When the winter months arrive, and mini-breaks to beaches become an implausible option, then the best gay vacays to be had are hurtling down a mountain. Yes, skiing holidays remain a popular getaway, as snow bunnies head to higher altitudes to bomb down mountains, strapped into wood and wrapped up in Lycra. Sounds ideal.
But if Courchevel has lost its appeal, and St Moritz is feeling a bit overcrowded, then the idyllic Swiss town of Adelboden may be just what you’re looking for. Not an especially gay travel destination, the core elements of gay travel are there if you look for them: luxurious spas, 4-star hotels, great food, plenty of apres ski indulgence, and incredible scenery that will take your breath away, whether you’re skiing down it or not.
We travelled to Adelboden from London City Airport, flying with the small yet comfortable Skywork, who operate two flights daily from LCY to Berne-Belp (return flights cost from £190). We stayed at the insanely beautiful and luxurious four star plus Parkhotel Bellevue & Spa in the heart of the resort (room rates start from £115 per person sharing a double room on a half board basis).
Nestled in the heart of the Bernese Oberland, Adelboden-Frutigen captures the true Alpine culture and is host to a wide array of snowsports, as well as plenty of indulgent pampering.The Engstligen Valley was the home of the very first British package ski holiday, dating back to the 1930s. It is now the home of the Ski World Cup, with runs suitable for every level of skier, including the wobbly “get down a mountain without dying” kind such as myself. Coming about as close to traditional Swiss cabins as you can get, the village is built almost entirely in chalet style, and the long main street is lined with shops housed in chalets. Fairly compact, there is some effort required in getting to and from the slopes, but there are buses to the satellite ski areas of Engstligenalp and Elsigen-Metsch.
Travelling to Adelboden
The small Swiss-German town’s biggest drawback is also, quite possibly, its biggest strength. Unlike larger ski resorts and busier winter destinations, there are no direct flights or large-scale transfers in place. The closest city you could fly into would be Bern, which is then roughly 45 minutes from the town by car. However, this being Switzerland and all, public transport is impeccable, and the trains run like clockwork (not surprisingly so). You can easily hop on a train to Frutigen and catch a connecting bus that will take you straight into Adelboden; a town which can then be easily navigated on foot.
While Adelboden is apparently equally beautiful and popular during its summer months, the main reason most international tourists will be heading there is the skiing. There are seven ski sub-regions accessible from Adelboden, all with really long and very German sounding names. You can now ski in all of these sub-regions with one ski pass and by paying one tariff:
Adelboden-Lenk is one of the largest snow sports regions in Switzerland, with over 210 km (130 miles) of international-standard pistes, boasting guaranteed snow on 60% of the main areas. Now I’m not much of a skier but the conditions were amazing. And while the different areas were spread out over some distance, each location offered a good variety of runs on beautiful snow-kissed mountains.
It didn’t hurt that we were insanely lucky with our weather when we went towards the end of January, just before the start of the peak skiing season. The snow was soft and plentiful, and the skies were bright and blue.
Things to do (other than skiing)
Skiing isn’t the only thing that makes a great skiing holiday, and this quaint little Swiss village offers plenty of other ways to spend your time if your ski boots start to chafe.
Ok, it’s pretty close to skiing, but comes without any requirement of skill or self-control. After spending days attempting to perfect my snowplough, a morning spent bombing down a mountain on a cannibalised single-ski with a bicycle seat was just what I need to vent my frustrations. SchlittelPark has 14 km of sledge runs that criss-cross Tschentenalp. And as you pause to catch your breath and clear out the kicked-up snow from your beard, the “Mountain of Views” is true to its name, with some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen.
Leisure and Sports Arena
If the weather lets you down, you can keep active while indoors. The Leisure and Sports Arena Adelboden offers ten-pin bowling, ice skating, ice hockey, curling and climbing/bouldering. A cheesy alternative but still a fun day if skiing isn’t an option.
Eating an entire bucket of melted cheese would be frowned upon at home, but when skiing it’s more than acceptable, some would say even a prerequisite of a good trip. With several dining rooms each decorated in a different motif, hand-carved out of the man-made igloo, this is a must-see during your stay. Whether a romantic candlelit dinner for two or a pack of your closest mates, I’d definitely recommend a rendez-vous with some fondue in an igloo.
Let’s face it, after skiing, the best reason to go to a mountain resort is the spa. Parkhotel Bellevue & Spa Adelboden is not only a modern and luxurious hotel, they also offer a wide range of spa treatments at not ridiculous prices. If you’re a guest of the hotel, you can enjoy the spa facilities without charge, such as the Turkish spa, the pool, and (most impressively) the incredible outdoor hot tub.
Seriously, watching the sun set over the Alps while bubbles massage your butt and snowflakes land on your nose. You couldn’t craft a more fairy-tale setting.
If you’re not a guest of the hotel, you can obtain a day pass and make full use of the luxurious facilities. Have a swim, a steam, and then soak up the stunning view. You deserve it.
So for a classier trip to the pistes, consider the perfect little slice of Swissness that is Adelboden. You can find more information about Adelboden on their website, or feel free to tweet me with questions about my trip!