You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Swishing through the Swiss Alps

The Jungfrau Region offers snowy adventures for every skill level.

“It’s just ‘pizza’ and ‘french fries,’ but don’t mix them up. If you french fry when you wanna pizza, you’re gonna have a bad time.”

This is the text I receive from my nephew Chris the night before I leave for a ski spree to Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region, which embraces a jagged range of snow-capped Alps in the Bernese Oberland. It might sound like poor dietary advice, but, in fact, Chris has just given me a lifeline I can cling to throughout my trip, especially when gravity threatens to sweep me off my feet … and possibly off the edge of a mountain.

“Pizza,” as it transpires, refers to the “snow plow” movement you make by pointing your skis together at the tips to slow down. “French fry” means to aim your skis straight to gain speed. (Golden nuggets of wisdom gleaned, apparently, from the animated comedy series “South Park.”)

Fortunately, the picturesque pass of Kleine Scheidegg, located in the heart of the Jungfrau Region, introduced a “highly” unusual beginners slope last season that’s perfect for a city slicker like me. While most bunny slopes are sequestered at the foot of the mountains, here I can glide down a gentle incline while soaking up the views at 6,762 feet, making me feel as though I’ve conquered the world — even if the only other challenger on the incline is a toddler, bundled up like an Ewok, on a sled.

For more experienced skiers and snowboarders eager to bag bragging rights, the region, where the ski season continues until Easter, also recently launched the Jungfrau Winnercard. This nifty gadget allows you to track stats like altitude and distance by entering your ski pass number on a website. With 128 miles of slopes, there’s plenty to keep sporty types busy in a region bordered by some of Switzerland’s most iconic peaks.

“You’re very, very close to the big mountains,” observes Laura Bomio, a ski instructor tasked with the unenviable challenge of shepherding me down the slopes. “They are just there in front of you. People who come here tell me they’ve never been so close to high mountains when they’re skiing.”

Bomio might be a bit biased, as she learned to ski at the tender age of 2 1/2 on the slopes of Grindelwald, a pint-size town of wooden chalets set against a backdrop of the mighty peaks. But on my second day, when I confront a blue-diamond slope at First, a cable stop 7,113 feet high, I can see her point. I mean, I could hardly miss it, with the sheer granite mountains rising up as tall and ominous as the Wall from “Game of Thrones.”

Under Bomio’s patient tutelage, my friend Yolanda and I gingerly pizza, french fry and “butterfly” (which is basically alternating between the two aforementioned food groups) down the winding course, which is used as a road in the summertime.

“One summer, I worked on a farm in the valley, herding 36 cows,” Bomio tells us as we pause for a breather.

“Which is harder — keeping track of 36 cows or two beginning skiers?” Yolanda asks.

Bomio considers the question for a moment. “I think two students equal 36 cows,” she finally concludes with a flash of a smile.

After two days on the slopes, I feel I’ve milked my ski reserves dry. But I’ve still got a mountain to summit, and, unlike Everest adventurers, I don’t need crampons and a pickax — just a train ticket for the journey to the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe.

Disembarking at the end of the line, more than 11,333 feet up, I make a beeline for a windblown platform overlooking the inhospitably beautiful glacial valley and the serrated Alpine peaks. When my eyelashes have turned to icicles, I head back inside to tour the Top of Europe experience, a whiz-bang exhibition offering insight into the amazing engineering skills required to drill through the mountains and build this railway, which opened in 1912.

There’s a giant snow globe filled with carved Alpine figures, passageways winding through the ice and a movie theater in the round offering footage of the Jungfraujoch from all angles, like a very ambitious version of Google Street View. You can dine at one of the restaurants, overlooking wintry panoramas framed by lethal-looking frozen shards, and bring home a bottle of Swiss Highland ice-aged whisky from the shops — although at nearly 58 percent ABV, I reckon that would give you a mammoth hangover.

At the foot of the mountains in Interlaken, I try my hand at curling and miraculously avoid turning an ankle while ice skating at the Ice Magic rinks, open through Feb. 27. The grand finale of our trip, however, is a moonlit sledging adventure down the Eiger Run with my friends, careening down icy slopes past prickly, snow-pregnant evergreens that survey our progress like disapproving elders.

Finally skidding to a stop just outside a cozy restaurant at the foot of the run, we defrost and toast our survival with mugs of steaming gluhwein. I’ve had my fill of pizza and french fries this week. Time now, I think, for bratwurst and cheese fondue.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Travel

Family Travel: under the spell of sunny Puerto Rico

You know things are going pretty well when the big family argument is over whether to splash in the rain forest waterfall or loll around on the white-sand beach.  You know things are even better when you realize you can do both in a single day and not tax the patience or interest of three children.   From our weeklong base at a rental...
Travel talk: How to cruise Alaska, navigate California

Q: We finally have a consensus month for perhaps a last big family vacation (parents mid-60s and two mid 20s-daughters). Unfortunately because of everyone's job issues, it's has to be soon - preferably June. I know. That's already in the high cost season. 1) Do you have any recommendations for cruise-lines and/or specific ships for a family trip to...
Security lines and flight delays? This kid’s in paradise
Security lines and flight delays? This kid’s in paradise

I used to think there were two types of people in this world: those who are so nervous about making their flight that they are only truly happy if they get to the airport four hours early, and those who are so blasé about making their flight that they are only truly happy if they get to the airport just minutes before takeoff.  Often these...
Encountering true luxury in St. Moritz
Encountering true luxury in St. Moritz

You are always alone atop a mountain, even in a crowd. At a beach — any beach — a solitary figure standing at the edge of your vision can make you feel intruded upon. On the summit of an Alpine mountain, a chairlift dumping out bystanders six at a time will offer you no companionship. I stand next to my wife at nearly 11,000 feet of altitude...
U.S. travel industry fears a 'lost decade' under Trump

Like many Washington lobby groups, the U.S. Travel Association was quick to congratulate the new president on his victory last November.  "We are encouraged that Mr. Trump's extensive business and hospitality background … will make him a ready and receptive ear," the trade organization said. Upon the Republican's inauguration...
More Stories