Sitting on a sunny shelf, Wengen shares a ski area with Grindelwald, and most of the slopes are above its neighbour, under the towering north face of the Eiger.
Until the early 20th century, Wengen was an Alpine farming community, and had been for centuries. Then intrepid British visitors started skiing here and persuaded the locals to keep the summer railway to the top of the mountain open in winter too. That way they would no longer have to walk up the mountain to ski down – and to celebrate formed the aptly named Downhill Only Club (DHO), which is still going strong today.
The resort has a large British presence, quite apart from the DHO, with many generations of the same family visiting year after year. There’s even an Anglican church known as the English Church.
Stay on track with the essential facts from the resort below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the pistes, expert ratings and advice. For further Wengen inspiration, see our guides to the resort's best accommodation, restaurants and après ski.
In this guide:
Inside the resort
Wengen is a charming village set on a shelf overlooking the Lauterbrunnen valley. For a resort that is so famous for the annual Lauberhorn World Cup downhill race, which takes place every January, it is remarkably small and one of the most quaint destinations in the Alps. The focus of the resort is on a short main street lined by shops and several large Victorian-style hotels.
Adding to its charm, the village is reached only by cog railway and is largely traffic-free, although there are electric vehicles run by hotels and a few petrol vehicles including taxis. The railway continues up the mountain, as one of the ski lifts. The alternative way up is by cable car, which has cabins with roof-top viewing platforms, from the centre of the main street.
The views from the ski area are a highlight, with the iconic Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains making a magnificent backdrop. For more far-reaching views, the railway continues above the ski area, through a tunnel in the Eiger to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe at 3,454m. On the way there are stops at two viewing galleries carved out of the sheer north face. The trip is not included on a lift pass - a return is CHF63 with a lift pass of three days or more – but on a clear day the views are some of the best in the world.
The local ski area has 103km of pistes. In total the Jungfrau lift pass covers 211km of pistes and is served by 45 lifts and covers the separate ski areas of Mürren (linked by cog railway and then cable car) and Grindelwald First (reached via Grindelwald village, where there’s a bus). The ski area suits intermediates best but the slopes in Mürren offer some challenges.
Après is quiet compared with other major Swiss resorts such as Verbier and Zermatt, but there are a few lively bars both on and off the mountain.
Wengen offers several family-friendly toboggan runs. The obvious one is the 4.5km run from Wengernalp, but there are also long runs from the top of the mountain towards Grindelwald. In the middle of the village there’s curling and outdoor skating.
On the slopes
From the village, Wengen’s local ski area is reached by a scenic 26-minute train ride to Kleine Scheidegg or a five-minute cable car ride to Männlichen. These peaks can also be reached from Grindelwald in the next valley and the two resorts share the 103km of pistes.
Most of the pistes are on the Grindelwald side, where the upper part of the mountain is well-served by fast chairlifts. Thanks to a 10-person gondola to Männlichen (2,229m), with a mid-station at Holenstein, and the Eiger Express, a 26-person cable car taking 15 minutes to reach Eiger Glacier station (2,328m) and carrying 2,200 passengers per hour, links from Grindelwald are speedy. The Männlichen gondola takes 19 minutes to climb 1,282m from Grindelwald to Männlichen, and carries 1,800 people per hour. It’s of course also possible to catch the train from Grindelwald up to Kleine Scheidegg and Eigergletscher too.
On the Wengen side there’s the chance to take a long run back to the village at the end of the day and despite Wengen’s relatively low altitude, with the village at 1,275m, the snow is usually fine, thanks to extensive snowmaking.
There’s a good beginner slope right in the middle of the village. The best long, gentle blue run to progress to is 22 down from Kleine Scheidegg towards Grindelwald but it can be very crowded. Blue run 2 from Männlichen starts with a long narrow traverse, crossing several red pistes, but then opens up into a lovely wide, gentle run that is usually quieter than run 22.
Most pistes in the Wengen/Grindelwald area are reds that deserve their grading and are ideal for confident intermediates.
The separate First area, reached by a free ski bus ride from the bottom of Grindelwald’s slopes, has lots of very easy blue runs – it’s well worth the journey for timid intermediates, who can take the train or gondola down to Grindelwald if they want to.
Experts will enjoy following the Lauberhorn downhill race course, black run 45. There are only two seriously steep sections and the rest is really of red run steepness. The other notably steep run here is black run 27 from Eigergletscher down to the Wixi chair – aptly named ‘Oh God’ by early British visitors.
There are other challenging slopes in Mürren, which is reached from Wengen by taking the train down to Lauterbrunnen, followed by a connecting cable car up and another train, which gives stunning views back over the valley to the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. The journey takes about 40 minutes to Winteregg, where the Mürren ski area starts.
The top part of Mürren’s ski area usually has excellent snow because of its altitude – the top is 2,970m, around 500m higher than the top of the shared Wengen/Grindelwald area. The top run of around 300m vertical is seriously steep but usually well groomed and so a great fast blast. The intermediate slopes below this are often covered with nicely packed powder.
Wengen itself doesn’t have a terrain park but there are good ones for all ability levels at First and Mürren. Both of Wengen’s ski schools have good reputations and lots of English-speaking instructors.
Who should go
Wengen’s design lends itself perfectly to families. It’s essentially car-free, and at its heart is a snow-covered field that serves as a combined playground and gentle nursery slope, plus there are several family-friendly toboggan runs, curling and outdoor skating. During the festive season the resort comes into its own, when the streets are decorated for Christmas. There are good beginner slopes and much of the ski area is ideal for confident intermediates.
Know before you go
British Embassy/Consulate: 00 31 359 77 00
Ambulance: dial 144
Police: dial 117
Fire: dial 118
Tourist office: See wengen.swiss, the website for the Wengen Tourist Board, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office in the centre of the village
Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
Telephone code: from abroad, dial 00 41, then leave off the zero at the start of the 10-figure number.
Time difference: +1 hour