Schilthorn Piz Gloria is unique among ski destinations. Not actually for the opportunity to ski in the schuss steps of 007 – ski sequences became a must for Bond movies ever since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed here 50 years ago – but for the beyond-magnificent scenery and more, as Bronwen Gora reports.
Schilthorn is one mountain that embodies the quintessential European ski experience. While the Alps are known for spectacular scenery, no other resorts quite match the scenery captured from the Schilthorn’s slopes. Not one but three of the world’s most iconic peaks – the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch – dominate the panorama which stretches as far as Mont Blanc.
Also utterly unique is Schilthorn’s crowning glory, Piz Gloria, the world’s first mountain-top revolving restaurant spectacularly perched on its 2970 metre summit. The dazzling 360-degree vistas taking in the Bernese Alps to Mont Blanc and across the Mittelland to the Black Forest. All the views are visible from every seat as you do each 55 minute revolution enjoying the famous Bond Brunch.
Schilthorn Piz Gloria ski options
Schilthorn Piz Gloria has a base area that’s quite extraordinary too. Most skiers take the train from the nearby town of Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, a village sitting at 800 metres in one of the European Alp’s deepest valleys between soaring, perpendicular limestone precipices. These towering edifices are streaked with numerous waterfalls, some frozen in winter and cascading in summer down faces so precipitous the water turns spray well before reaching the valley. The most famous is the 270 metre-high Staubach Falls, the highest waterfall in Switzerland.
It’s possible to reach the slopes by taking the Lauterbrunnen-Grutschalp cable car lift next to the train station, though most people catch a Post bus from Lauterbrunnen over to the nearby Stechelberg base station. From here four consecutive cable cars travel over Gimmelwald, Murren and Birg to the Schilthorn’s 2970 metre high summit.
Much of Schilthorn Piz Gloria skiing takes place above and around the charming rustic village of Murren, which sits at 1650 metres on an expansive rock shelf.
The mostly sunny terrain offers runs for all levels and it’s easy to navigate around the connected areas – Schiltgrat, Allmendhubel and Maulterhubel, and Birg just below the summit. From the summit to Murren is 1300 metres vertical though during good seasons it’s possible to ski the full 2175 metres vertical to Lauterbrunnen, a run of almost 16 kilometres. Each January the world’s longest amateur downhill race, The Inferno Murren, is held here.
Not surprisingly, the main run directly beneath the Schilthorn’s top station is graded experts only. The Steilste – it means The Steepest – sounds fearsome too. It does reach a 35° pitch, but in reality though a competent intermediate should easily handle this steep pitch whenever it’s smoothly groomed. If it’s a sheet of ice/frozen corduroy no shame in taking the cable car back to the lower station either.
The run soon becomes flat allowing skiers to focus on the magnificent scenery while blissfully gliding along. We found this one of the Schilthorn’s most enjoyable sections for drinking in the surrounds.
While the more aggressive advanced skiers sought out the mogul runs around Birg and Schiltgrat we enjoyed poking around on the blue runs below Birg using the Riggli chair, swooping down nice easy cruisers and the long pleasant slope to the Winteregg chairlift.
Piz Gloria Bond World 007
The ground floor contains the highly entertaining Bond World 007, a collection of memorabilia and theme experiences from the 1969 movie. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starred Schilthorn Piz Gloria as the villain Blofeld’s ultimate lair (more about that later).
George Lazenby starred in the lead role, which remains arguably the greatest actor’s one hit wonder of all time.
Make sure you start early so you can spend a good part of your day at Piz Gloria, drinking in the view, feasting on a full menu from hamburgers (with buns bearing the 007 logo) to a delicious full buffet, take a selfie with the life-size cut-out of the Aussie Bond George Lazenby and then peruse the Bond World 007 exhibit.
As crazy as it sounds, this exhibit is a wonderful diversion. Sit in the body of a helicopter and pretend to ‘fly’ up the Schilthorn, climb into the original bobsled used in the movie and read the story behind the making of the film while perusing the many artefacts.
One that caught my eye was the bra encased along with much other memorabilia inside a glass-topped table. The card alongside it explained that it was a reference to the many romances that blossomed when the OHMSS movie crew took up residence for a lengthy period in Murren – a period of time that resulted in a mini-baby boom about nine months later.
It’s rare that we talk about the bathrooms in a ski story, too, but in Piz Gloria they’re included in the fun. Filled with special effects, the sink mirrors ‘shatter’ as if struck by bullets and an audio of classic James Bond lines amuses those in the cubicles.
Rest assured, this is one ski destination you will never forget. Along with it’s Jungfrau Region neighbours it offers huge variety as well.
Where to stay for Schilthorn Piz Gloria
The closest option is at picturesque Murren, an exclusive little village perched on a ledge above the Lauterbrunnen valley.
Lauterbrunnen is another option, and for a day trip it is easily visited (using a Junfgrau all area pass) from Wengen or Grindelwald
Staying in Interlaken is a good option too, thanks to the excellent Swiss Transport System train and post bus network.
More info/timetables on the official website here
Interlaken information here
Swiss Tourism are a great source of info, follow the links here for the latest news.