Resort Profile: Mürren

By adamrowden, 13 Dec '12 at 09:59

Located amidst some of the world's most spectacular scenery, Mürren is a charming little village that has managed to escape over-development despite being famous in the history of winter sports since the very start of downhill skiing. The first Alpine Ski World Championships were staged here in 1931 by the Ski Club of Great Britain and three years before that the first Inferno race, believed to be the longest downhill race in the world attracting around 1,500 skiers every January. And, it also remains the home of the world's oldest ski race, The Scaramanga.

Located at one end of the legendary Jungfrau region, on the same lift pass as Wengen and Grindelwald although not linked to them by ski piste (you can however get across by a wonderful, century-old mountain railway). Among its many claims to fame, early mention must be made of the revolving restaurant perched on top of the Schilthorn mountain, also known as 'Piz Gloria' (2970m / 9750ft) with incredible views all around. The panorama from here includes Mont Blanc on the French - Italian border, the German Black Forest as well as the local peaks of the Eiger, Mürren and Jungfrau. Solar powered and seating up to 340 diners it revolves once per hour and was made famous world-wide in the James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Mürren is a car-free village, like Wengen, any drivers must park their cars in one of the large valley car parks below and take the cable cars or funicular railway up to the resort. The absence of petrol/gas burning vehicles enhances still further the natural beauty of the place, bringing true tranquility and mountain air as pure as it can be.

On the Slopes

If you are a speed demon then you will be pleased to know that Mürren is home to the world's longest downhill - 8 miles long, and about 2500m of vertical descent! Start at the very top at the Schilthorn, ski into the Engental, take the high path on the left 1/3 of the way down. Go all the way down to the Kandahar chair, then down to the Kanonenrohr, and then hard left through the trees after the hut on the spine. You need your speed here or else you will have to either walk to the top of the Maulerhubel chair, or go to the bottom and take it back up. Then all the way down Winteregg. Just after the chair cross the bridge on the right, and go left at the end. This will take you all the way down to Lauterbrunnen, conditions permitting.

If you have a screw loose and moguls are your thing, then you should know that there are three main mogul runs, none of which are ever pisted, so they tend to be the most amazing powder runs after fresh snowfall, and then gradually become bump runs: Top section of the Schilthorn piste (very steep, and huge bumps), Kanonenrohr, and Kandahar (all 3 are blacks).

The snowpark is near the Schiltgrat chair. It has a halfpipe, jumps, quarterpipe, some obstacles plus a bar (Aquarium Bar).

Off-Piste

Off-piste skiing in Mürren is not something that you need to be given directions to find. It is because there are so few pistes and lifts (as well as the much smaller numbers of Billies and locals) that there is so much powder skiing in Mürren, and that one can get freshies over a week after snowfall. Every single lift will have powder snow next to, or underneath it, and most pistes will have tree-runs somewhere on the way down. However, there are a few lines of note.

Schilthorn (Piz Gloria) - This is the top of the resort and can only be reached by cable car. You can climb over the north side of the heli-pad at the back, and traverse down the north-eastern face until you can drop into the east bowl. This is rarely ridden and allows you to rejoin the start of the Engental piste. Be wary of snow conditions though - too little and the rocks will trash your gear, and more than a few people have been caught in slides after not checking with the pisteurs.

There are two other amazing runs from the top, both of which really need a guide for safety, not least because they come out in totally different valleys. There is a fabulous decent through the northerly valley that takes about half a day (and another half-day to get back), and a run down the south-eastern flank of the mountain, much like the "baker's run" in Courchevel.

Birg - Engental - Engental means narrow valley - which isn't really true here. There is a piste down the valley floor which is about 2000m long, but rising either side of the piste all the way down are unpisted slopes that can be accessed by the paths that lead to or from the main piste. About 400m of vertical just about anywhere you choose to take it, with quite an exciting decent right next to the T-bar.

Tschingelkrache - Not for the faint-hearted. Go almost to the bottom of the Muttleren chair, but stop about 100m short. The boundary should be roped off to your right. Go under the ropes and head for the rocks, which should be towering about 250m above you (do not do this in poor vis or bad conditions as if you are too far to the left in the traverse you'll end up needing a parachute). Pick your way through the rocks keeping the cliffs above you on the right. When you get to the clear, traverse to the right until you like the look of your line and just go!

Blümlilöke - Take the Schiltgrat chair, and at the top start hiking up, keeping the summit on your right. After about 10mins you'll see a saddle about 200m away, up on your right. Once there, you can either traverse left all the way into the middle of the bowl, or just bomb straight down. Be wary of conditions.

Spielboden - Take the Gimmeln T-bar and exit left. Follow the path for about 100m until it comes to a U-turn. There may be a 'warning' sign here. Don't complete the hairpin, but dive off half way round. Stay high once you hit the farm if you want to avoid a big push-out at the end.

Most of the slopes in Mürren are quite steep, and many are meadows as well, so always check with the pisteurs beforehand. They all love their powder, and will be perfectly straight with you.

Living in Resort

It makes no difference where you live in Mürren - everything is no more than 20 minutes walk from anything else. Most of the village is about 300 metres from somewhere to get onto the mountain, and the roads are almost permanently covered with snow, so you can ski down or along them to the nearest lifts. You might want to stay away from Gimmelwald, a village half way up the cable car to Murren that's a bit cheaper to stay in (just houses though). However, even if you do end up there, you can take the cable car up until around midnight, and it's a wicked toboggan ride back down

Bars and Clubs
Swiss bars are probably cheaper than French ones, although the clubs can be a bit more expensive (since entry charges were scrapped two years ago). However, drinks are almost always "free-poured" and staff are very quick to sort out mates, regulars, and those out on a serious session. Everything in Mürren can be found either on the lower road or on the upper road.

Regine Hotel Bar - Lower Road - This is the village's youth/backpacker/budget type hotel: The bar is not the plushest place on earth, but the drinks are very cheap and it is a great place to start off the night. Occasional parties are thrown here as well.

Belmont (Eiger Guest House) Pub - Lower Road (opposite train station)
This small and cosy pub is run by a legendary Scot called Allan. The beer is cheap, and it has the added bonus of pool, table footie, and darts.

Stäger Stübli - Lower Road - This locals' boozing and eating joint undoubtedly has the best atmosphere in the village, and is a great place to go if the weather or hang-over is so bad that the slopes don't persuade.

Balloon Bar - Upper Road - Nicest trendy-type bar in the village: The actual 'bar' is in a hot-air balloon basket - perfect for a chill-out treat.

Tächi Bar - Upper Road - Usually has a DJ or a band, but inside a smart hotel so only good for warm up drinks until midnight-ish; then it's time to move on!

Inferno Bar - Upper Road - This is a Europop Mecca (the DJ booth really is a pink neon Cadillac). Big comfy banquettes all round, even bigger beers, fiery shooters and cocktails - huge headache potential here.

Blümli Chäller - Lower Road - Definitely the last stop of the night: very amusing club with low-rent music; the greatest place on earth if you're drunk enough to appreciate it. Usually shuts between 5 and 6am

Eating Out
Most places are good fun and reasonable, although many of the restaurants are in the hotels - just stay way from the smarter ones! The Stäger Stübli wins hands down as ever, but there is a little Oriental take-away, and the Sports Centre has got a pretty cool place to eat.

Mountain Restaurants
All the restaurants are pretty good. It's Switzerland, so you can drink the water at all of them, as well as go to the loo for free. Best one is the Schilthorn Hütte, at the top of the Kandahar chairlift, although the revolving restaurant on Piz Gloria is worth checking out for the views. Best food is at Gimmelen, and there is an ice bar at Sonnenberg. In blizzards and white outs go to the Suppenalp pension (bottom of the Hindenburg run).

Away Days
There is quite a bit to do other than ski on those really horrible days. Mürren has a huge sports centre that has a massive pool, spa, sauna, basketball courts, squash courts, sun-beds, spa and lots more. Ice rink (and curling!) can be a giggle now and then as well - Ice Hockey on certain nights every week.

Wengen and Grindelwald are included within your ski-pass as part of the Jungfrau Region: It probably takes about 50mins by train to get to either, but you can do as many days as like. Both these resorts are quite famous, with good long runs, more bars, and clothes shops for the girls. Gstaad is down the next big valley, and getting there takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, but gives you access to the whole of the Gstaad/Chateau D'Oex 'Super Ski Region'.

Transfer Day
Again, the lack of tour operators means that transfer days aren't really an issue. Furthermore, Swiss trains actually work: most guests will take the train all the way - the furthest that one might have to go is Interlaken (1 hour away), to pick the billies up from the train station.

Thanks to Julian Hill-Landolt for comprising the majority of this article.

For more resort profiles click here. Or, to find a good transfer company to take you to Mürren click here.

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