Never mind the skiing: Switzerland’s Grindelwald has a winter alternative that’s a blast for the family – Velogemel ‘snow-bikes’ (which have no brakes!)
- Jo Kessel and her children wanted a winter snow holiday with a difference
- They tried out the Swiss village of Grindelwald, and its amazing snow-bikes
- Their cosy hotel, the Belvedere, sits in a pretty valley beside a trio of peaks
My three children and I are perched at the crest of a snowy path, straddling odd wooden contraptions.
They resemble bicycles, only they have skis for wheels and no brakes. Meet the velogemel, a snow-bike that is indigenous to the Swiss village of Grindelwald.
Whizz kids: Jo and her children get ready to ride the slopes on their velogemels
The children point theirs downhill and whizz off. I’m more tentative. ‘Use your feet to brake,’ I shriek, as I gather speed. They ignore me. The path flattens. We slow, then repeat the circuit.
The velogemel isn’t the only unique thing about Grindelwald, a storybook alpine village in the Bernese Oberland.
Here, soup is served in a bowl made of bread and transport is novel, too. Along with gondolas and chairlifts there’s an olde-worlde cog railway to ferry skiers.
Pretty as a picture: The Alpine village of Grindelwald illuminated at night
Even our hotel, The Belvedere, is one of a kind with its pink Belle Epoque facade. Owned by the Hauser family for more than a century, it has 57 rooms, of which seven are suites. Ours connects with a smaller bedroom for the children and has panoramic views from the balcony.
Grindelwald sits in a valley overlooked by a trio of magnificent peaks and we can see all three: the Jungfrau, the Monch and the Eiger.
The Hausers are refreshingly hands-on and, after dropping our velogemels (£10 a day to rent) back at the train station, we meet up with Urs Hauser who takes us curling. We head to the village ice rink to learn how to throw 40lb granite stones and sweep the ice to help them travel.
Forever blowing bubbles: Grindelwald’s Hotel Belvedere has an outdoor Jacuzzi
It’s harder than it looks and, when we play a friendly USA v UK match with an American family, we lose 2-0.
Dinner makes up for our defeat. The resident chef is a genius — his fondue cheese sauce is laced with kirsch. When we’re not enjoying the Belvedere’s large indoor pool and outdoor saltwater Jacuzzi, we explore First, Grindelwald’s nearest ski resort.
Ten year-old Hannah likes the Snow Fun Park’s kamikaze ski jumps, while my husband Marc prefers the Schreckfeld restaurant above the valley.
Twins Nathalie and Gabriel, 13, are partial to the Grindel black ski run. But the piece de resistance is the speed gun at the top of the Oberjoch chairlift — because I clock a winning 54kph.
Travel Facts: Plan your own Swiss ski break
The Hotel Belvedere Grindelwald (belvedere-grindelwald.ch, 0041 33 888 99 99) offers a seven-night break from £1,164 pp half-board, including a six-day ski pass and spa use. Under-11s share parents’ room for free. Ski passes free for under-6s.
EasyJet (easyjet.com) has return fares to Zurich from £50. Return fares from Zurich airport to Grindelwald with Swiss Travel System (swisstravelsystem.co.uk) from £94, under-16s free.
More info (myswitzerland.com).