Snowboarding – shockingly I would consider it as good if not better than surfing. I absolutely, categorically love it. Unfortunately, given that I live in a perpetual summer town, we don’t see any snow and thus there is no snowboarding. I only get to indulge when I travel and thanks to that bloody coronavirus, none of us have being doing any of that for a few years. But soon, hopefully soon, I will once again get to glide down the face of a 100ft frozen wave.
Thinking of snowboarding recently had me reminiscing about our family’s last visit to the snow before all the craziness began in 2020. Those who read our keepsake 50th edition may recall my son got the chance to play football in Portugal in late 2019 with me his on-tour manager At the end of his stint, the rest of the family joined us to embark on a 20-day trip through Europe. High on our agenda was hitting the slopes, the only trouble being there’s not often a great deal of snow on offer in mid-December. Good mate Craig Russell, who owns Helloworld Travel in Kawana, recommended we try Engelberg, a little mountain resort in Central Switzerland.
Given we were travelling around Austria and Switzerland, and our budget was limited, Craig suggested Engleberg was our best chance of snow given its altitude as it is usually one of the first resorts in the Alps to get snow from the north or north-west. Engelberg is surrounded by major mountain summits, the most imposing being Mount Titlis to the south standing at 3,238 metres above sea level with the majority of ski terrain above 2000 metres. With heaps of runs and stacks of off-piste options, there’s plenty of room for skiing, snowboarding and sledding.
Originally famed for its Benedictine monastery founded in 1120, Engleberg later emerged as an internationally known mountain resort from the 19th Century onwards. With that said, despite its proximity to Zurich (less than two hours away by train) and Lucerne, Engelberg is not as well-known as other Swiss resorts but it can certainly hold its own with regards to the facilities on offer. Indeed, amongst dedicated powderhounds it is considered to be one of the top freeride destinations in the world. Asides from downhill, there are plenty of cross-country ski tracks and an indoor and outdoor ice-skating rink.
Where to Stay
Thanks to Craig at Helloworld Kawana we had a truly stunning, fully equipped apartment less than a couple of hundred metres from the ski lift. It was an amazing property equipped with the expected drying rooms (for snow gear) but also a day spa including a sauna, steam bath, sound wave solo pool and multi-sensory shower. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we could afford it but Craig somehow managed to get an incredible deal for us. How good? 7 nights accommodation with lift passes and gear hire for the duration all for under $1200 per person a week out from Christmas. It’s mind boggling how good a deal that is.
How to get there
Engelberg is connected to Zurich, Lucerne and the rest of Switzerland by the wonderful Swiss railway system, making it the recommended mode of transport to the ski area.
The main international gateway airport is Zurich, which is only 85km north of the town (just under two hours by train). The closest city is Lucerne, 35km to the south (about 50 minutes by train). Trains leave every hour to the various cities within Switzerland.
Less than an hour by train is the beautiful compact city of Lucerne. Known for its preserved medieval architecture, Lucerne sits amid snowcapped mountains on Lake Lucerne. Its colorful Altstadt (Old Town) is bordered on the north by 870m Museggmauer (Musegg Wall), a 14-century rampart. The covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), made entirely of wood was built in 1333 and links the Aldstadt to the Reuss River’s right bank. It is nothing short of breathtaking to see, especially in winter with a dusting of snow. As for the Christmas markets, our favourite, they are out of this world, and this dad certainly loves the beer.
A further hour along the train is the city of Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city. It is among the world’s largest financial centres, with the city home to many financial institutions and banking companies but it is the way it has beautifully blended all the modern amenities of a cosmopolitan metropolis, without sacrificing its natural side. Indeed, Zurich has for many years ranked among the world’s top cities in terms of quality of life. It is a boutique city that offers everything that implies, albeit in small and exquisite format.