22 January 2015

Skiing, Sledding and Winter Walks at Sattel Hochstückli

Sattel Hochstückli is a small mountain resort near Zurich that's fun both in winter and summer. They have a few T-bar lifts, a long sled run to the valley, winter walks, and small snow garden for beginners with a magic carpet and a tow rope. It's not a perfect resort, but it's close, affordable and a lot of fun.

Details. Drive to Sattel and follow signs to the Sattel Hochstückli gondola. There is a large parking lot but it can fill up quickly on the weekends. The train drops off very close to the cable car. To reach the ski area and other attractions, you first take a gondola up from the valley. Decide what you are doing before buying your ticket. For skiing and sledding, you'll buy a day pass. If you just want to do the sled run one time, you can buy a single ticket for the gondola and then sled back down. For winter walks or just managing your kids while they use the magic carpet, you can buy a cheaper return ticket just for the gondola.

The sled run starts where the gondola drops you off and continues all the way back down to the base on the gondola. My husband and my son did the sled run and reported that it was fast and scary but very fun. You can rent sleds but we brought our own. Check conditions before you go because there isn't always enough snow for the sled run, even if there is snow in the ski area at the higher elevation.

We took our kids there to use the magic carpet when they were just learning to ski. It's not our favorite snow garden (see Flumserberg) but it was adequate. My main complaint was that the beginners slope was slightly slanted and our kids kept sliding into a ravine instead of coming to a gradual stop on a flat.

Sattel offers two groomed winter walks accessible from the top of the cable car. I only walked these in summer, but I imagine they would be great in winter too. The RUNDweg Engelstock is a 5.4km and took my kids about 3 hours in summertime, with lots of breaks. It's not particularly challenging, but it is slightly uphill for the first half of the trail. The views of Rigi and the Mythen peaks are fantastic. The second trail crosses the suspension bridge and loops around the alpine valley.

16 January 2015

Sledding near Zurich

If the snow has recently melted in Zurich but there's still snow on Uetliberg, you can sled on various locations along the Uetliberg range. I've described a few of the hills below. If you don't mind driving a little further, I can recommend Einsiedeln or Amden-Arvenbüel.

Uetliberg Schlittelweg (aka sled run)

With lots of snow, you can sled on a trail from the top of Uetliberg all the way down, 3.1km. I've never done it myself but I've heard it's fun, if a little scary. It's not always open, even if there's snow. Call the sledding hotline for info (0800 588 588) or visit their website. To reach the start point, take the S10 train to the Uetliberg stop. Walk up hill toward the lookout point and you'll pass the start of the Schlittelweg on your left.

Albis Pass sledding hill

For a normal sledding hill (walk up, sled down, repeat), drive or take a bus to Hinter-Albis, on Albisstrasse near Langau am Albis (5 mins south of Adliswil), about a 20 min drive from Zürich. There's a big parking lot and a big sledding hill. There are no services but it's free. On busy days, the landowner sells grilled sausages.

Buchenegg-Felsenegg trail

This winter trail isn't a sledding hill, but with lots of snow, you can pull the kids on the sled as you walk then sled down any parts of the trail that go down hill. Near the Felsenegg restaurant (about a 5 min walk from the Felsenegg cable car), there's a long stretch of an  access "road" that people sled down (in below pic) and we've spent a fun hour there. The restaurant is cosy and has tasty traditional fare, but rather expensive.

The trail can be reached by the Felsenegg cable car in Adliswil (a short walk from the Adliswil train station) or by car to the Buchenegg pass near Langnau am Albis. This is a loop trail that starts along the ridge, then dips down through a couple farms before joining back up to ridge. For full details of this winter walk, see this post.

Do you have any local sledding spots you'd like to share?

View sledding with kids in a larger map

12 January 2015

Skiing and Sledding at Amden Arvenbüel

Summary: combo beginner ski/sled run with chair lift

I finally found a ski run that works for both my skiing 6yr old and my sledding 3yr old: Amden-Arvenbüel! My 6yr old was a beginning skier and I needed a small hill where he could ski "by himself" while I sled with my 3 yr old and could still see my 6yr and rescue if needed. I've tried a few other places but usually the hill was too big so I couldn't see him as he came down and there was no place near the ski hill for me to sled with my little one. This slope was just what I needed at the time. This is a small operation and a small hill, but a good option for families with a both beginning skiers and non-skiers to entertain.

Car: ~45mins from ZHLift type: chair lifts and T-barsRestaurant: yes
Train/Bus: yes Magic Carpet: no Rental: no
Cost: medium, cash only Sledding: yes Lessons: yes

Amden is a small local ski resort, about a 45 min drive southeast from Zurich, near the Walensee. Here's the piste map. It is easy to access with public transportation with a train to Weesen, then a bus up to Amden. There are a few metered parking lots next to the slopes. But on busy days, the resort offers a free shuttle from Weesen (see website for details).

Amden has several lifts and T-bars. The one I'm referring to here is Sesselbahn Arven at Arvenbüel, near the parking lot. Go past Amden to Arvenbüel and follow signs to Sesselbahn Arven. You park "in town" and walk down the street to the middle of the slope. You ski/sled down to the bottom of the ski lift and buy your ticket (with cash) at the booth at the chair lift. This is very small operation. The lift passes are relatively inexpensive and they offer single rides, a half-day pass (morning or afternoon), day pass, and a family pass (in 2011, 2 adults, 3 kids for 88CHF). See the website for current information. There are a couple other lifts and T-bars in this "resort" but I didn't try them. My small boys were perfectly satisfied with this one slope.

On this particular slope under Sesselbahn Arven, you can ski and sled on the same hill. While my husband skied with my 6yr old, I sledded down the same hill with my 3yr old. We could kinda stay together as a family and see each other as we passed each other on the hill. Plus, I didn't have to drag my sled up and down the hill; I could just take the lift up (requires a paid lift pass). Sledders take a slightly different path down the hill as noted by the signs, but you are never far apart and you can ride the lift together.

It's a chair lift, but the operator will help your little ones get on and will hook your sled to the side of the chair, as shown in the below picture. I found everyone to be very helpful. You can also see in the photo that even though they had very little snow, they kept the ski run covered and we had a very fun day just on this one little run.

There's a small cafe at the top of this slope. I didn't see any ski or sled rentals on the slope or in town. The services are very minimal. Bring cash for parking and your ski pass. I didn't see an ATM either.

09 January 2015

Sledding in Einsiedeln

Summary: sledding hill near small skiing area next to Einsiedeln Kloster

Einsideln is a small charming town about a 45 min drive south of Zurich. The main attraction is a big monastery, aka Kloster, which is nice to visit any time of year. Immediately behind the Kloster is a small ski area with a big sledding hill. This is a nice place to come when the snow has already melted in Zurich but you still want some low-key winter fun.

Car: ~35mins from ZHLift type: T-barsRestaurant: kiosk
Train/Bus: yes Magic Carpet: yes, fee Rental: in town
Cost: sledding free Sledding: yes Lessons: yes

Park in the metered lot next to the cemetery, just a minute east of the Kloster as you drive out of town. On busy days, additional parking is available on the snow next to the paved lot. An attendant will collect a 5CHF parking fee for the day.

walking along the cemetery wall to the hill

To reach the sledding hill, walk west along the cemetery wall (shown above), past the small ski lift and snow garden, until you see the big hill with lots of sledders.  You can't miss it. We particularly like that it is a graduated slope (ranging from very mild to very steep), suiting sledders of all ages. It also ends in a very long flat section, so you don't end up hitting a tree, building or sliding off a cliff or onto a road. The only hazard is other sledders, so watch carefully and don't idly sit with your back to other sledders - you will get hit!

very little kids sledding alone on the gentle slope

If you tire of sledding, there are two small ski lifts, not covered by the same ticket. The first ski lift is near the parking lot. There is also a small tow and very gentle slope near that. The ski area next to the sledding hill has one tow rope on a small hill appropriate for absolute beginners. It costs 6CHF/hour or 10CHF/half day or 16CHF/full day, a good, affordable option for beginners that won't last all day. They offer drop-in ski lessons (www.skischule-einsiedeln.ch), group lessons with a minimum of 4 participants. The adjacent snow garden offers ski lessons for children 3+, which start at 12:30, lasts one hour, costs 28CHF and requires at least 3 participants.

snow garden with tow rope and a variety of obstacles

the small ski hill with tow rope

I haven't tried it yet, but there are also winter walking trails and a cross-country skiing course next to the sledding area. See www.loipe-bolzberg.ch for more info. You can also ice skate at Eispark Einsiedeln near the Schoolhouse Brüel.

07 January 2015

Felsenegg Winter Walk and Sledding

Even when the snow has melted in Zurich, there's often lots left up on the Uetliberg range, west of Zurich. The Felsenegg cable car in Adliswil (about 15 mins from Zurich) takes up hill and into a winter wonderland. At the top, there's a restaurant and a winter trail with some sledding.

We've had several fun snowy winter walks on the trail from Felsenegg to Buchenegg, or vice versa.
I don't know if this trail is regularly groomed for walkers. Sometimes we've been on it and it had been obviously groomed with a machine and other times, it was just tramped down by other hikers. Because of the unpredictability, I'd recommend taking kids on a sled instead of a stroller.

To access this walk, you can take the Felsenegg cable car (short walk from Adliswil train station) up to the ridge and start walking south to the Felsenegg restaurant, about 5-10 minutes. Or you can drive up to Buchenegg pass (about 15 mins from Zurich), park near the Buchenegg restaurant and walk north along the ridge, reaching the restaurant in about 20-30 minutes. To make the trail into a loop, you can leave the ridge trail at the restaurant and walk down the access road, following the trail by a few farms and looping back up to Buchenegg. The whole loop might take an hour with little kids, less with only adults. See my summer Felsenegg posting for more info on the trail.

Just a few minutes walk south of the cable car, you'll find the Felsenegg Panorama Restaurant, which is cozy and tasty. Here's a view inside.

Behind the Felsenegg restaurant, the trail road descends into the valley. If there aren't too many walkers to avoid, it makes a decent sled run. Below, you can see a couple pics of us sledding on this trail.

Plus there's a big field for snow fights, snow angels and snowmen.

05 December 2014

Winter Walk: Titlis Trübsee

Summary: winter walk around alpine lake with mountain views

Of the many winter activities in the Titlis/Engelberg area, the winter walk around the Trübsee lake is a nice alternative for families with children too young to ski. The Trübsee is It was a lovely trail with fantastic views. Though conditions can vary, when we were there, the path was well groomed with hard-packed snow, easily navigated on foot, stroller or sled. If you want a little adventure, on your way back down, you can stop at Gerschnialp and do the long sled run to the back to the valley.

Car: ~1:15 from ZHTrail: ~3km Restaurant: yes
Train/Bus: yes Stroller: possible Grill pit: N/A
Cost: medium Theme: snow Playground: no

Details. The Engelberg area has many winter walks, so be sure to consult their website and particularly the interactive map before heading out. Winter walks (groomed walking trails) are a dotted pink line with a little hiker symbol as opposed to yellow dots (snowshoe trail) or dark blue dots (cross-country skiing).

To get to the Trübsee walk, drive to Engelberg (also easily accessible by public transportation) and follow signs to the Titlis cable car. Buy your ticket to Trübsee, which is the second stop on the trip up to Titlis. If you want to do the long sled run after your walk, you'll buy a different ticket for the return trip and stop on your way down at Gerschnialp where the sled run starts.

From the Trübsee cable car stop, walk down to the lake and follow trail signs toward Obertrübsee. At the far side of the lake, when the trail splits, loop back along the lake instead of continuing to the Obertrübsee lift. Near the end of the hike, there was a restaurant along the trail where you could stop for lunch. We were on the trail for about 2 hours. Our 5 yr old walked the whole thing but he got very tired and it was a little tough for him to finish.

This was our first winter walk so we didn't know what we were doing. We took the stroller and quickly learned that it would have been much more fun with a sled. We brought our little disk sleds, which were great when there were downhill sections, as shown in the pic below.

The trail is groomed and on the day we were there, possible with a stroller. It's important to check the conditions before your trip. In heavy snow or very warm days with melting snow, the trail may not be in good condition for walking. We went on a lovely sunny day. We dressed in all our snow gear, but with the sun and effort of walking, we were all sweating after a few minutes and stripped off a lot of layers.

29 November 2014

Uetliberg Planet Path

Summary: theme trail on hills west of Zurich lake

Most Zurichers have been up to Uetliberg at least once, but perhaps you haven't yet walked any of the many trails along this ridge. I didn't expect the Uetliberg trails to be anything special because they're so close into town, but they are. The Uetliberg Planet Path to Felsenegg, about 2 hours total walking time, is a lovely stroll through forests and farmland, with occasional views of Zurich lake and even the alps in the distance. It is also a theme trail, with the planets (and educational signboards) appearing along the path. There are lots of picnic spots along the path with grill pits. The trail is mostly a wide dirt road, easy to navigate with strollers, with only a couple short bumpy sections to give you trouble. It's nice in all seasons, but particularly in fall with the changing colors.

Car: ~15 mins from ZHTrail: 6km, about 2hrs Restaurant: yes
Train/Bus: yes, preferred Stroller: partial Grill pit: yes
Cost: low Theme: planets Playground: at start

View Larger Map

Getting There

This trail starts at the Uetliberg train station and ends near Felsenegg. The easiest way to access this trail is with public transportation:
- start at the Zurich HB
- take the S10 train to Uetliberg (about 27 mins)
- walk the trail (about 2hrs)
- take the Felsenegg cable car down to Adliswil (runs every 15 mins, from about 9:00-20:00, till 22:00 on Saturdays)
- walk to Adliswil train station (about 5-10 mins)
- return by train from Adliswil to Zurich (about 23 mins)

If you choose the option outlined above, buy the "Albis Day Pass" (aka Albis-Tageskarte) which covers all the zones needed to access this trail and return by public transportation (in 2014, 8.40chf with Halbtax), including the Felsenegg cable car.

If you are coming by car outside the city, please note that you cannot drive all the way up to Uetliberg. You can park near one of the S10 train stops, like Uitikon Waldegg or Ringlikon, and take the train from there (or walk up). There is a big parking lot on Birmendorfstrasse (before you reach Uitikon, between Albisriederstr. and Zürcherstr.). There is also blue zone parking (15 hrs, I think) on Langwiessstrasse in Uitikon and you can hike up from there. However, remember to plan how you will get back to your car. If you want to take public transportation, I might recommend parking at the bottom of the Felsenegg gondola and taking public transportation to Uetliberg, so you end your hike at your car in Felsenegg.

Of course, you can start this trail at different points, do shorter sections of this trail, and/or simply walk back to where you started. Be creative!

Trail Details

The Uetliberg Planetenweg starts with the sun near the Uetliberg train stop, as shown below. There is also a small playground next to the train stop, on the west side of the tracks. You won't see it when you get off the train because the train is blocking it. Just walk around the front of the train to access the playground. There is also a kiosk if you need some snacks.

Follow the trail up, toward the Uto-Kulm viewpoint. Before you reach the top, the planet trail will split off to your right. But before continuing the Planet trail, I recommend first taking a detour up to the viewpoint, climbing the tower, and enjoying the view of Zurich lake for awhile. Here are pics of the tower you can climb; the view is worth it. See the Uetliberg Viewpoint post for more information about enjoying your time up top.

At the Uto-Kulm viewpoint, you will see yellow trails signs on the southside leading you down a lot of steep stairs. If you take these stairs, you will rejoin the Planetenweg, but you will miss a few of the planets. So instead, continue back the way you came, taking the split (shown on the right below, but it will be on your left as you retrace your steps), following the Planetenweg trail signs. The trail goes below Uto-Kulm on the west side, heading south.

Note: Before I knew what I was doing, I took those stairs at the top with my jogger stroller. Big mistake. There are a lot of stairs, very difficult to manage with a stroller. So if you have a stroller, definitely go back to the Planetenweg to continue your walk. But if you're just walking and you don't mind missing some planets, the stairs are a nice way to go. Here are pics of the stairs just so you know.

After you rejoin the Planetenweg, other planets will appear along the trail, at distances proportional to the actual distance in space. "Each meter along the Planet Trail from Uetliberg to Felsenegg corresponds to one million kilometers and covers the distance from the sun right out to Pluto." The first six planets are very close together, then they are spread very far apart, as you can see in the map below.

Here are a couple more of the planet signs.

The trail follows the ridge line shown below (pic taken from Uto-Kulm tower).

The trail is mostly a wide dirt road (below left), with a few sections that veer off into the forest on narrower, bumpier trails (below right).

The trail alternates between open areas along farmland and the forest.

Periodically you'll get long views east to Zurichsee or west over the countryside.

It took us almost 2hrs, with a very slow 7 year old walking at his own leisurely pace. At Felsenegg, we took the cable car (runs every 15mins) into Adliswil, walked about 5 mins to the train station and caught the train back to Zurich.

Here are some trail signs at the Felsenegg station.

A map of the area, showing the variety of trails.

Why for kids?
  • close to town so you can get back for naps
  • flat, paved trail is good for strollers (assuming you bypass the stairs)
  • there's a playground at the Uetliberg train station to burn some energy
  • the Uto-Kulm tower is fun to climb - my toddler loved this and wanted to climb multiple times)
  • the Planet trail markers provide incentive for kids to keep moving 
  • cows