There’s more to sledging in Grindelwald than meets the eye…
The next time you visit a mountain restaurant in the Alps you might notice a giant sledge lying around. In Switzerland these are called “Horischlitten” and were used for transporting heavy cargo, especially wood.
During the summer, mountain farmers would fell trees, chop them into fire wood, stack the wood neatly and cover it to keep dry. Then they would wait for the winter snow. They would return to the forest with their “Horischlitten” and load it with the wood for transporting to the farm. In Grindelwald they have another use for these contraptions, they use them as toboggans!
Imagine a rugged mountain man sporting a full-on beard, felt hat rammed down on his head and pipe clamped firmly between his teeth, hurtling down the mountain with laid back nonchalance. He manoeuvres his enormous sledge with dexterity and skill, all the time gathering the momentum, along with all his competitors, of a Swiss freight train.
This is the annual “Horischlittenrennen” event. A toboggan race which takes place at the beginning of March each year. And it’s an incredible spectacle from start to finish bringing a genuine festival spirit to the resort.
Why not give this fun sport a try? Small purpose built wooden sledges are available to rent at many of the ski hire shops around the resort. Sledges are easy to control and exhilarating to ride.
The Jungfrau region is a tobogganing “Mecca”. There are eight especially pisted sledge routes across the whole area including the 15km long Faulhorn route – the longest in the world.
There’s also the famous flood-lit Eiger run. Enjoy the unique experience of tobogganing under a star lit sky with Grindelwald illuminated in the valley below. Listen to the silence of the mountain and the swish of the snow under the runners… winter magic.
Once you have mastered the art of sledging, you could try your hand at the Velogemel. The velogemel is exclusive to Grindelwald. It was invented 100 years ago by a local called Christian Bühlmann to help him commute to work in the deep snow.
Velogemel translates roughly as bike sledge. And that’s exactly what it is. It has a wooden frame with two runners steered at the front by handlebars. Velogemels are used on the sledging runs and the annual Velogemel World Championships have been held in Grindelwald since 1996.
There’s more than one way to get down the slopes, you’re not limited to your skis and your board. Next time you’re in Grindelwald why not try sledging instead.