A Snow Hike on Skis
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF, C.C. SCHMID I PHOTOS: ALETSCH ARENA
The snow crunches gently under the touring skis that are making the first tracks through the winter wonderland. From here, you can see the 20-kilometre-long Aletsch Glacier and over 40 four-thousand-metre peaks – including the Matterhorn, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. We are on a snow hike on skis through the Aletsch Arena in Switzerland’s Valais.
The Swiss tourist region Aletsch Arena is still largely unknown in Germany, although it is one of the top ski areas in the Alps. The high plateau offers an impressive view of the entire ice stream and 40 four-thousand-metre peaks – with around 300 days of sunshine a year! The Aletsch Arena is the largest glacier and the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Alpine region.
For years, the car-free villages of the Aletsch Arena have been awarded first place in the satisfaction ranking of the Top 55 ski areas in the ‘rest and relaxation’ category, and second place in the ‘nature experience’ category, in the ‘Best Ski Resort’ report from Mountain Management Consulting in collaboration with Innsbruck University. The reasons for this high satisfaction are plentiful: not only does the region impress with 72 kilometres of well-prepared winter hiking trails, it also offers snowshoe trails, cross-country skiing, sledging, night ski trips as well as snow tubing.
If you’d rather enjoy the scenery away from the snow, you can join a star photography course, go ice skating, visit the historical villages of Mörel, Fiesch, Lax and Fieschertal, meditate, or enjoy some of the local culinary delights such as cheese fondue or raclette.
And, if you think you can’t go skiing without a car, think again. Since last year, the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway has been running down into the new Fiesch public transport hub, and the brand-new mountain railway floats out at the top. A comfortable journey by train is possible via the train station located directly in the mountain railway building. All mountain railways are operated exclusively with renewable energy.
A special experience
We came for something a little different, however. We wanted to enjoy the beautiful nature of the Aletsch Arena on a snow hike on skis. In the Aletsch Arena, beautiful destinations like the Konkordiahütte and the Märjelensee await. And here, the ‘base camp’ is at 2,000 metres: the villages of Bettmer, Rieder and Fiescheralp are there with their offering of cozy chalets and family-run hotels. These come at moderate prices, and most of them with direct access to the slopes.
The car-free Aletsch Arena is a UNESCO World Heritage site: a sunny plateau with guaranteed snow in the Swiss Valais. Brand new here this season is a guided round tour on the back of the mightiest glacier in the Alps, where ski hiking can be done somewhere truly special, with a history going back thousands of years and a landscape garnished with dream descents through the beautiful flanks of the high mountains.
It is noticeably quiet in the Aletsch Arena, up on the snowy high plateau with its rustic mountain villages of Riederalp, Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp. As the villages are car free, there are no traffic jams, no emissions and no noise, with around 300 sunny days a year. Thanks to the altitude and the favourable weather conditions, the snow lasts well into spring. From the front door of most of the accommodations, you can get on your skis straight away and head for the surrounding mountain peaks. Or, you can choose the leisurely option with a gondola ascent and march along the ridge, where new descents are always waiting to be explored. All this in a unique natural landscape in which the commitment to sustainability and environmental protection play a noticeably important role.
Barbara Mäder from the UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch Management Centre / World Nature Forum in Naters, has this to say about the region: “In the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, the huge rock massif of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, with its glacier landscape, is ensconced around the Great Aletsch Glacier. This gives the Aletsch Arena some of its unique magic. Here, I can experience nature up close without affecting the Alpine landscape and wildlife. I encourage and support nature-based tourism in the Aletsch Arena.”
The Aletsch Arena is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is also committed to sustainability. The journey by train is possible because the train and gondola now run from the same building. The rental service available for all winter sports items is excellent and, thanks to the short distances around the refion, everything in the ski area is easily accessible.
There are ski tours of all levels of difficulty on offer in the region, Whether for beginners and professionals, or for young and old. And, an option for the first time this season, is the Aletsch glacier round trip. This promises ski touring on what is the mightiest ice stream in the Alps – taking place on an enormous ten billion tonnes of ice.
Winter season 2021/22: 8 December 2021 – 18 April 2022 Winter hiking: 72 kilometres of well developed winter hiking trails Alpine skiing: 104 kilometers of slopes, 36 lifts Skiing tours: 71 tour options Snowshoeing: 14 kilometres of well-marked snowshoe trails www.aletscharena.ch
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