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Going Euro: Engelberg

Features
posted: 04/05/2005

Top elevation: 9,934 feet
Vertical drop: 6,562 feet
Marked trails: 51 miles
Population: 3,935
Six-day ski pass: $219
More info: +41-41-639-77-77; engelberg.ch

The Resort: The signage in Engelberg's revolving Rotair cable car-written in exactly 13 languages-reveals that the town is something more than your standard winter resort. Indeed, wintertime in Engelberg is greatly overshadowed by summertime, when tourists from the world over get 360-degree views from atop 10,624-foot Mount Titlis. The seasonal imbalance explains, in part, how one of the Alps' oldest mountain resorts could have been "discovered" by pioneering freeskiers only eight or nine years ago. Word is spreading, gradually, of its charms: an 884-year-old Benedictine monastery, a skier's goat trail down the Steinberg Glacier, and Laub, a kilometer-wide, 3,000-vertical-foot wall that's quite possibly Europe's most perfect powder slope.

On-Piste: Engelberg's few groomed runs aren't spectacular, but the moderate pistes below Klein Titlis do take a turn for the steep (35-plus degrees) as you round the toothy spire of Rotstöckli. The pace lessens only slightly on the long descent to Trübsee, 4,029 feet below.

Off-Piste: The headlining route is the serac- jumping, crevasse-dodging 4,000-foot descent of the Steinberg Glacier. A guide or knowledgeable local is mandatory.

Aprés: Dani Friedl's Okay Telemark Shop is where locals and visiting ski bums congregate to watch ski movies, drink the local brew, Eichhof, and take advantage of the Internet terminals. Dance parties, populated by tourists and fueled by pricey drinks, rage nightly at the nearby Yucatan bar.

Shelter: Engelberg's youth hostel (from $34; familienherberge.ch) is ten minutes from the train station. Closer and classier is the art nouveau Hotel Europe (from $75; hoteleurope.ch), a hundred-year-old institution with large rooms and a giant breakfast buffet.

The Tip: Early in the Engelberg Monastery's 800-year history, the monks hit upon a righteous recipe for a mild-flavored cheese. Now the stuff is on display in a massive glass room. Buy a block, or try any number of cheese-inspired dishes-quiche, raclette, fondue-at the attached bistro (schaukaeserei-engelberg.ch).

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