A local`s favorite, little Melchsee-Frutt delivers a pretty big punch for a relatively pint-sized Swiss ski hill. Excellent snow totals, terrain for everyone, solid infrastructure and wonderful sunny aspect make it a great Central Swiss winter holiday spot.
Melchsee-Frutt Ski Area Overview
Melchsee-Frutt is an enjoyable, well-rounded Zentralschweiz ski gebeit. There`s a nice vibe with an equal emphasis on family time & riding hard, which always leaves us smiling when we pull off our boots after a great day under the Swiss sun.
Although northerly facing — which makes fresh morning snow cold and light on the Bonistock (2160m/7086ft) — the ski area actually receives high sun exposure because of its broad, basin shape on the opposite side above Melchsee-Frutt Village (1920m/6299ft). World-class neighbor, Engelberg, rises more than 1000m/3000ft higher, receives more snow, offers more amenities in town and has better public transit access, but Melchsee-Frütt`s micro-climate creates surprising annual snowfall totals at lower elevation, averaging around 300cm on the slopes mid winter.
It`s not the easiest place to access without private transport, nor is it really large enough to keep most people occupied for a week-long ski holiday, but the 35km of pistes feel bigger than statistics indicate making multi-day stays a great idea.
Fun off-piste options are close to lifts, freestylers will be super happy in the Fruttpark and lounge lizards will feel right at home on the great sun terraces at 1900m and above.
When we want a mellower-paced day away from Engelberg`s epic freeride terrain (and epic crowds), Melchsee is high on our list in the Lake Luzern region.
Melchsee-Frutt On-piste Skiing & Snowboarding
Groomed trails at Melchsee-Frutt are well maintained and offer options for all levels. Most pistes are geared toward intermediates, but beginners & advanced on-pisters will definitely appreciate the trail system too.
The ski area splits into two distinct riding areas from its base at Stöckalp (1080m/3543ft).
The Bonistock (2160m/7086) isn`t the dominant lift-served peak at Melchsee-Frutt, but harbors the most challenging pisted terrain. You`ll need to make a three-stage chair-lift journey starting from the base Cheseln lift, continuing to Bettenalp (1770m/5807ft) then to the top in order to enjoy the speedy pistes that can be re-cycled between Bettenalp-Bonistock or taken all the way to the base area for fast, fun 1000m/3000ft groomed descents.
Pistes on the opposite side of the ski area above Melchsee-Frutt village — reachable from the base in 10 minutes via the new-and-improved Stöckllp-Melchsee-Frutt egg gondolas — provide great terrain for beginners and intermediates, as well as park rats in the stylish Fruttpark (see freestyle description below).
It is possible (and recommended) to ski/board 1000m/3000ft un-interupted to the base starting form the Bonistock. This is a fast, fun, rolly ride that doesn`t flatten much until back near the base area. Similarly, you can also slide 1200m/3937ft down from the ski area`s highest point at Balmeregghorn (2250m/7381ft), however this option is not a fluid top to bottom. You`ll need the help of a short tow-rope and “lift” (elevator) along the way, but that just adds to the Swiss ski experience.
Pistes can get icy and chewed-up on weekends making the return to the base challenging, but normally pistes won`t drastically deteriorate until after 2pm.
All in all, consistently great snow on wide, well-maintained pistes ensures quality groomed sliding all season.
*Note: It is possible to ski directly from the Bonistock side to the Melchsee-Frutt village side of the ski area (Blue Piste 1), however you`ll need to take the cable car Distelboden-Bonistock or ski down to the Cheselnfirst-Bettenalp lift to get back to the Bonistock summit.
Melchsee-Frutt Off-piste Skiing & Snowboarding
Easy access off-piste zones are found under the Bonistock lift and on the opposite side of the ski area amidst the ridgelines/gullies between the Balmeregghorn and Erzegg. Similar to pisted runs, off-piste at Melchsee is usually over before you want it to be unless you have the guidance of a knowledgeable local who can show you some lines running primarily beneath the lifts towers. It`s the Central Swiss Alps so off-piste hiking potential exists, however, aside from short-hikes up the shoulder of the Graustock to rider-right from the Bonistock top station or short traverses out from the Balmeregghorn, you`re somewhat limited.
Full ski area vertical descents are difficult to navigate and not recommended unless with a guide or local. Steep gladed sections below Melchsee-Frutt village down to the Stöckalp base station, as well as treed areas below Bettenalp are tantalizing for experienced riders, but these zones are protected wildlife habitat making them (officially) off-limits and hold wicked, hidden, injury-inducing surprises for the unprepared.
Likewise, although a top-to-bottom off-piste run is a fantastic idea for those that know the terrain on a weekday, the return ride from base to peak(s) will normally take minimum 30 minutes without crowds, so cycling the upper lifted off-piste zones is your best bet on weekends.
Although ungroomed, lift-accessed vertical is a bit too short for our liking, the powder moments are still always nice at Melchsee.
Melchsee-Frutt Freestyle Skiing & Snowboarding
For freestylers, Melchsee Frutt is definitely a spot to put on your hidden Swiss jib-stash list. The Fruttpark has been Central Switzerland`s top freestyle set-up for quite a while and keeps it fun (and orange) every year with different sized rails, boxes, jibs and kickers. Melchsee`s park is built alongside much of the length of the Erzegg high-speed quad, allowing for long, flowy sessions followed by quick cycles back to the top. The spa hotel, sun terraces and friendly vibes make Melchsee Frütt great, but the freestyle park has been a big differentiator for this small ski hill compared to larger, statistically better ski areas near-by.
The lift system at Melchsee Frutt poses a few challenges, but once you`ve made the multi-stage journey to either side of the ski area, you`ll have enough choice for a nice day of skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, visiting the spa or lounging around on sunny mountain restaurant terraces.
Weekend waits at the base can be long for such a small Swiss ski area, but it doesn`t take much time to cycle the upper-lifts after you reach the top.
It`s possible to ski-snowboard from the Bonistock side of the ski area to the Balmeregghorn and Erzegg, but the reverse is impossible on skis. You`ll need to take the Distelboden-Bonistock cable car from below the Balmeregghorn back to the Bonistock.
Private transport has been the best way to reach Melchsee in the past as there isn`t train access like at many larger Swiss ski areas. But a new SBB Melchsee Frütt Rail-Bus combo makes getting to the ski hill a lot nicer. Take the train from Luzern to Hergiswil, then train from Hergiswil to Sarnen (changing trains at Hergiswil might be required). Afterwards, hop on the direct Postbus from Sarnen station (via Kerns) to the Stöckalp gondola base station. One-way trip time should be around 1-hour.
*There`s a lot of diversity on and off the slopes at Melchsee-Frütt including fun downhill slopes, accessible off-piste, the longest toboggan trail in the region (8km), an up-scale alpine spa hotel and plenty of other leisure & sport opportunities. But one of our favorite activities is walking toward the main parking lot on our way home. Why? Because the bergkäse (mountain cheese) sold at the ski area base by the von Rotz family is some of the best in the Alps. There are samples to try before you buy, but any of the usual varieties – e.g., sbrinz (hard aged cheese similar to parmesan) and other mild mountain cheeses on offer — will bring a smile to the face of every käse lover.
*We love to buy cheese before exiting Melchsee-Frütt, but when we need something on our way in — skis, snowboards, wax, tuning or other rental/retail gear to enjoy our day on the slopes — the Stöckli Outdoor Sports Ski-Service Shop located at the base of the ski area near the main gondola between the parking lot and Wildhaus Restaurant sets us up. They`ve got an excellent range of rental equipment and in pure Stöckli fashion, a top-of-the-line equipment repair facility in case you want a hot-wax, edge sharpening, base grind or other fixer-upper to keep your gear in top form. Shop leader, Ernst Aufdermauer, and his staff know how to do it right and also know how to treat their clients which is a big bonus toward starting your day on the ski hill positively. Got questions for Ernst at his Melchsee-Frütt base area ski shop? Give him a call at +41 41 669 09 60 or check out the main Stöckli page for more info.
Head over to the official Melchsee-Frütt Ski Area page for more resort details or discover another Central Swiss Ski Area Review below