Not long before Christmas, Mrs Smith and I found ourselves touching down in the heart of the Swiss Alps, for a weekend reconnaissance mission. We visited Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland, a cluster of gingerbread-house wooden chalets surrounded by pine trees and flanked by snow-capped peaks. Switzerland’s scenery doesn’t get more craggily dramatic: plunging valleys, dizzying heights and snow thick enough to lose children in. Criss-crossed by cable cars and ski lifts, the picturesque resort is a haven for snowsports fans and Alpine adventurers. It’s a tiny place, reachable only by bus from Frütigen, but after three days – and wishing for longer – we realised the dainty Alpine enclave had everything we needed for a boutique ski break…
Adelboden has more than 185km of pistes and is criss-crossed with ski lifts and cable cars to shuttle you from one piste to another, and the ski-shop-to-people ratio is one of the highest on earth. Plus, most shops have equipment rental, too. If you’re a first-timer on the slopes, get lessons at the Swiss Snowsports School. If you’re ready to hang up your skis and try snowboarding, the Official Snowboard School can teach you all you need to know about falling down a mountain strapped to some wood.
We spent more time than is probably healthy at the Solis Spa, which not only has all the usual suspects (sauna, steam room, massages and beauty treatments, fitness suite), but also has one of the most incredible outdoor pools we’ve ever had the pleasure of wasting a day in. One corner is a Jacuzzi, another has a pair of invigorating waterfall pipes, and there’s a wall of underwater massage jets. The biggest draw, however, has to be the view – being caressed by bubbles in an outdoor hot pool, while whirls of snowflakes dance around your head and mountains tower before you comes in just behind showering in champagne in the list of decadent experiences.
Follow the Tschentbach river as it carves its way through the Choloren Gorge – a 100-metre gully lined with steps and walkways. At the end you can take an invigorating (okay, freezing) dip in the ‘Fountain of Youth’. Not the real one, sadly. Alternatively, set off along the valley floor to Engstligenalp, where you’ll find the second tallest waterfall in Switzerland. I should point out, this is probably better in summer, when the snow isn’t waist-deep.
Switzerland’s national dish is the fondue, popular in both cheese and meat varieties. Cheese-wise, you’ll find rich, tasty blends of local cheeses (including the region’s speciality, Emmental), often mixed with champagne and enjoyed with chunks of bread. Meat fondues use either hot oil or clear Chinese-style soup. We sampled a banquet-sized portion of the latter in the laid-back restaurant at Hotel Adler; having spent most of our time consuming cheese faster than a dairy could produce it, we couldn’t face any more. Adler offers every fondue variety imaginable, as well other Swiss staples such as rösti, raclette and bratwürsts a-go-go.
Although Adelboden’s main (and pretty much only) street is lined with hotels and the entire area is dotted with pretty pine chalets, the Cambrian really is the only place to consider. Though, with this kind of landscape, you could be sleeping in a drafty shack and still come back raving about it. At the Cambrian, however, no luxury is spared – this is slopeside living at its smartest. The decor is a soothing medley of snowy whites and Alpine greens, perfectly suiting the surroundings and knocking the socks off every other hotel in town. Just like the service, which is friendly, intuitive and bend-over-backwards helpful. We’ll be back. And we might even get out of the hot tub next time.
Next, slalom your way over to the rest of our ski hotels and luxury chalets…