Sleek, modern, and situated at the snowy heart of the Swiss Alps, The Cambrian hotel is the perfect place for keen skiers and Alpine adventures to rest their heads – or to bask their way to bliss in the soul-soothing terrace hydrotherapy pool. With awe-inducing mountain views in every direction, you’re guaranteed holiday snaps that your friends will actually want to see.
The Deluxe Rooms are pleasantly spacious – if you go for a room number ending in 14, you’ll have two balconies to enjoy as these are set on the corner of the hotel. The Junior Suites North have space to sprawl in, but no balconies. The Family Suites are ideal for those with kids in tow, with two bedrooms – one on a mezzanine level – separate enough to enjoy privacy and peace of mind simultaneously. Glorious Alpine views are hard to avoid, but to make the most of them ask for a panoramic south-facing outlook rather than a mountain view.
The spa has pools both indoors and out. Inside, there’s a soothing lap pool fed by a wall-size waterfall and lined with comfortable wooden loungers. Outside, on the terrace beside the restaurant, the hydrotherapy pool with massage jets and Jacuzzi is wonderfully warm, allowing you to bask blissfully alfresco even when the snow is whirling around you.
Relax in the spa's heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools, Finnish sauna and steam bath, or choose from a classic range of massages, body wraps and scrubs with all-natural Alpienne products. Mani-pedis, skin-clearing facials by Dermalogica, and physio appointments are also available. After your treatments, bundle up in a fluffy spa robe and slippers and enjoy drinks and fresh fruit.
You’ll be kicking yourself if you forget swimwear – the spa pools are one of the hotel’s real highlights. Ski passes, sledges, and Nordic walking canes are all available from reception.
Please note that smoking is not permitted in this hotel. Parking CHF18 a night.
Welcome; the hotel can provide cots (free) and extra beds (CHF65 a night for 3–5 year olds; CHF115 for 6–15 year olds). Babysitting can be arranged for a fee, and there’s a 24-hour playroom (unsupervised), with games, Playstation and Wii.
The Cambrian recycles everything possible, composts food waste and uses locally sourced organic and seasonal ingredients in its cuisine.
The tables by the windo close to the middle of the room have excellent views of the Alps – and other guests bubbling away in the Jacuzzi pool on the terrace.
At the restaurant, chef Bryn Williams serves up new Alpine cuisine with a Welsh twist: modern takes on mountain classics made with seasonal ingredients. Pass around plates of confit salmon, teriyaki Swiss lamb and fried aubergine with white miso. Save room for the decadent cheese board, tarte tatin or a Swiss chocolate pot. The wine selection – on display in a long glass cabinet – is excellent. There’s no lunch served in the hotel, but light snacks are available in the lobby. Breakfast is served from 7am to 10.30am (11am on the weekends).
The Axe Bar is the ideal venue for post-slope topes, with mountain views and modern light installations. Here you'll find Swiss beer on tap, champagne and a fine cocktail menu. It’s open from midday every day.
The chef hangs up his apron at 9.30pm, but you can get a drink in the bar until the early hours.
The room service menu is available until 10pm; drinks can be delivered to your door until midnight.
Airport options are Bern-Belp Airport (www.flughafenbern.ch ), the closest and an hour away by car, and Geneva International or Zurich, both under two and a half hours from the hotel.
Frutigen is the nearest train station, 20 kilometres away. From here, trains go to and from Zurich, Bern, Basel and Geneva (www.sbb.ch). The hotel can provide taxi numbers on request.
Take the A6 if you’re travelling from Bern-Belp Airport, the A1 from Zurich and the E25 from Geneva.
Worth getting out of bed for
Ski, ski, and more ski. Adelboden is criss-crossed with ski lifts and cable cars to shuttle you from one piste to another, and the ski-supply-shop-to-people ratio is one of the highest on earth. Most shops have equipment rental too. If you’re a first-timer on the slopes, get lessons at the Swiss Snowsports School (www.skischule-adelboden.ch), which is particularly good if you have kids in tow. If you’re ready to hang up you skis and try snowboarding, the Official Snowboard School (www.crazy-sports.ch) can teach you all you need to know about falling down a mountain strapped to some wood. The Cambrian issues ski passes and has a ski room for your kit – the hotel can also loan you sledges and Nordic walking canes if you fancy a winter ramble. Even in summer, you’ll find alpine activities aplenty – there are numerous walking and biking trails around the area, and climbing and abseiling are highlights on the adventurer’s agenda (www.alpinschule-adelboden.ch).
There’s a large selection of eateries within walking distance, most on Adelboden’s main street, Dorfstrasse. Hotel Adler (+41 (0)33 673 4141) has several dining rooms centred around its woody bar area and is the place to sample the country’s national dish, fondue – either in its cheese or meat varieties. A few doors along, Bären (+41 (0)33 673 2151) offers a blend of Swiss and international cooking – raclette is the star dish – with a substantial wine cellar to wash it all down. Kreuz (+41 (0)33 673 21 21) is a little more basic, but ideal if you’ve a craving for pizza.
Also on Dorfstrasse, Arte Bar & Kunst (+41 (0)33 673 2500) is a small and unexpectedly quirky watering hole that doubles as an Alpine art gallery. The Time Out pub (+41 (0)33 673 2000) won’t blow your mind but it’s nonetheless a reliable après-ski stalwart.
'The hotel manager deserves a lemon for his efforts!' No, we're not sure what that means either. Mrs Smith and I have been thumbing through the book of insider hotel anecdotes that has been left in our suite at the Cambrian, reading some of the bawdier passages to each another and giggling like schoolkids. The little hardback is packed with risqué vignettes about life in the hotel trade – made all the more amusing by the fact that it's been translated from German to English apparently via some obscure Latvian dialect and/or the medium of dance. We immediately set about deciding whether or not our hotel is lemon-worthy, and come to the conclusion that, in our own citrus-based awards ceremony, the Cambrian would be going home with a grapefruit too.
Our room – 503, a Junior Suite South – is decorated with a soothing medley of snowy whites, warming browns and rock-face greys that, though it won’t wow the design world, perfectly suits the Alpine surroundings. There's a huge bed, with a button-back headboard in cream, cow-print footstools artfully dotted about, and a cosy lounge area with Toblerone-tone sofas and armchairs. The widescreen TV swivels handily to face bed or living area, and flinging open the doors to the balcony, we're met with a craggy panorama of snow-laden mountains, plunging passes and a zigzag of cable cars high above the dense fir forest. It's sublime.
This kind of warm, homely comfort coupled with the mind-blowing Alpine spectacle is exactly what we needed after our three-hour journey from Zurich. Both of us had been dreading the triple train-change and bus ride in the thick apocalyptic blizzard (we'd forgotten that Britain's own blend of freezing slush is a far cry from the heavy-set flakes of Switzerland), but we were delightfully surprised by the ease of the trip. This review is obviously not the place to meditate on the joys of the Swiss transport infrastructure, so let it just be said that anyone who isn't excited by spotless double-decker trains has never taken the London Overground from Hackney Central.
Adelboden is as remote as it gets; a tiny chalet town perched on the mountainside in the depths of the Bernese Oberland, the kind of place where, in winter, snow-chains are as commonplace on cars as windscreen wipers. Fortunately, the Cambrian hotel is barely a minute's walk – or shuffle, if you arrive in conditions like we did – from the bus station. It's such a snowy wonderland in winter than the townspeople have even invented their own form of ice-bound transport. As we wound our way up the hill from Frütigen (gawpable views abounding), we spotted children dragging what appeared to be a combination of a ski and a wooden workbench. This, we later learn, is a 'skibock', a sort of halfway house between skiing and sledging, and it's been unique to the region for over a century. We have enough trouble walking in the snow, let alone plummeting down the mountainside on, as Mrs S puts it, 'a blatant death trap', so we decide to leave skibocking to the locals.
Although winter sports are very much Adelboden's raison d'être – there are more than 185km of velvety piste in the valley – it's not the superb skiing on offer that's got our hearts aflutter. From our vantage point on the balcony, we've got a bird's-eye view of the hotel's outdoor spa pool, and it looks irresistibly inviting...
So it proves. 20 minutes later and we've made our way down into the spa – a chic underground wellness centre that offers countless ways of squirting pressurised water at yourself. We colonise a pair of the wicker loungers beside the indoor pool, admire the full-wall water feature, and laugh our heads off as a swimwear-clad German couple attempting a post-sauna snow bath accidentally lock themselves outside in the freezing blizzard. Ah, the sweet smell of schadenfreude.
Having rescued the shivering pair, I have a nosey around the sauna and steam room (sexily decked out in black marble mosaic), Mrs Smith pops off to the loo – and comes back having had a facial. 'The staff were so nice, I felt I ought to,' she announces.
We could quite easily spend our weekend contentedly bubbling away in the spa pool while the snowflakes dance around us – and we very nearly do – but we couldn't stay in the one of the world's winter-sport capitals without at least getting an inkling what a ski slope actually looks like, so we take the two-minute walk to the nearest cable car station and make the terrifying ascent over the forest canopy to the nearest peak-top cabin. The views from the apex are enough to make me reconsider ski school, but Mrs Smith has other, cheese-related ideas. Two hours and a dishful of satisfyingly bloaty raclette later, we go back down again.
Next on our outdoorsy agenda is a hike to Engstligenalp, site of reputedly the most impressive waterfall in the region. ‘Just 20 minutes’ walk straight down there,’ the waiter had told us at breakfast, pointing along the valley floor. What he did there was make the mistaken assumption that either of us possessed anything more than the most 'experimental' sense of direction, and wouldn't veer off up a mountain for no good reason other than, as Sir Edmund said, because it was there. After three wet hours and four threats of divorce, we're back in the spa pool. 'Let us never mention today again,' Mrs Smith declares.
A warming Italian meal in the restaurant soon sets any incipient frostbite/marital break-up at bay, however, and we retire to our room convinced that although our weekend may have taught us that the great white outdoors is not our natural habitat, luckily for us, the Cambrian certainly is. Someone give the manager a lemon.