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The Great Beyond: Enchanted Engelberg

The Great Beyond: Enchanted Engelberg

By Nathaniel Reade
posted: 11/01/1999

When we got off the train in Engelberg, we were greeted by a foot of puffy new snow, high-school kids carrying snowboards, parents with sleds and day-tripping senior citizens in ski boots. While foreigners flock to St. Moritz and Grindelwald, the Swiss, armed with train cards, head for Engelberg. With the resort 2 easy hours by train from Zurich, an hour from Bern and Basel and just 30 minutes from Luzerne, Engelberg is, in the minds of the Swiss, perfectly located. Which is convenient for the non-Swiss as well; you can fly into Zurich in the morning, take a train from the airport without having to even think about cars, and be skiing by 1 pm.

But convenience is not Engelberg's only asset. One of the oldest villages in Switzerland (its Benedictine monastery was founded in 1120), Engelberg today boasts four-star hotels, rocking bars and posh, intimate restaurants. Two mountain ranges¿Titlis to the south and Brunni to the north¿enclose a town that is both cosmopolitan and friendly. Titlis is a huge mountain¿more than 10,000 feet¿that provides an ear-popping 6,000 feet of vertical descent. On the lower third, the Kannonenroh Trail, which roughly translates to "roar of the cannons," resembles a halfpipe: It is a long, winding, narrow run through forested glades, offering amazing vistas of the village below. But it's the wide-open snowfields and glacier that have made Titlis a haven for tele-skiers, off-piste skiers and freeskiing extremists.

Engelberg has the biggest telemark club in Switzerland. In 1998 two male and two female Engelbergers medaled at the Telemark World Cup.

The Brunni side, meanwhile, which starts from a tram base tucked between shops and chalets just behind the village's main street, is perfect for beginners and intermediates. From there one heads straight up through forests and over cliffs to a stucco-sided chalet-restaurant, a triple chair and wide-open runs between stunted trees and clumps of rock.

At the end of the day, follow a twisty, turny, through-the-backyards trail, past hausfraus in Tyrolian hats digging out the steep stairs of their chalets, directly to the door of your hotel.

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