Winter Adventures in the Aletsch Arena

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I’ve been having a hard time trying to figure out how to describe the indescribable in this post about our ski week getaway to the Aletsch Arena.  I will just say that if you have the chance you should absolutely go here and experience it, but I will try to put in words how magical this place was as best as I can.

I first saw a picture on Instagram of this tiny car-free village called Riederalp and with it’s wood chalets clinging to the side of the mountain and snow that looked like heaps of powdered sugar I added it to my mental bucket list of places I needed to visit.  Riederalp is connected to the other car free villages of Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp and this makes up what is known as the Aletsch Arena.  The towns all border the Aletsch Glacier, which is the largest glacier in Switzerland.  The Aletsch arena is great for skiing as you have access to 104 km of pistes, but it is also perfect for non-skiers because there are plenty of other winter pursuits to keep you entertained-snowshoeing, walking trails, sledding, ice skating.  Riederalp has been designated as a family friendly winter resort and the ski school has won awards as the best ski school for children in all of Switzerland.

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Before our trip I was stressed at the idea of getting two kids plus skis and all of our winter gear up the mountain, but I shouldn’t have worried-getting up to Riederalp was typically Swiss style efficient!  There is parking in the valley below and then you can rent a luggage trolley to help you load all of your stuff onto the cable car.  When you arrive at the top there is a handy phone to call your hotel where they will come and transport your luggage via snowmobile and trailer.  Couldn’t have been easier!

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We arrived to a picture perfect afternoon and after dropping off our stuff in our teeny, tiny hotel room we quickly realized that we needed to rent some sleds to transport the kids just like everyone else we saw with small children.  The kids were thrilled with their new mode of transport and we set out to explore the village a bit.

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Mason started out his daily ritual of napping in the sled as we walked around and afterwards we enjoyed some hot chocolates and apple strudel.  None of the menus were in English and we heard very little English during our stay, which we enjoyed because we felt like we were in a really authentic Swiss village!  At several of the restaurants we ate at no one spoke any English, but everyone was friendly and we managed just fine.  We loved this place because there was no glitz and glam like some of the other Swiss ski resorts (and virtually no night life to speak of), just lots of families enjoying the winter weather together.

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When we woke up on Friday morning unfortunately the weather had changed to light snow and a heavy fog…like so heavy you could hardly see your hand in front of your face.  And this was the day we had planned to go skiing!  Jonah had a 3 hour lesson, but it was just in the kid’s ski area so he was fine.  Lukasz and I had signed up for an hour long lesson and planned to ski on our own the other two hours while Mason was at creche.  However, I am not very confident in my ski abilities in good conditions let alone the kind where you can’t see anything so I decided to opt out and go to the spa!  It was a good morning for all though-Lukasz had a great lesson, Jonah had fun and loved all the activities they had at the ski school, and Mason had the creche all to himself while I enjoyed a couple of hours of relaxation.

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After a family rest time, Lukasz and Jonah headed out to sled for a bit before dinner.  Jonah was so young the last time he went sledding that he really didn’t remember it and he was so excited to sled-especially because his sled had a steering wheel.  Thankfully the fog had cleared a bit by evening so we could actually see where we were heading!

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For dinner we went over to Berghaus Toni, the hotel/restaurant that I had tried to book for our stay but sadly for us it was fully booked.  The place is run by an expat couple and the service was great, the menu varied, and the ‘icing on the cake’ for us was a cozy little corner with toys for the kids to play while we sat and enjoyed a drink in front of the fire.

On Saturday, we were happy that the fog had cleared but it was replaced with heavy snow that came down all.day.long.  We were not deterred though and decided to take a snow taxi to the neighboring village of Bettmeralp.  We had stopped at the tourist info center and they told us there was an indoor pool there which they recommended when the weather wasn’t great and there was also a popular sledding hill, so we decided to check it out!

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The boys were thrilled with the snow taxi and the pool was a bit chilly but it had a waterslide and there was a hot tub and two small kids pools, so it was a fun way to pass a couple of hours while watching the snow come down outside.

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We stopped at the picturesque sledding hill and had a great few runs before making the long trek back to our hotel.  Pulling two kids in sleds while walking through snow is hard work and despite our best efforts, Mason fell deeply asleep and proceeded to get covered in snow!  Hot chocolates (and coffee with Baileys for the parents) were much needed by the time we got back to our village.

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On Sunday we were thrilled to wake up to sun and just a few passing clouds because it was our last day and we had big plans to go up to the top to see the Aletsch Glacier.  We took the Moosfluh cable car up which was right in the village and once you are at the top you can return by cable car, ski, or hike down.  The nice lady at the tourism office told us that we could take the kids on sleds and in some of the steeper parts we just sled down with them if no one was around!

It was absolutely stunning at the top and we enjoyed every second of our two hour walk back to the village.  It was such a glorious day above the clouds and we really felt like we were on top of the world.  You could see the Matterhorn among the many other mountain peaks, which was awesome since it was our first glimpse of it in real life.

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The glacier was so impressive-it looks like a highway of ice and snow and it was nice to see it from different vantage points along the way.

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We had such an amazing time on this trip and the scenery was absolutely breath-taking.  I loved sledding with the boys through the still nights on our way home from dinner, snow ball fights, and just slowing down to enjoy winter with as much enthusiasm as our children.  If we could change anything, we would have rather stayed in one of the many gorgeous chalets to have more space and most especially to have a kitchen.  It is Switzerland and a car-free village at that, so restaurant pricing was sky high.  There is a grocery store in town, so we stocked up on snacks and had breakfast provided by the hotel at least.  The chalets generally rent on a week long basis and we only spent three nights.  Also, we noticed a huge difference in price between skiing in France and skiing in Switzerland and we were glad we had only planned for one day to ski on this trip!  I still can’t quite describe how magical this place was for us, but hopefully between my words and pictures I’ve come close!

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2 Comments

  1. I love this post! We’ve hiked here in summer but never been in winter. Now I feel like I have to go immediately!!! My favorite pic is your son asleep on the sled covered in snow. So sweet! Glad you had such a great time!

    Like

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