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Eight new experiences in the Swiss Alps for winter 2021

The Swiss Alps have rolled out the white carpet for another season, and with a string of new openings and experiences, there’s never been a better time to hit the mountains. 

Published 16 Oct 2021, 06:00 BST, Updated 18 Oct 2021, 11:14 BST
The infinity pool at the Kempinski Palace Engelberg is particularly breathtking.

The infinity pool at the Kempinski Palace Engelberg is particularly breathtking.

Photograph by Reinhard Westphal

1. Walk tall

The world’s longest elevated forest walkway (nearly a mile long) opened this summer in the ski resort of Laax and will stay open for visitors this winter. The Senda dil Dragun (literaly ‘path of the dragon’) snakes through the treetops between the main Laax Murschetg village, near the gondola station, and the relaxed Laax Dorf, reaching heights of nearly 100ft. Built from local timber and with regular viewing platforms, it’s reached by lifts at each end, although the 240ft spiral slide is restricted to summer only. From £12.

2. Behind closed doors

New restaurant Le 22 is essentially a chef’s table for, as the name suggests, 22 guests, hidden behind a discreet door. Chef Adam Bateman, who worked with Raymond Blanc at Oxfordshire’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, draws on his experience at Richard Branson’s super luxury Verbier retreat The Lodge. He rather understatedly promises a ‘semi-gastro’ meal, something that in reality is a five-course evening event — although at the decidedly reasonable price of £60.

3. A grand spot

Lie back in the Kempinski Palace Engelberg’s top floor spa and enjoy the grandeur of the mountains through the glass wall and ceiling. The belle époque hotel first opened its doors in 1904 (and is said to have been Switzerland’s first building with central heating) and reopened this summer after a five-year restoration and expansion. It’s not just the spa with stellar views; grand, mountain-backed panoramas abound, and it’s only a stroll from the Brunnibahn gondola. From £465, B&B.

4. Water feature

Not all mountain lifts are about skiing: some are simply there for the views. This winter, two funiculars — Monte Brè and Monte San Salvatore — in Lugano will open on select days for snowy, 3,000ft views across the vast, peak-fringed Lake Lugano, as well as the ornate city of Lugano itself, with its Italianate architecture. £20 and £24 respectively, or half-price with the Swiss Travel Pass.ticino.ch

5. Wheel of fortune

The town of Andermatt is at the forefront of electric fun with its e-quad bike hire. Now, rental of the vehicles is being extended through the winter. You don’t quite get the freedom of the pistes, but you can race off on a circuit via neighbouring Hospental, promising plenty of environmentally friendly fun. Riders must be 18 or over and have a valid driving licence. It costs £63 an hour — and you can’t be late back because that’s roughly how long the battery lasts.

6. Dive time

The north face of the Eiger is one of the sheerest, most daunting mountain faces in the region — but you no longer need to don your crampons to enjoy its imposing majesty. Skydive Interlaken offers the chance to a leap from a helicopter at 14,500ft (with an instructor), before free-falling for 45 seconds beside the face until the parachute opens at 5,500ft. From there, it’s a more serene drift down to solid ground. Flights from Interlaken and Grindelwald start with a scenic look at the Eiger, plus the Mönch and Jungfrau, both peaks topping 13,000ft. From £540.

7. Hot tub heaven

Sail the chilly waters of Lake Brienz, one of Interlaken’s twin lakes, in the warm waters of your private HotTug. Somewhere between a whirlpool bath and a tugboat, these vessels are a unique way to admire Grindelwald’s snowy peaks. Guests are in control of the boat and the wood-fired stove themselves, and there’s even Prosecco on offer, too. Boats can fit up to six people. £140 for two people, with sessions lasting 90 minutes.

8. Stay in style

Alpine Design Resort Bergwelt Grindelwald cocoons a contemporary hotel in a traditional chalet-style building in the shadow of the Eiger. The decor melds bold colours with solid timber, and there’s plenty to keep gourmets entertained, too: BG’s Grill is a ‘fine dining sharing experience’ from Austrian chef Marcus G Lindner, afternoon tea is served in The Lobby, while The Other Club cigar bar celebrates Winston Churchill, who climbed the nearby Wetterhorn in 1894. From £295, B&B.

Published in the November issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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