ABOVE: The Grindalwald-First gondola lift in winter.
In Switzerland, engineers are seldom content to leave well enough alone. The Grindelwald-First lift, or Firstbahnen Grindelwald, is a case in point. This three-stage lift was once the longest chair lift in Europe, carrying passengers a distance of more than 5 kilometers or 3.25 miles. The lift is still there, but today you're protected from the elements by comfortable six-passenger cabins. When you reach the upper station after a 25-minute ride to an elevation of 2168m (7,610 feet), you'll enjoy spectacular views of the Grindelwald Basin and several famous mountains--among them, the Wetterhorn, the Eiger, and Fiescherhörner, and the Schreckhorn. (This is assuming that the weather cooperates; rain and fog aren't uncommon in the Alps.)
During the hiking and climbing season, you can take advantage of the many well-marked trails that radiate outward from the First lift station. Here are two possibile excursions:
The Grindelwald-First's summer schedule runs from early May until late October, with service from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 or 5:30 p.m. daily.
In winter, the lift provides access to some 45 km (30 miles) of alpine ski trails. You can ride to uppermost station and ski all the way down to the village center amid some of the loveliest scenery in the Bernese Oberland. Winter service begins when there's enough snow for skiing. (In Switzerland, telephone 036 53 56 50 for an automated snow report.)
The Grindelwald station is 10 minutes on foot from the railroad station, near the parking lot above the village center. You'll find the lift in the "Seilbahnen" section of the Swiss Official Timetable as schedule 2440, Grindelwald-First.
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