Snow’n’Rail at Engelberg Titlis

Swiss Railway or SBB as they are abbreviated sells a special package for skiers which includes return rail tickets along with the ski pass. One of the resorts included was Titlis which is accessed from the town of Engelberg in Switzerland. Mount Titlis itself is a popular tourist destination due to the number of attractions on the mountaintop such as the glacier cave and world’s first rotating cable car.

View of the town of Engelberg
View of the town of Engelberg

GETTING THERE

Engelberg Titlis is located in central Switzerland and close to the town of Lucerne. With regular scheduled trains travelling between Lucerne and Engelberg even in the winter, the ski resort is very accessible to many skiers.

Zentralbahn train
Zentralbahn train

From the Engelberg train station, there are frequent buses to the base station of the Titlis Xpress cable car and the gondola. Travelling on the buses are included for skiers who have purchased a ski pass and if you have gotten the Snow’n’Rail package, ski passes can be picked up at the train station.

Powder Express bus
Powder Express bus

There are ski rental shops and another ticket office at the base station. Other facilities includes a cafeteria and gift shop.

CHAIRLIFTS & GONDOLAS

At the base station, there are access to the Titlis Xpress cable car that brings skiers directly to Trübsee. Another way to ascend the mountain is by taking the funicular to Gerschnialp which has routes for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Titlis Xpress cable car
Titlis Xpress cable car

Trübsee is perhaps the centre of Titlis for skiing with an aerial tram connected to Gerschnialp and the Titlis Xpress cable car continuing on to Stand area. There is a parallel gondola to Stand that was not in operation that day due to inclement weather.

Top of Trübsee-Jochpass chairlift
Top of Trübsee-Jochpass chairlift

At the higher altitude Stand area, go onboard the world’s first rotating gondola – the Titlis Rotair, that will bring skiers to Klein Titlis which is the highest point of Mount Titlis. On some days, do expect as much tourists as there are skiers. Since the pistes at the top are closed, it was quiet on both days I visited with low visibility.

Rotair rotating cable car
Rotair rotating cable car

There is a 6-seater Ice Flyer chairlift and T-bar allowing skiers access to the glaciers at the top but it was closed both days I visited due to low visibility. Otherwise the Laubersgrat area has another 4-seater chairlift providing more fun in the red intermediate pistes.

Trübsee station
Trübsee station

From Trübsee, skiers can take the Trübsee-Hopper 4-seater chairlift over to reach Alpstübli. The lodge here acts as a base for another 4-seater chairlift to Jochpass which is another great area for intermediate skiers.

Trübsee-Hopper chairlift
Trübsee-Hopper chairlift

The Jochpass area is base to a 6-seater Jochstock Xpress and the double-seater Engstenalp chairlift. While the 6-seater fast chairlift was closed, the Engstenalp chairlift provides access to easier blue runs.

Engstlenalp base
Engstlenalp base

For more access to the blue runs and some easy off-piste routes, there is a small gondola called Älplerseil connecting Obertrübsee with Untertrübsee. It is a slow and small gondola with a capacity for 6-8 people at a time.

Älplerseil Untertrübsee
Älplerseil Untertrübsee

Other than these chairlifts and gondolas, there are T-bars at both Untertrübsee and Gerschnialp for beginners and access to easy runs.

T-bar at Untertrübsee
T-bar at Untertrübsee

COST & VALUE

For my visit to Titlis, I had purchased the 2-day Snow’n’Rail package from the Swiss Railway. The cost for this package can range from CHF80-135 (~$79-134) for one or 2 days ski passes including the train and bus transportation.

Ticket office
Ticket office

At these prices, it would normally be just for a one day ski pass in the top resorts of United States. Thus visitors to Lucerne looking to ski in Switzerland should take advantage of this deal since you can ski at Titlis for the day at reasonable prices with one of the world’s best railway system included.

BEGINNER RUNS

Skiers who are here with families or just learning would do best to stick with the terrain around Gerschnialp and Untertrübsee as these 2 areas are where blue runs are located at.

Gerschnialp
Easy terrain at Gerschnialp

Both of the areas are served by T-bars and the terrain is mild and gentle making it easy for skiers and snowboarders who are just learning in the sport. In particular, the Gerschnialp area is large with dedicated spaces for kids to learn the sport so Titlis is really friendly for families who are looking to introduce skiing to the little ones.

T-bars at Gerschnialp
T-bars at Gerschnialp

Another easy area for skiers who are progressing would be the Engstlenalp piste served by a double chairlift. However this piste is slightly narrow and the route out of this area is a red piste. Thus it should only be attempted by skiers who are already better at managing their speed.

Engstenalp run
Engstenalp run
Blue piste
Blue piste in Engstenalp

INTERMEDIATE RUNS

Using the European system of classifying ski pistes, the red runs are for intermediate skiers. Most of the ski pistes in the area are under this colour and they form the bulk of the ski area.

Intermediate route no 6
Intermediate route no 6

One of the longer red piste is from the Stand area to Trübsee. The gradient here is more consistent but located above the treeline. This meant the piste can be low in visibility when it snows. From Stand area, there is also the Laubersgrat area which has its own chairlift but I did not explore since it was closed due to low visibility. Another major area for intermediate skiers is Jochpass which is served by the Jochstock Xpress chairlift. This route from the top of Jochstock Xpress can be combined with the piste leading back to Alpstübli to make a nice long run with steep sections. Most intermediate skiers would enjoy Jochpass area with some off-piste section and more steep areas to discover. There is

Jochstock Xpress
Red piste around Jochstock Xpress
Red piste by Jochpass
Red piste by Jochpass

Finally, there are red piste back to Untertrübsee and the base station from Trübsee though this red piste is only for a section of the run. In reality, most of the no. 6 piste is a blue run with some steep sections that makes it a red run.

Red piste to Untertrübsee
Red piste to Untertrübsee

EXPERT RUNS

While the piste map does not really have much black runs for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders, Titlis still has plenty to offer. Notably the steep sections are found alongside the cliffs around Jochpass and Jochstock.

Under the cliffs at Jochpass
Under the cliffs at Jochpass

The cliffs here actually helps in determining the gradient of the slopes when visibility is not optimal but there are 2 black runs here, with one beside the Jochstock Xpress chairlift and another one from the top of Jochpass nearer to the cliffs.

Cliffside skiing
Cliffside skiing

Some other more advanced terrains can be found in the descent along piste no. 6 with tree skiing possible at this area. What makes this more fun is that advanced skiers can head back to cover the area again using the Älplerseil gondola.

Steeper terrain on piste no 6
Steeper terrain on piste no 6

BACKCOUNTRY & TERRAIN PARK

The off-piste terrain in Titlis is probably a good reason to visit this ski resort. While the marked piste might not be extensive, there are some nice off-piste area that I was able to access off the chairlifts and the fresh snowfall really made the area fun. Needless to say, if the weather was better, there are plenty of backcountry areas to try out in this mountain so first timers could get a mountain guide for their backcountry excursions.

Off piste terrain
Off piste terrain

Otherwise there are some easy off-piste or sidecountry terrain to access in Jochpass area and on the route down from Obertrübsee to Untertrübsee. In the higher altitudes, there are off-piste routes from Klein Titlis to Stand, though the low visibility meant those areas were closed when I visited.

Sidecountry terrain
Sidecountry terrain

As with exploring any off-piste area, knowledge of the terrain is important here as there are some cavern and deep areas along any off-piste route. That is why even though many off-piste opportunities abound, a local guide would be recommended. On this trip, I did not get to visit the terrain park due to the heavy snow but there is one located next to the T-bar at Untertrübsee.

Cavern by the ski piste no 6
Cavern by the ski piste no 6

ON-MOUNTAIN LODGES

As mentioned earlier, there are numerous places to eat and have a rest on the mountain. Most first time visitors would visit the summit at Klein Titlis where there is a panoramic viewpoint when the weather is good. There are gift shops, a Lindt chocolate store and a place serving snacks and ice cream. There is a similar facility at Stand which is the base of the Rotair rotating gondola.

Restaurant at Klein Titlis
Restaurant at Klein Titlis

The major ski lodge for skiers is at Trübsee where there is the Berghotel. Skiers could stay in the mountaintop here and the self-service restaurant serves both guests and skiers during lunch time.

Berghotel Trübsee station
Berghotel Trübsee station
Trübsee self-service restaurant
Trübsee self-service restaurant

Separately there are 2 more lodges on the mountain. One of them is Älpstubli at the other end of the Trübsee-Hopper chairlift. Another one is Bärghuis Jochpass which is another large ski lodge with accommodation for skiers.

Berghaus Jochpass
Bärghuis Jochpass
Inside Bärghuis Jochpass
Restaurant at Bärghuis Jochpass

For a ski resort that is not as large as others I have visited, they do have plenty of on-mountain lodges and the interior is well renovated even though it retains many traditional decorations. That is something we can expect of Swiss ski resorts.

FOOD & BEVERAGES

As with the condition of the ski lodges, the food here did not disappoint. Bärghuis Jochpass is perhaps more upmarket with a sit-down restaurant where guests could order from the menu. There was light dishes such as salads and soups ranging in prices from CHF8-20, and pastas for around CHF20-25 with half portions costing slightly less at CHF15-18. Traditional Swiss specialties like rosti and bratwurst are also available here.

Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, parsley, chili and sun-dried tomatoes
Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, parsley, chili and sun-dried tomatoes at Bärghuis Jochpass

Over at Trübsee, the style is more like many other ski resorts with a self-service cafeteria with dishes like pork belly and roast chicken to choose from. Spaghetti bolognese, snacks like nuggets, and a salad bar also form the various food stations in the cafeteria. Prices range from CHF14-20 for a main course and around CHF7-11 for soups and light bites.

Pork belly and roast chicken
Pork belly and roast chicken at Trübsee
Nuggets and fries
Nuggets and fries

Also common in European ski resorts is the large variety of desserts sold in the restaurants here. I am guessing the fact many tourists come up to Titlis, it makes the food and beverage business here more sustainable throughout the year and the wide variety and reasonable prices for a ski resort does make it nice to have meals while skiing here. Do consider that some of the food here was actually even cheaper than meals I had in Zurich or Geneva so that is another plus to ski here!

Dessert section
Dessert section

LODGING OPTIONS

With many of the on-mountain lodges like Trübsee and Jochpass also functioning as hotels for skiers to get ski-in/ski-out access, these are where hardcore skiers would want to stay. However, I do think most skiers with families or those travelling with other non-skier friends might want to stay in one of the hotels around the town of Engelberg. Most of the hotels are clustered around the station with Hotel Bellevue right across the street.

Hotel Bellevue
Hotel Bellevue

Otherwise there are plenty of other hotels around the town such as Terrace Hotel located on the mountainside for great views or the more modern Hotel Waldegg that has a nice spa. Staying in Engelberg means it is easier to get groceries and necessities, along with more choices for dining out at the end of the day as it is a functioning town with residents all year round.

Hotel Schweizerhof
Hotel Schweizerhof

APRÉS-SKI

Since the weather and crowds was not great for aprés-ski, I would instead write on what else there was to do after skiing. Being a major tourist attraction in its own right, there was plenty of shopping to do here with a large Lindt chocolate store in the Klein Titlis and the glacier cave walk which is a real ice cave at the summit. However these attractions are closed when the gondolas stop running so they are activities that one can do when the weather is not so good or when you are tired and need a break.

Lindt chocolate store
Lindt chocolate store

Otherwise back in town, there are plenty more shops to browse around for souvenirs or a new pair of skis. As a town, there are playground for families travelling with kids since they do have one of the most extensive beginners area for a ski resort.

Playground in the town
Playground in the town

However for a real aprés-ski, there is always the Chalet lodge next to the base station with its own outdoor deck and a warm interior. There are live music when the crowds come with fondue being served on the weekends.

Chalet lodge at the base station
Chalet lodge at the base station

SUMMIT VIEWS

Since it was snowing on both days I visited, I did not get to see Titlis from the peak where it was all shrouded by clouds. Though for its popularity amongst tourists, I have no doubt the views here would be fantastic. Even the rotating gondola in itself should offer amazing views while ascending to Klein Titlis. One reason for this is that the views from the Titlis Xpress cable car itself was impressive enough and that is only midway up the mountain so there must be even better ones to be had from up top.

Majestic alpine views
Majestic alpine views

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

Famous for a tourist attraction with fancy gondolas and tall peaks, Titlis is really convenient for skiers who are interested to ski a bit while on a Swiss vacation. Initially that is what I thought it would remain as my final word on this resort.

Titlis Xpress cable car
Titlis Xpress cable car

And then the fresh snow fell and made the whole runs here enjoyable. Add to that truly majestic alpine views and a nice town at the foot and it makes this place to be a winter wonderland in its own right that is so close to Lucerne. Thus if it snows in Lucerne, take the time off from viewing the sights and instead come up to Titlis to ski. I believe it would be a better day spent instead of walking in the cold or hiding in your hotel room.

Alpstübli
Alpstübli
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