A Guide to Off-Piste Skiing in Engelberg, Switzerland

Andrew LyleJanuary 28, 2019

Set in the center of the iconic Swiss Alps, Engelberg is a clear choice for off-piste skiing adventure. The perfect blend of access, accommodation, and snow quality make this long-season resort town one of the best in all of Switzerland and the entire Alps.

Its reputation as an off-piste paradise has been earned with notorious runs at Titlis, Brunni, and a number of other spots, assisted by cable cars to get skiers to the top of the slopes before descending into the pristine powder of the backcountry.

First gaining notoriety for its Benedictine monastery, Engelberg started its transformation into a modern resort destination in the 19th century. Developed by tourism-savvy families, it hosted its first winter season in 1903 and 1904 and hasn’t looked back since.

 

Engelberg off-piste is notoriously steep. Photo courtesy of Stefan Joller.

The steep valley terrain south of Lake Lucerne, with a high point at 3,238 meters at Mt. Titlis, was made for skiing, drawing athletes from far and wide to experience the 2,500-plus meter mountains surrounding the charming village center.

The 2,100 meter vertical difference from high slope (Mt. Titlis) to village is incredibly appealing to skiers, but what keeps them coming back is the endless off-piste opportunities tucked just out-of-bounds.

With simple runs to longer circuits, there is a lifetime of routes with varying difficulty levels for everyone to try. The ungroomed Laub run is considered one of the best off-piste runs of the Alps, with the rest of Titlis’s “Big Five” close behind. And that is just one of the primary ski areas.

For those in search of a premium ski trip in the Alps in a destination that is primed for backcountry adventure, this unique area is the ticket.

Check out the delightful programs and thrilling trips into the Swiss snowfields of Engelberg for an off-piste skiing expedition in your new favorite place to ski!

 

3 Reasons to Go Off-Piste Skiing in Engelberg

Location, Location, Location

Every leg of the journey to and from Engelberg plays out like a dream. Traveling by air, rail, and car is convenient enough to keep focus on the slopes and not worrying about logistics.

Snow falls from seemingly every direction because the valley is snuggled between Titlis in the south, Walenstocke and Ruchstock in the north, and Wissburg to the east. The high number of tall peaks translates to diverse terrain, in turn leading to tree-lined drops and open glades of every shape and size.

The high passes between the mountains boast deep, steep descents, one of the unique features of Engelberg’s landscape.

The territory off-piste is challenging, particularly in the large Titlis area, but as the elevation inches lower and lower, more novice-friendly runs emerge from the moderate slopes. Most are served by a network of lifts and cable cars, all efficient and effective because of the runs’ locations in the valley.


Enjoy four days of off-piste skiing in engelberg with certified guide stefan


Off-Piste Beauty

Skiers who plan on freeriding and exploring the land just beyond the piste know to come to Engelberg. The deep snow and seamless access make it easy to jump the ropes and blaze your own trail along the scenic ridges and jaw-dropping vistas.

From an impressive vantage point in Central Switzerland, the spread of Alpine scenery from Sorenberg to Bannalp is truly moving. One of the highlights is the view down to Engelberg village from the starting point of the Laub.

For intrepid skiers, its most famous runs are mostly off-piste, including Galtiberg, Steinberg, and the infamous Laub. The fresh snow pockets and rugged terrain is so enticing that movies have commonly used it for winter wilderness settings.

The long runs and exciting twists and turns in the Uri Alps all feature incredible panoramas, replete with jagged limestone peaks piercing the sky.

Plenty of Options

If you aren’t a seasoned veteran who’s ready to jump ice falls at 3,000 meters, it’s okay! There are a number of other spots across the mountains that cater to backcountry beginners and safety-first skiers. Cutting your off-piste teeth on Brunni or Haldigrat is a great way to open the door for a more ambitious future, on Titlis and beyond.

 

Sweeping views of the Uri Alps. Photo courtesy of Stefan Joller.

The family areas are also close enough that you can take up lessons for some while running up the mountain to the more engaging terrain at altitude. The valley is steep but accommodating, so crafting a program with a dedicated guide can easily place you in an exhilarating and manageable field of snow without forcing you out of your depth.

Where to Ski in Engelberg

 

There are a number of resorts in the wider Central Switzerland region, such as Sorenberg and its woolly Brienzer Rothorn (2,350m) runs, all with their own twist on the adventurous backcountry of the surrounding valley. Here are the most popular and mouth-watering for powder hounds and ski professionals that are sure to make you strap on your boots and head up the mountain.

 

Titlis

 

The largest and highest area in Engelberg, this is the definitive off-piste playground summed up by its unique topography. You can reach the peak via the Rotair cable car, a fun rotating lift that allows all riders an epic 360-degree view. Its namesake mountain is well over 3,000 meters, and features the “Big 5” – the five most popular off-piste routes of Engelberg.


Take on Titlis at Engelberg on a four-day guided off-piste skiing program with Stefan


1| Laub

 

The most infamous of the “Big 5” and all off-piste routes is the Laub, a delicious 1,200 meter vertical descent from around 2,500 meters. Its width and consistent angle – a healthy 35 to 40 degrees, at places a bit more – make it the most well-known and arguably the best route on the mountain. What makes it so special? Little to no rocks, zero to no vegetation – powder only. Drop-ins are steep, and the most ambitious skiers will love coming into the Langwand.


In Brief

Distance: 1,200 meters

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced

Starting Point: Turn right under the Laubersgrat lift and ski the black run. Leave it before the turn and traverse straight to the ridge. Pro tip – admire the view of the village proper below.


2| Steintali

 

The slightly smaller Jochstock (2,503m) offers a nearly-700 meter descent down Steintali for the second of the “Big 5” routes. It will have great fresh tracks that remain undisturbed for days, and these powder pockets maintain their quality because of the perfect elevation.

Lost in the remote immensity of Engelberg. Photo courtesy of Leo Infanger.

In Brief

Distance: 674 meters

Difficulty: Intermediate

Starting Point: Ski under the top of the Jochstock lift and turn to the left.


3| Sulz

 

The next of the “Big 5” is Sulz. This line is also off of Jochstock offers steep and varied couloir routes, replete with different sizes. The “Small” Sulz is a good warm up, while the “Big” Sulz is a wide run that is difficult to find your way back to the main track from.


In Brief

Distance: 803 meters

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced

Starting Point: Ski under the rope at the top of the Jochstock lift.


4| Steinberg

 

The next run is the Steinberg. This is a glacier run from the top of Titlis, so a high level of proficiency and preparation are required. It runs down to Trubsee and in total exceeds 1,200 meters in descent. Finding your way across the terrain – and locating your path – can be complicated, but it is worth it for the length and quality of the righteous powder.


In Brief

Distance: 1,284 meters

Difficulty: Advanced

Starting Point: Ski the red marked run from the top of Klein Titlis (the Rotair cable car) and veer left to the glacier.


5| Galtiberg

 

Rounding out the “Big 5” is the ultimate challenge – the Galtiberg. This 2,000 meter descent is the longest off-piste route on Titlis and one of the longest in the entire Alps. Cutting under the North Face of the mountain, this is a true Alpine descent with some serious obstacles. Steer clear of the cliff (the Traverse) and the dead end (the Graben) and you are in store for one of the best runs of your life.

 

Sunny skies are common at Brunni. Photo courtesy of Leo Infanger.

In Brief

Distance: 2,000 meters

Difficulty: Advanced

Starting Point: Ski the red marked run from the top of Klein Titlis (the Rotair cable car) and veer left to the glacier.


 

This collection of daunting runs makes for an enticing challenge to any proficient skiers up for the task. If any ski touring aficionados are out there, the next test is the “High Five” – a series of five circuits around Engelberg that will have you skiing and skiing to your heart’s content.


Check out this Haute Route from Andermatt to the thrilling village of Engelberg!


Brunni

 

Across the valley on the northern side, Brunni is the alternative to the indomitable Titlis runs. This is a family friendly area that tops out around 2,000 meters or so with great snow conditions and lines for everyone. But don’t let its sunny face fool you – ride Switzerland’s steepest T-bar lift (Schonegg) to the top and carve your own path through consistently fresh and deep snow.

The off-piste landscape is less crowded than other locations in the region, so for a day of medium altitude runs on fresh snow, Brunni is a great option. Ristis-Waldegg is an ungroomed descent that should accommodate all off-piste skiers. The sun tends to hit the south-facing slopes for pleasant atmosphere to accompany the descents.

 

A skier enjoys a run in fresh parted. Photo courtesy of Stefan Joller.

Access to the intimate Bannalp, Klewenalp, and Haldigrat ski resorts is just to the north of Brunni. They trend towards family-oriented ski runs, but they share the same prime backcountry as the taller descents in the south, so incorporating a trek to these nearby gems can be a worthwhile adventure, especially when chasing the best snow conditions in the valley.

Best Time to Go There

 

A general ski season in Engelberg lasts from December through April. This is a relatively snow-sure location in the Swiss Alps, so the amount of high quality snow shouldn’t falter for the duration of the season. The precipitation is mild and accompanied by low humidity, though it still manages to receive snowy days through April.

Depending on the season, and with special attention paid to the glacial terrain at the highest altitudes, you may be able to salvage a few epic runs from October through May. These conditions will most likely be reserved for advanced skiers with extra precaution taken on most off-piste runs.

How Much Does A Guided Trip Cost

 

As one of the primary destinations for off-piste skiing (and snow sports in general), there are a plethora of guides and programs to choose from. There are classic day trips, multi-day routes, and even a Haute Route to enjoy, so the cost will vary widely on what you want to ski in Engelberg. The most probable differences in price will come from the duration, how many people are joining the program, and what is included. A single-day group trip with five people will cost far less than a week-long private circuit for you and one other person.

Fresh tracks on a beautiful Engelberg morning. Photo courtesy of Stefan Joller.

A typical one day off-piste skiing program can start as low as 95 Swiss francs (CHF), providing basic and not much else. More inclusive trips – like this four-day off-piste program with instruction, mid-range accommodation and half-board meals – begin around 1150 Swiss francs (CHF). The possibilities are endless, so talk to a guide to figure out what best suits your needs and abilities and they can help design a program that is right for you.

How to Get There

 

 

The development of Engelberg throughout the 20th century into one of the premiere ski resort destinations in Switzerland has greatly helped its access – it could not be easier to arrive in comfort to the slopes of Engelberg. Direct flights to Zurich are available from all major European cities, with at least one flight a day from New York, Los Angeles, and even Tokyo.

The Zurich Airport is just 100 kilometers to the north-northeast, making the trip easy by both road and rail. The Bern Airport is also relatively close to Engelberg at 137 kilometers away.

For private cars, taxis, and buses, the journey can be as short as 1 hour and 20 minutes by road, and roughly two hours by train. There are hourly railway connections from both Zurich Airport to Lucerne and Lucerne to Engelberg, and a train offers a scenic approach to the charming village. The uniquely comfortable journey to Engelberg is a rare perk for a remote ski village.

 

Are you ready to head to Central Switzerland and take on some of the most electrifying off-piste runs in the Alps? Book your off-piste skiing trip to Engelberg NOW and ride out your wildest skiing dreams on the premium terrain of an enchanting resort!

 

 

Want to know more
about Off piste skiing in Switzerland?

Share this article on your network:

Other users viewed:

Join our Newsletter

Stay up-to-date on the best adventures!