Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb towards it.
Edmund Hillary, first climber to summit Everest in 1953
When howling winds and blustery snow flurries herald the arrival of winter, outdoor enthusiasts in Switzerland flock to the slopes. Locals and tourists alike are seemingly immune to the tooth-numbing cold that drives the more faint of heart indoors at this time of year. We recently discovered first-hand that the Swiss certainly can deliver on their promise of some pretty spectacular winter activities, not the least of which is sledding – or as it’s more commonly called here, sledging.
“But sledding is for kids,“ you say.
Pshaw! Perhaps if they’re daredeviling Whovenile delinquents. Or maybe you just have one too many.
After Trav and I finished our tour of the cheese factory in nearby Gruyeres, we were so excited about an afternoon of sledding that we arrived an hour and a half early at our sledding destination, Moléson-sur-Gruyères. While waiting for our friends to show up, we investigated a promising snowshoe trail, built a snow fort and our own sledding track, and Travis briefly took a nap in a snow bank.
The man can sleep anywhere.
Once all seven of our friends (+1 non-Whovenile delinquent) arrived, we bought tickets and piled inside the funicular office to choose the best (ie, fastest) sled, then awkwardly carted them through the electronic turnstyle.
We were all just barely able to squeeze into the few remaining air pockets in the tram before the doors closed and we were whisked uphill.
The funicular (little train) spit us out at Plan Francey, our destination point mid-way up the mountain. Some of the riders filed into a line for the cable car to continue to the top of the peak for skiing, while we spilled out into the brilliant sunshine and stared up at Le Moléson in awe.
After a few photos, we all gathered at the start of the sledding run and spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to steer and how to sit. Then, laughing and excited, we shoved off. The first few hundred feet of the trail brought a smile to my face as our sleds gently swished along.
This is great, I thought. Just like when we were kids!
Coasting to a stop, those in the lead waited until our party regrouped for the next stretch. Emboldened by excitement and the gentle pitch of the first section, I catapulted onto my sled headfirst and launched down the hill. Headfirst? What in Heaven’s name was I thinking?! Just because the others were doing it…
But so much FUN!
It took us nearly an hour and a half to work our way down the entire sledding route, which dropped 500 meters (1640 feet is a lot) over the course of the 4 kilometer run. Once at the bottom, we all piled back into the funicular for a second go-round of heart-pounding, kidney-bruising, tailbone-busting fun.
Despite the frequent and complete inability to stop, hairpin corners, steep drop-offs, the occasional barbed wire fence along the route, and a single spectacular crash when I plowed over Ivan, none of our friends died. Hallelujah!
I can’t remember the last time I had so much unequivocal fun or laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. After all, if you’re not crying a little, you’re not really having fun.
Know Before You Go:
- 14 chf per adult, 9.10 chf for youth 9-23 years old, FREE for “seedlings” under 9 years old (funicular)
- 10 chf per sled/toboggan rental
- Total cost for an adult to rent a sled, take the tram up once, and sled the 4 km run one time is 24 chf
- Parking is free
Hours 13.12.2014 – 29.03.2015:
- Monday through Friday, 0900 – 1630
- Saturday, Sunday & vacations, 0830 – 1630
- Final funicular for the last sledding run of the day leaves at 1530
- Sleds must be returned at the base of the funicular by 1700
- Adult tickets for the funicular get a 50% discount if you have a Swiss Half-Fare travelcard or GA travelcard.
- With the half-price travelcard discount, a sled rental and two lift tickets for 2 sled runs only costs 21 chf per adult.
- If you bring your own sled, you only have to buy the lift ticket!
- No minimum age requirements; sled at your own risk
- Average time to complete the run once is 1 1/2 hours
- Length of the run is 4000 m (4 km) with a 500 m drop
- This info is just for the sledding run and doesn’t include cable car lift prices to the top of Moléson for skiing. For planning a day of skiing or snowshoeing, visit their website.
- Map of the sledding run