Engelberg rests lee of a 12th-century Benedictine monastery, and it was two of the monks who, in 1744, turned out to be the first people to climb Engelberg’s greatest landmark, Mt Titlis – the highest peak in central Switzerland at 3,238m. The monastery carries on to play a major role in the resort, as does Wit Titlis – home to the world’s first revolving cable-car and year-round skiing. Once greatly popular with British skiers, Engelberg (Angel Mountain) lost out to the wave of purpose-built resorts that were made in the French Alps, but the place is now staging a brave recovery.
Cable-cars and gondolas rise from the village on the multi-stage journey to the top of Titlis. The Rotair lift glides above the glacier, making a gentle 360° turn and providing unforgettable panoramic views across the frozen landscape; the Ice Flyer chair-lift gives similarly spectacular crevasse views. Though there are red runs from the top of the Rotair (3,020m), there is no way of avoiding a black run to get back to the mid-station at Stand. There’s some fantastic free-riding terrain on this side of the mountain, especially from Stand down to Gerschnialp, but you should take a guide if you wish to explore it. Brunni, on the sunny side, is the quieter, gentler area.
The top station at Titlis gives a new slant to haute cuisine with the Titlis Stubli at over 3,000m. The Alpenrosli might as well be renamed ‘Alpenrosti’ – the potato dish is its speciality – while the Abnet specialises in home-made cheeses and baloni. On the Brunni side of the valley, at Alplerbeizli Rigidal, spicy alpine cheese and dried sausage are the house specialities. On the sun terrace of the Brunnihutte try the soup together with sliced frankfurter or bratwurst with potatoes.
The snowpark on the Jochpass has several jumps, rails, a half-pipe and quarter-pipe, while the Iceripper freestyle snowboard park provides coaching and riding up to six hours a day. Park Engstlen has jumps, rails and turns for aspiring and expert freestylers. During the summer the Ice Flyer lift at the top of Titlis stays open, along with a half-pipe, rails and jumps.
The sports centre offers indoor tennis and badminton courts, climbing wall, physical training area and billiards, curling and ice rink. The Sonnenberg swimming and sports area boasts a 25m pool, gymnastics area and solarium. Outdoors, possibilities include 36km of winter walking paths, cross-country skiing, sledding, guided tours of the glacier caves, snow-tubing and visits to Furenalp with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. The Engelberg valley produces good thermals for hang-gliding, and there are toboggan runs at Gerschnialp, Brunni and Furenalp.
Axel’s is the top-quality restaurant in Engelberg, with seriously good food, great wines and modern surroundings. For something a bit more ‘alpine’, the Alpenclub is in an attractive old building and dishes up fondues backed by Swiss folk music. The Waldegg Panorama restaurant serves up French gourmet cuisine, while the Banklialp specialises in fondue and raclette. For a break from tradition, there’s a decent Chinese, Moonrise, and two Thai places – Crystal and Chills.
Straight after skiing, the Iglu bar is, oddly enough, an igloo-shaped watering hole at the foot of the Rotair lift. Later, the Yucatan bar, in the heart of the resort in Bahnhofplatz, is the focus of Engelberg’s reasonably tame apres-ski action, along with party nights at the Spindle Club disco The Dream Life Bar, at the Central Hotel, is also a popular spot.
The art nouveau Best Western Hotel Terrace, refurbished in 1998, is linked with the town via the nostalgic Terrace funicular. There you will find a wellness area with sauna, solarium and steam bath. The four-star Hotel Waldegg was renovated in 1990 and has a a gourmet restaurant, plus a wellness area. If it’s early mornings instead of late nights you’re after, the Berghotel Trubsee-Hof is set right on the slopes at 1,800m. The rooms are fairly basic but piste access is five-star. Back in town, the three-star Schweizerhof is a Belle Epoque beauty having faded edges but plenty of character.