot combined with sun-drenched scenery sets your pulse racing, then this destination is for you. 

Swiss winter snow-walking paths are, like the pistes, meticulously prepared overnight and offer a great alternative to skiing for your
snow-fix.

Catching an early morning flight to Geneva, the rail transfer brings us to Grindelwald shortly after lunchtime. We immediately board the rack-and-pinion Jungfrau Railway, chugging up to the Bellevue Des Alpes Hotel at Kleine Scheidegg (2,070m). This brown-slatted, green-shuttered hideaway was in its heyday when Victorian Englishmen were claiming the Alps, all crystal chandeliers and Chippendale furniture.

Here, we hunker down in the oak-panelled lounge, the sun streaming through the panoramic windows, surveying the mountain prospect and cosily protected from the blustery snow flurries as we nurse our hot chocolates.

Kleine Scheidegg is the base for climbing the historic Eiger North Face and also where the Jungfrau Railway commences its meandering mountain ascent, tunnelling up to the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s loftiest rail station at 3,454m.

The Top of Europe summit offers restaurants, extensive glacier views and a stunningly sculptured Ice Palace. There are also hiking trails, although you’ll need to be warmly attired in winter temperatures hovering around -12°C.

Valley of Grindelwal

With our usual first morning anticipatory excitement, we take the cable car up to Männlichen at 2,230m. Crunching through the frosted snow, we’re the only ones delighting in this breath-taking isolation and we’re greeted by the famous triumvirate of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, the sun dazzling and the foehn cloud nestling on the Jungfrau’s shoulder like a bridal veil.

Our afternoon walk, on a gloriously sunlit path bounded by sparkling glaciers, takes us to the historic hotel built in 1865 and station at Wengernalp, beautifully captured in many nostalgic sepia-tinted period photographs.

Stretching out on the sun-trap terrace, we sample the local speciality of apfelstrudel mit vanillesauce, luxuriating in the long rays of the descending sun. After our two limb-invigorating walks, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

On a rainy day, you can nip back down the valley to the picturesque town of Interlaken and visit The Funky Chocolate Club. As well as purchasing from a wondrous selection of quirky chocolate products and sampling chocolate fondue, you can create your own masterpieces.

It’s worthwhile making the short trip into Geneva to visit the Grande Synagogue. Completed in 1859 in a Moorish style, perhaps echoing Jewish oriental origins, the synagogue swiftly followed the full civic emancipation of the Jews into Swiss society.

Still serving Geneva’s Ashkenazi community, it was listed as a historical monument in 1995. Nearby, you’ll find the kosher restaurant, Le Jardin, offering a comprehensive selection, including steak haché (a posh French hamburger) and grilled entrecote, with daily specialities.

Back in the hills, we board the gondola for
First, gateway to Bachalpsee’s frozen lake. At 2,200 metres, the swish of ski and whirr of cable car are replaced with silence – a cold-around-the ears, frosty silence you can actually hear.

This is the true essence of snow walking: softly cocooned within a virgin white expanse, we’re sampling the mountain spa effect of gentle exercise for the body, coupled with a soothing balm for the soul.

At the top, there’s just a bench and the view, but that’s enough for us, confronting Grindelwald’s crystalline mountains etched against an azure sky.

Later, we gently meander downhill to Schreckfeld for an afternoon on the mountain restaurant’s sun terrace.

The Hotel Belvedere Grindelwald

Ensconced in blanketed comfy chairs, beside the sheer valley drop and face-to-face with the serrated pinnacles, we doze in the warm sun.

Our Grindelwald residence was the historic Belvedere Hotel, built in 1907 and family-run ever since.

So if you’ve returned from your hiking exertions and you fancy a spot of outdoor Swiss patisserie with your steaming, freshly-brewed coffee, then the Belvedere’s rattan-couched sun terrace is the place, enchantingly back-dropped by the stunning mountain amphitheatre.

Come evening, it’s a cosily magical experience in the sumptuous dining room indulging gourmet French cuisine while observing the twinkling mountain chalets and powerful searchlights of the mechanical gridders preparing tomorrow’s snow walk.

Snow peak during a cold winter’s walk

The jewel in the hotel’s crown and “bucket list” requisite for the pleasurable rejuvenation of walkers’ weary limbs is the outdoor hot tub.

It’s most atmospheric if you take your dip in the evening, when the tub is dramatically illuminated by flaming Roman torches and accentuated by gently cascading snow crystals, which lodge and then melt as they caress your eyelids.

Our balcony was back clothed with an awesome view of the Wetterhorn, Grindelwald’s “glacier mountain”. As evening approaches, the silver-grey of night glides up the crags, encroaching the burnished amber glow of the summit pyramid.

This ethereal vision, together with memories of incandescent peaks, cobalt skies and crisp powdered snow underfoot, provides the perfect antidote to the “fast forward” of the daily grind.

Travel Tips

Barry stayed at the Hotel Belvedere Grindelwald (belvedere-grindelwald.ch), where double rooms including breakfast start at £320 per night. Easyjet (easyjet.com) flies from London Luton to Geneva.

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