“Just remind me again we why we are doing this?” I am tempted to ask my instructor and fellow pupils as I look down from the top of the novice ski jump.

I am in the picturesque Swiss village of Kandersteg in the heart of the Bernese Oberland and, heart in mouth, about to try my first ever ski jump.

After being kitted out with special jumping boots and ultra-long 2.5-metres skis we are instructed on how to try the Nordic Ski Centre’s smallest ramp, which is no more than five-metres long from the take-off point to the landing area.

The key, we are told, is to adopt the “in-line” position towards take-off where knees are bent and the back is parallel to the snow.

I am in the air for less than a second and no higher than a foot above the snow but after collapsing in a heap am happy to call it a day, having fleetingly experienced what it feels like to fly.

For the more ambitious the arena also has a 27-metre intermediate jump (the kind you might have seen in Channel 4’s reality TV show “The Jump”) as well as 72m and 106m jumps.

It was in Kandersteg that Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, the first competitor since 1929 to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping, learned to jump before shooting to fame at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary – where he finished last in both the 70-metre and 90-metre events.

Despite his lack of medal success, Edwards soared in my estimation as I take in the vertiginous view from the top of the largest jump, from where the village buildings appear as tiny spots below.

The hardest thing, I am told, is letting go of the metal bar at the top of the jump. From that point there is no going back as jumpers accelerate down the parallel ice tracks before throwing their skis into a V-shape, disappearing from view for several seconds and, all going well, eventually re-appearing in the run-off area down by the village.

Kandersteg’s ski jumping arena fell into disrepair and disuse in the 1990s but, as Switzerland is in the running to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, seven million Swiss francs has recently been spent upgrading the village’s ski jumps.

The investment appears to have paid off as the Swiss national ski jump team now uses Kandersteg as its training base.

Ski jumping aside, there are, though, plenty of less frightening ways of passing a few winter’s days in Kandersteg.

Following the arrival of train travel to the Bernese Oberland in the mid nineteenth century, Brits have been coming to Kandersteg for over a century and a half and the alpine village featured in Thomas Cook’s first package holiday in 1863.

Victorians originally came to Kandersteg to gaze at the mountains and breathe in the pure alpine air in the days before winter sports.

Since then Kandersteg has become a mecca for cross-country skiing on account of its relatively broad and flat valley floor and its high altitude of 1,200 metres, which makes it fairly snow sure.

Along with the Engadine and Goms valleys further east, Kandersteg is one of best known Swiss resorts for cross-country skiing with more than 100km of prepared track backdropped by steep, forested mountainsides, towering cliffs and frozen waterfalls.

The steep-sided valley around the village boasts a 6km floodlit cross-country skiing night trail, a high-altitude 8km route reached by taking the Sunnbüel cable car up to 1,900 metres, and a 14km loipe (as cross-country skiing tracks are known) through the pine-forested Höhwald.

So far as downhill skiing is concerned, Kandersteg’s alpine ski area is good for beginners and families but, with only seven lifts and 21km of groomed runs, intermediate and advanced skiers should go to the neighbouring resort of Adelboden for variety and more challenging pistes.

What Kandersteg’s small ski area does offer is dramatic views across the Unesco World Heritage protected Oeschinensee, an oval-shaped lake beneath a cirque of cliffs at the foot of the formidable 3,663-metre Blüemlisalphorn, the Fründenhorn and Doldenhorn.

On the shores of the lake the 125-year-old Hotel Oeschinensee, makes its living from serving local delicacies to passing hikers, skiers and ice-climbers.

From here an exhilarating dedicated toboggan run takes you all the way back to the village, where a perfect day is often rounded off with a schnapps, mulled wine or hot chocolate in one of Kandersteg’s many alpine style cafés.


Getting there: Swiss operates weekly direct flights from Edinburgh to Zürich from £115 return. swiss.com

From Zürich airport, Kandersteg can be reached in just over two hours with a change of train in the Swiss capital of Berne for a return price of 79 Swiss francs (£59). sbb.ch

For the ultimate in hassle-free travel and Swiss efficiency you can check your baggage all the way from Edinburgh airport to your hotel in Switzerland using the “door-to-door flight luggage system”.

The ingenious scheme, a collaboration between Swiss airlines and Swiss railways, needs to be booked in advance when you buy your airline ticket. On your return, your luggage is collected from your hotel and the next you will see it will be on the conveyor belt at Edinburgh airport, or any other UK airport served by Swiss.

Where to stay:

The four-star Waldhotel Doldenhorn charges from 260 Swiss francs (£195) for a double room per night including breakfast and access to its luxury spa, which includes a swimming pool, no fewer than five saunas (with different temperatures and humidity levels), steam-rooms as well as indoor and outdoor jazuzzis. A four-course evening meal at the hotel costs 58 Swiss francs (£43) per person. The hotel’s hearty but healthy breakfasts includes the likes of freshly-squeezed carrot juice and poached eggs on a bed of spinach with truffle sauce. doldenhorn-ruedihus.ch

Tourist office: kandersteg.ch

Six things to do in Kandersteg

The annual Belle Époque week in the last week of January sees villagers and visitors recalling the past by donning Edwardian era costumes for nostalgic tea dances in the ballroom of the Victoria Ritter hotel and rides on horse-drawn sleighs. Others take to the slopes in frock coats and on antique wooden skis. kandersteg.ch/en/s/belle-epoque-week

From nearby Kleine Scheidegg take Europe’s highest mountain railway to the Jungfraujoch at 3454 metres with staggering views from across the Aletsch glacier to the Jungfrau, the Mönch and the fearsome north face of the Eiger. Return ticket: 128 Swiss francs (£96). jungfraubahnen.ch

Because of its altitude and high number of frozen waterfalls in winter, Kandersteg has a reputation as a world-class ice-climbing destination. Climbs can be organised through the local mountain guides office. alpine-centre.ch

Sample rustic specialities such as raclette or Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (sautéed strips of veal in a mushroom cream sauce and served with rösti) at the Landgasthof Ruedihus, an elaborately wood-carved chalet at the south end of the village. Guests have included Prince Charles and Kofi Annan. doldenhorn-ruedihus.ch

Snow-shoeing and winter hiking. Take a cable car to the Sunnbüel or Oeschinen mountain stations above the village, from where a number of marked snow-shoeing and winter hiking trails of between one and three hours are available. Other winter options include ice curling on the village ice rink, ice fishing on the Oeschinensee or tobogganing on one of the several dedicated tracks dotted around the village.

For a romantic weekend Kandersteg’s “love hotel”, the Hotel Adler, might appeal to some. Rooms feature whirlpool hot pots for two that – James Bond style – swivel out of the room to an outside balcony at the touch of a button as well as round, rotating beds with red velvet coverings. chalethotel.ch