You found our site, so that probably means you`re into alpinism, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, parasailing, hang-gliding or other outdoor endeavors you`d expect to find in a place like the Swiss Alps. Good. We like you and you`ll like Engelberg.
Engelberg-Titlis: Central Swiss Snowsure Centerpiece
Don`t feel inadequate if you`d prefer lounging next to the fireplace with a tasty beverages or soaking in the hot tub, rather than scaring yourself silly on 45+° fall lines.
“Angel Mountain,” with its medieval monastic village at its base, is one of the top outdoor recreation & leisure spots in the Swiss Alps catering to visitors of all tastes. We generally prefer the taste of powder and if you do too, you`ll appease your powder hunger at Engelberg.
There are two distinctly separate ski areas accessible via cable cars rising from opposite sides of the village: Engelberg-Titlis and Engelberg-Brunni.
The north-facing Titlis side (which most of the information below refers to) is what has turned this once-quiet alpine hamlet into Central Switzerland`s premier mountain resort destination. The south-facing Brunni side is smaller in terms of vertical rise, number of pistes and just about any other ski area statistic you can put side-by-side with Titlis. It`s more suited to families and receives far too much sunshine to keep the snowpack deep & stable for as long as its big brother, but still holds some nice surprises for those in the know.
Engelberg village is extremely easy to access via train or car, making it a great option for auto-less overseas visitors or Euro-based motorists alike. There are on- and off-mountain facilities for everyone and although Engelberg attracts too many tourists for our liking throughout the year, it still maintains a rider-centric vibe.
It`s snowsure, generally friendly, inspiringly beautiful and has terrain that will blow your mind, proving that it`s a mountain resort worthy of a spot on every snow junkie`s bucket list.
Engelberg Off-piste Skiing-Snowboarding
The main draw to Engelberg is the off-piste riding. Easy access from the lifts, a primarily north-facing aspect across the entire ski area, consistently deep snow-packs and a lengthy season from mid-October to end-May make Engelberg the kind of place hardcore snow sliders dream about.
It`s also the type of riding area where avalanche beacons, shovels, probes and the knowledge to use them are anything but side-notes. If you`re planning to ride off-piste and into Engelberg`s world-class powdery areas, treat this place with respect. The same disclaimer goes for any mountainous region, but we`ve ridden around the world and can easily say that Engelberg is one of the most consequential lift-accessed off-piste ski areas anywhere. Hiring a guide is somewhat expensive (400-600chf for groups), but isn`t nearly as expensive as a funeral.
We can`t stress it enough, tread lightly here if you`re unfamiliar with the terrain. You`ll be tempted to charge the mountain like a wild snow monkey, but there are crevasses, giant cliff-zones and a lot of roll-over terrain features that limit your sightline on descent making it easy to find yourself calling Rega for a heli-lift back to safety (or to the hospital).
Sorry to turn this section of our review into a public safety announcement, but our info here will either excite you to challenge yourself at this Central Swiss glacial giant or remind you that you should stick to the pistes or apres ski bar.
>>> Titlis Glacier Off-piste
Here`s a typical riding experience starting when the Titlis-Rotair — the world`s first 360° rotating cable car — opens its doors at the top:
Hop out of the cable car, ascend by stairway or elevator past a bunch of eateries and gift shops, exit the lift station, walk past approximately 500 non-skiing Asian tourists, stop for a second as one of them will likely ask if they can have a picture with you (we`re aliens to these non-riding folks…it`s kinda funny), then step into your bindings, drop over the edge and lastly, be sure not to fall into a crevasse or over a cliff band on your way down.
If you can`t tell, the Titlis glacier is Disneyland at the top but anything but child`s play on the descent. This is not a place to be messed with if you don`t know the way down. Get a guide or find a responsible local and you`ll quickly see why Engelberg-Titlis is legendary.
>>> Laub Off-piste
One of the best, quick-access off-piste descents of your life. More than 1000m of north-facing 35°+ fall-line riding with consistently powdery conditions.
Get there early because it`s also one of the best powder runs for seemingly everyone else with off-piste ambitions at Engelberg.
Use caution at the access point (following a short traverse-out from Rindertitlis chair lift). It`s very steep at the entry point and can get scraped off from all the traffic, exposing rocks & ice making it a bit hairy.
>>> Jochstock Off-piste
Dropping off the backside of the Jochstock Express chairlift toward Titlis to rider-right or in the opposite direction toward Engstlenalp are excellent, generally highly traveled off-piste zones.
The fall line on the descent toward the glacial side of the ski area (Jochstock is non-glaciated so no worries) will pull you toward a massive cliff area, so you`ll need to either wrap around it by traversing far right or drop-in then head continually left, ultimately requiring a traverse back toward the Alpstubli that`s steep and can get sloughed off making it a little sketchy, especially for regular-stance snowboarders as its a heelside traverse. There are lines to be poached amidst the cliff zone, but best to have someone showing you the way down before exploring this route on your own.
The Engstlenalp side (to rider-left after passing back under the Jochstock Express) has shorter, steep descents that mellow considerably after a few hundred meters. The lack of lengthy vertical doesn`t take away from this off-piste option and makes for a fun, picturesque ride toward the snow covered Engstlensee at the northwestern edge of the ski area. The upper section of this descent path is very steep with limited visibility due to roll-overs that hinder your sight-line. Roll-overs often equal cliff-bands or rock-drops anywhere in the mountains and it`s no different here. You`ll need to traverse above many of these roll-over sections so you can maximize your vertical on the run-out toward the lake. Stay concentrated and move quickly as avalanches are common. Be prepared to hike for around 10-15 minutes back to the Engstlenalp lift at the end of this route. It`s not very difficult nor is much vertical involved, but make sure you`re hydrated. It`s super easy to pass the hike re-entry point to the Engstlenalp lift, so pay attention to other tracks in the flats and follow them out to the right. Be careful! If you keep going left, you`ll be riding directly on top of a lake.
>>> Galtiberg Off-piste
If you don`t have a guide with you or local that you trust, don`t even think about it. Well, think about it, drool about it, then pay your guide to show you the way down this monumental 2000 vertical meter descent from glacier to valley floor.
It`s a run you`ll remember the rest of your life if you have the skills to do it, but it`s also one of the most consequential descents at Engelberg.
The wide-open powder face you begin your run on (rider-right of the Gletscherlift t-bar) funnels into a steep, confusing gorge run-out that requires insider knowledge from top to bottom. One wrong turn will leave you cliffed-out with no way down (except for Rega).
Any irresponsible behavior or out-of-control fall could trigger an avalanche with only one exit, which unfortunately is also your only exit as well. This is an off-piste run that`ll remind you why you`ve been playing in the steep & deep your whole life, but it can just as easily be the last run you make if you`re not smart about it.
Engelberg-Titlis On-piste Skiing-Snowboarding
For as mind-altering as the off-piste riding is at Engelberg, the pistes are really just average. However, for those looking to spend all day cruising on manicured slopes, Engelberg does have some fun, challenging runs geared toward upper-intermediate/advanced snow sliders. Beginner terrain is confined to one area below the Laub. Otherwise, the Engelberg-Brunni side of the resort is more suited to lower-level skiers or for kids with a dedicated children`s fun park just off to the right of the cable car top station, as well as gentler drag lifts at the base.
The piste maintenance crews at Engelberg do an excellent job, but the pistes themselves are relatively narrow and limited in number. It`s a blessing for off-piste riders, but a bit of a downer for piste-bound folks. That said, Engelberg delivers one of Europe`s longest, thigh burning, multi-kilometer journeys from top to bottom (3028meters down to 1050 meters), with only two flat spots requiring snowboarders to unstrap briefly.
Please be aware that to enjoy the entire 11 kilometers from glacier to valley you`ll need to make a 600 meter off-piste descent from the top of Titlis (3028m) to the Stand top-lift station (2428meters).
In case you`re asking yourself, “Can I make it down from the glacier?”, the answer is — if you`re capable of comfortably controlling your speed on black pistes then likely yes.The actual color designation of the run is `yellow` meaning it`s classified as a maintained off-piste trail. It`ll likely be a bit moguled from all the traffic, but it`s manageable if you use caution. However, there will be alot of others far more confident than you ripping by at mach speed, so if you have any doubts, just ride the Titlis-Rotair back down to the pistes below the glacier.
There is one intermediate piste accessible from the Titlis Rotair station on top of the glacier area, but if you aren`t comfortable negotiating the off-piste descent to Stand, you`ll need to go back up to the Titlis Rotair in order to descend by cable car to the Stand station for access to the pisted areas below.
Engelberg-Titlis Freestyle Skiing-Snowboarding
If you`re at Engelberg to ride the park you`re not in the right place or the right frame of mind.
There`s only a couple of boxes and tiny table-tops directly across from the bottom station of the Jochstock Express. It`s actually a very good place for beginners/intermediates to practice sliding across boxes or catching a little bit of air. Generally though, do what you`re supposed to do at Engelberg…shred off-piste.
Engelberg-Titlis Ski Lifts
The ski lifts at Engelberg are by no means perfect, but the in-between times when you`re not riding lifts (shredding knee-deep pow off-piste) makes you forget about the shortcomings of the lift infrastructure. The lifts — 13 total — are not unnervingly slow, nor are they positioned poorly. However, the segmentation of the resort creates a dilemma for riders.
You`re basically left with a top-to-bottom and side-to-side situation that forces you to make a choice affecting your entire day on the hill.
The base area lift system is designed in three stages to get you from valley floor at 1050 meters to Titlis Glacier at over 3000 meters. In fact, it`s truly 4 stages, but you aren`t required to change gondolas at the mid-point of the first stage (Gerschnialp). When the doors open, just sit-tight and continue upward to Trübsee. Chances are you`ll see a group (of non-riders from Asia) heading to the top for the views and will accidentally exit the gondoala only to scurry back in dangerously just before it takes off again. Laugh, shake your head in disbelief and stay put until you reach the top station at Trübsee where you`ll get into an elevator taking you to the Stand bottom station.
Ride the Stand gondola to the Titlis-Rotair gondola, then hop into the 360° rotating engineering marvel to complete your journey up to the glacier top.
The voyage from valley to glacier on a crowdless day (which is rare) takes approximately 1 hour, which means that if you decide to make a giant descent from top to bottom, you`ll get one run that lasts for 11 kilometers, but be forced to sit in cable cars for another hour in order to put you in position for your second run of the day.
Most people make the long journey from bottom to top only once, then ride down from Titlis to Trübsee where they re-enter the gondola to ascend back toward the Titlis Rotair entry point at Stand.
There`s only one way in and one way out, so no chance of getting lost.
Train: There are daily departures from Luzern starting early in the morning after 5am. The 1-way trip takes 1-hour on clean, efficient railways (what would you expect from Swiss transport). Trains depart the village back to Luzern all day with the last one at around 20:30 (8:30pm). Buses depart until 11pm back into the valley and will drop you at Dallenwill station, allowing for a train transfer to Luzern from there.
Car: The road into Engelberg is well-maintained during the winter but drivers should use caution as on any mountain road. The drive from Luzern takes about 40 minutes in good weather with minimal traffic but could easily take upwards of 1.5 hours if conditions aren`t so nice. Keep your speed under control on your way through the valley and up the twisty portion of the road as it rises more than 500 vertical meters to the Engelberg village. Radar cameras are hidden along the journey and it`s not uncommon for the Polizei to make their presence known. Either way, Swiss traffic tickets are extremely pricey and traffic can be heavy, so conservative driving is the way to go.
Air: There isn`t an airport at Engelberg, but there is a heli pad if you want to arrive in style. Otherwise, if you`re coming from abroad by plane, your best bet is to fly into Zürich or Basel, hop a 1-hour train to Luzern from either aforementioned airport, then connect direct from Luzern into Engelberg (approx. 1 hour). Here`s some info on air access to Luzern and Central Swiss ski areas.
Engelberg is a place for everyone, but the off-piste skiing & snowboarding isn`t. Angel Mountain can get devlish in the blink of an eye, so be prepared with the proper gear & training. If you`ve never ridden Engelberg before, gather a small group of riding buddies to fork over the Swiss Francs for a guide. If you decide to explore on your own and see some random tracks heading off through what appears to be epic untouched freshies, there`s normally a good reason why there`s only 1 set of tracks. It`s probably because the untouched powder turns enter into an unrideable cliff at some point, requiring a parachute or Swiss Air Rescue to survive the descent. No joke…Engelberg is that kind of place.
**Do you like watching humans (or should we say loveable lunatics) pretend they`re birds? Yeah, we do too. Check out the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup event held at Engelberg in December every year. More details for the 2012 ski jumping event at Engelberg here.
**The Titlis-Rotair cable car is the third stage of a valley-to-glacier journey which rotates 360° during the ascent offering incredible panoramic views of the alpine surroundings. There`s a bunch of facilities at the top including a tubing course (May-Nov) , as well as the Ice Flyer chair-lift which gives amazing views down into the glacial crevasses. Lift tickets for the Titlis-Rotair cost around 65chf for the return trip, so although not cheap, you definitely get a memorable, breathtaking experience that makes you forget about having to eat only bread when you get back to the valley because you spent all your CHF on cable cars.
**There`s a snow tubing park located near the Trübsee Alpine Lodge, as well as electric snowmobiles near the Igloo Village across from the Trübsee Hopper chairlift.
**Engelberg is a full-blown, year-round sports & leisure destination for everyone. There are tons of activities, lodging options, restaurants & bars in the valley and on the mountain. Visit the Engelberg main site for more details.