Classics
9 min

ENGELBERG

The Angel mountain is a modern classic
Words by
Leslie Anthony
Photos by
M. Fredriksson & C. Sjöström
November 1, 2022

Cradled in central Switzerland, Engelberg — “Angel Mountain”—bristles with Swiss icons: a busy train station; a Dorf Strasse of neat, wood-shuttered hotels; chocolate, cheese, and watches galore; and a Benedictine Monastery founded in 1120 AD.

Although a trio of intrepid skiers crossed the lofty Jochpass from Meiringen to Engelberg in 1893, the resort’s birth was declared in January 1904, when someone first skied from the 3,240-metre summit of Titlis to the valley—a notable 2,000-metre descent on the equipment of the day and vanguard of those who would eventually flock to this long-underrated freeride aerie.

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Swiss cliffs are made for hucking. Baptiste Sjostrom takes the plunge. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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Swiss cliffs are made for hucking. Baptiste Sjostrom takes the plunge. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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Linus Archibald and one of our editors near the peak of Mount Titlis. Linus came to Engelberg as a ski bum about 15 years ago and never left. Today the sympathetic Swede is an aspirant mountain guide.

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Linus Archibald and one of our editors near the peak of Mount Titlis. Linus came to Engelberg as a ski bum about 15 years ago and never left. Today the sympathetic Swede is an aspirant mountain guide.

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Most of the best terrain in Engelberg is north facing, so Leoni Zopp came prepared to spend some quality time in the shadows. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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Most of the best terrain in Engelberg is north facing, so Leoni Zopp came prepared to spend some quality time in the shadows. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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Local Knowledge

Add glaciers, bowls, chutes, cliffs, and a wealth of secret stashes to the Titlis powder maker, and Engelberg offers a Russian doll of terrain for powder aficionados. As a result, after the global freeride cognoscenti discovered it in the mid-90s, they set up a permanent winter camp here. Still, it’s a big place with room to share:

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At the end of the valley, the historical village Engelberg is surrounded by jagged peaks and some of the best skiing in central Switzerland.

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At the end of the valley, the historical village Engelberg is surrounded by jagged peaks and some of the best skiing in central Switzerland.

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It’s not all shadows and glaciers. From time to time the south-facing Brunni ski area offers sunshine and powder. Leoni Zopp brought wide skis and sunscreen. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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It’s not all shadows and glaciers. From time to time the south-facing Brunni ski area offers sunshine and powder. Leoni Zopp brought wide skis and sunscreen. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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Laub is an old word for avalanche, but better recognized as one of the most iconic runs on the mountain. Laub is well-spotted from town, but not this day. Skier: Linus Archibald.

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Laub is an old word for avalanche, but better recognized as one of the most iconic runs on the mountain. Laub is well-spotted from town, but not this day. Skier: Linus Archibald.

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Eat, Drink and be Merry
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Leoni Zopp hanging out with the local’s at Ski Lodge Engelberg. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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Leoni Zopp hanging out with the local’s at Ski Lodge Engelberg. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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 Sleep 

After restoring a multi-story century house, Swedish ski-bum alumni Niklas Möller and Eric Spångberg opened Ski Lodge Engelberg in 2008 with little fanfare and instant success. The Bellevue-Terminus fronting the train station was renovated in 2011. The Kempinski Palace Engelberg is the only five-star hotel in town. With its roots in a historic grand hotel from 1904, Kempinski Palace Engelberg combines the charm of the Belle Époque era with modern luxury. The H+ Hotel SPA Engelberg is also a similarly elegant but modern retreat. If you’re looking to prepare your own meals, the spacious, well-appointed apartments at Titlis Resort have excellent kitchen facilities.

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Ever since its inception in 2008, Ski Lodge Engelberg has been a warm and hearty institution in town.

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Ever since its inception in 2008, Ski Lodge Engelberg has been a warm and hearty institution in town.

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With its roots in a 1904 grand hotel, Kempinski Palace Engelberg combines the charm of the Belle Époque era with modern luxury. It’s the first and only five-star property in Engelberg.

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With its roots in a 1904 grand hotel, Kempinski Palace Engelberg combines the charm of the Belle Époque era with modern luxury. It’s the first and only five-star property in Engelberg.

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 Other Stuff 

In addition to alpine offerings, you’ll also find 35 km of cross-country trails, tubing, tobogganing and snowshoeing.

No matter your religion—or lack of—a visit to the Benedictine Monastery is a must.

If you’ve got gear problems, take them to Dani Friedli and his crew at the OKAY Ski Shop.

At the top of Titlis, you can visit an ice cave under the glacier—along with thousands of bussed-in tourists from as far afield as India and China. You’ll also find Europe’s highest suspension bridge, a metre-wide cliff walk that delivers dizzying views down the south wall of Titlis.

With a regular ski pass, you can ride the gondola to Trübsee on a Saturday night for tubing, snowshoeing or hiking under the stars, then enjoy wood-fired pizza and a glass of wine in Lago Torpedo.

There are more reasons to hire a guide in Engelberg tah not, and the plentiful options include: Engelberg Mountain Guides; Tobias Granath; Outventure; Salomon Station Engelberg.

 Don’t Miss 

Skiing the Laub: “Laub” doesn’t mean magnificent, but it should. A monstrous shoulder with a sustained 30-degree slope and 1,100 metres of vertical, in powder, it’s mind-altering. Tradition dictates you finish your run with a coffee and schnapps at Café Ritz, located right at the bottom of the run.

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On good days, Wendelücke — one of Engelberg’s Big Five — can be the ultimatepowder nirvana. This was such a day and Chad Sayers’ spray says it all.

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On good days, Wendelücke — one of Engelberg’s Big Five — can be the ultimatepowder nirvana. This was such a day and Chad Sayers’ spray says it all.

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David Kantermo enjoing the local specialities. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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David Kantermo enjoing the local specialities. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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Mid-air Vrischikasana by yoga guru Edvin Olsson. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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Mid-air Vrischikasana by yoga guru Edvin Olsson. Photo: Christoffer Sjöström

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 Just the Facts 

Blessed by altitude, the convoluted Titlis massif is a weather magnet that catches the northern edge of southern storms, the southern edge of northern storms, and the orographic effects of nearby Lac Luzern.

→ Skiable area: 82 km of piste (200 acres) but thousands of acres of skiable freeride terrain
→ Parks: 1 terrain park
→ Longest run: 12 km
→ Terrain mix: 30%/45%/25%
→ Lifts: 25, including a funicular and rotating tram
→ Average annual snowfall: ~615 cm
→ Snowmaking coverage: 50% of pistes
→ Vertical : 1,970 m; top elevation 3,020 m

Getting there: From Zurich airport, it’s 2 hours by train connecting through Luzern. By road, it’s 90 minutes: head south from Zurich on the A123/N4a/N14/N2 towards Lake Luzern; just past the tunnel, make a right turn at Stans and the signs for Engelberg.

Leslie Anthony is a writer and editor who knows a thing or two about snow. Longtime Creative Director of SKIER, former Managing Editor of POWDER, and author of the book White Planet: A Mad Dash Through Modern Global Ski Culture, the resident of Whistler, British Columbia, continues to appear regularly on the masthead of the world’s top ski magazines. His favorite activity? Skiing powder, of course.
ENGELBERG
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