What I’ve learned from half a century of skiing – and why it’ll never be quite like the heyday of the 60s

Strengthening of attractiveness

Then: January 1965

At 22, I would never have traded the village pub crawl – though tame half a century ago before the extravagance of the Folie Douce reached the Alps – for the most top of Europe. When I first started in Grindelwald, this engineering marvel had been drawing crowds since it opened in 1912. The 9km track runs from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch, the 3,454m saddle between the Jungfrau and the Mönch mountains. Due to the altitude and extreme weather conditions, it passes through a tunnel behind the Eiger face. At the two stops along the way, tourists, mostly Japanese, lined up to admire the icy void through windows in the rock. At the top, they climbed to the viewing platform above the Aletsch Glacier, then a twisting river of ice of crevasses and seracs.

Now: January 2022

Today, three million visitors a year make their way to this mountain, their travel time being reduced by taking the Eiger Express to Eigergletscher and then changing to the historic train. The ice of the glacier is sadly reduced, but we joined them for the ritual thrill in the ice palace, the quick coffee and the flood of complaints against the bitter winds. Back at the Terminal, they raced to rival local attractions: 007’s revolving restaurant at Piz Gloria in Murren and the Reichenbach Falls near Meiringen where Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty fought.

Mass tourism is the wealth of Grindelwald, but no one is forced to get off at the Terminal: the village station is three minutes away at the end of the line. From there, halfway up the main ski lift, I revisited the Hotel Belvedere, founded by the Hauser family in 1909. No ghosts of 20th-century ski pioneers on the steps, no trace of popular cars in non-tinted hues. commercial buried in the parking lot, but welcome memories back in the day. And, now, a wellness center.

About George Dailey

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