Sledging in Switzerland takes the humble toboggan experience next level. Downunder it’s usually left to casual snow visitors who don’t want and/or can’t afford to go skiing to just rent a basic plastic toboggan and go for a little slide on any patch of snow available. Or use a garbage bag. Even these spots are harder to find since the resorts got sick of people hurting themselves doing stupid things (funny, but several big people piling on top of each other out of control down an icy slope onto rocks/concrete is not actually a good idea). So now you see people going for a plastic toboggan slide off the side of roads in the Aussie snow anywhere they can. The skiers rush on by, why would would you bother?
But in Switzerland you would! Dedicated sledging trails run for many kilometres winding down thousands of vertical metres, for an experience that’s treated as serious fun. Sleds are part of life in many mountain areas, used to haul kids and stuff around in winter as a utilitarian tool that converts to a fun machine come sledging time.
The original style ubiquitous wooden sleds haven’t changed too much, probably lighter than 100 years ago but still they are solid, and if you lose it can give you a decent whack. Too decent for our litigious world, so you won’t see decent sleds downunder.
But there are also more modern incarnations, and at the bigger sledge rentals you can check out a range. Some they won’t let you rent without helmet and goggles and adequate shoes – subject to staff assessment of conditions. Boy/Girl racer tip – ask for a Sport-sledge Torggler. Two seaters are available for couples or taking a kid.
The sleds need be solid to go the distance at places like Grindelwald, which boasts Europe’s longest sledging run at 12.5km dropping some 1500 vertical metres. And the Swiss take their sledging fun seriously, and the concept of responsibility for your own actions lives on here.
You can ride the gondolas up to First at 2168m or take Mountain Bus line 126 up to Bussalp at 1800m. To get the full vertical it’s a solid hike and haul of the sled from either of those up to the peak of the Faulhorn at 2,681m. It’s a bit under 3 hours along what’s billed as the “most beatiful mountain footpath in the Alps”, and with an incredible panorama across to the North Face of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, who are we to argue? The scenic hike up let’s you tackle ‘Big Pintenfritz’, Der Hit 12.5km of scenic sledging bliss.
If you’re not up for the hike there are three great runs to choose from down from Bussalp. For non-stop sledge action, take the 8km City Run.
Or take the gentler Family Run, which alternates sledging and walking sections. There are mountain restaurants along the routes.
Or do them both – a day sledging ticket for the bus system is CHF 47 adults, or CHF 38 with a Swiss Pass, and only CHF 10 for kids. Note that doesn’t cover the night sledging.
Night sledging is only available on the Family Run, best done with fondue at the Bussalp restaurant and plenty of gluwhein. This needs to be pre-booked. The track is not lit, but on a starry night the stars are so bright here it’s pretty special – or of course with a big moon.
At lots of destinations acroos the Swiss Alps you can use the bus and rail system to access the sledging trails, and get day passes to do more laps. Everybody hops on the train or bus with their sled and no one thinks anything of it. For Grindelwald area just go to the Grindelwald Bus site for more details here.
The Swiss like to make a day of it, just like a day’s skiing. Or a night of it – sleding on a starry night with some gluwhein stops is pretty novel aprés ski/
Sledging Switzerland is a cheaper thrill than skiing, but one which provides similar benefits like enjoying the mangificent scenery and great outdoors. And the oppportunity to eat and drink along the way.
Of course it’s very popular with families – you can take a little child with you on your sled, or get them their own if they’re a big bigger. Also almost anyone can do it, you don’t need a lot of skills, and if it leads to spills in soft snow dust off and keep going.
In fact out skiing you often cross sledging tracks, so read the signs and pay attention, collecting a sledge would not be good for you or the sledger.
So give it a go next time you go to Switzerland. After all, when in Rome and all that – when in Switzerland, go sledging!