Adam Ruck, The Daily Telegraph, February 6, 2012
To arrive in the Swiss Alps at the tail end of a snowstorm seems like good timing, as long as your ski resort is accessible. A single traveller – me – separates himself from the Wengen-bound throng at Lauterbrunnen station, crosses the road with a smile of self-congratulation at having chosen the road less travelled, when a notice on the door of the Mürrenbahn stops him in his tracks. Geschlossen. Closed. It is time for a phone call to the Hotel Eiger.
"Ja, hello, Adam," says Adrian Stahli. "There was so much snow last night, even the plough train cannot move."
Luckily there is another way up to Mürren: by bus along the valley floor to an alternative cable-car – the first two stages of the ascent to the Schilthorn's revolving summit restaurant, which was built in 1967 to be Blofeld's lair in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Adrian is waiting for me at the cable-car station with his snow-chained 4x4 golf buggy. "I thought you weren't coming this year," he says. "What happened?"
It was a last-minute thing. I couldn't help it. My bank balance being what it is, I was bitterly reading the snow reports and checking the special offers on the Inghams website for no better reason than to make myself thoroughly miserable, when I saw the words: Eiger, Mürren, £569. Miraculously, a gap in the diary appeared.
Of course, I realise that at 1.4 Swiss francs to the pound (1.3 net of commission) a cheap holiday is not in store. Lift pass, lunch, glühwein – all will be painful. I have left home promising to nibble Sainsbury's cheddar on the chairlift for lunch, steer clear of all bars and drink my duty free in the bedroom before dinner.
I may not succeed, but let's not forget: we may be hurting, but so are the Swiss. They need us, and their welcome could not be more inviting.
With perfect powder on the piste and sunshine around the corner, if you can clear the diary and rub together a hill of beans… do it now. The exchange rate is no worse than last year. Few sights gladden the skier's heart like a pitched chalet roof under the thick, white insulating blanket it was designed to support. Heavy snowfall brings its problems to a village like Mürren, but no one minds. Snowy is how winter is meant to be.
Mürren celebrates its centenary of lift-served skiing this winter. Take a shovel to the snowdrifts near the station and you might uncover a memorial to Arnold Lunn, who dragooned prisoners of war into skiing (1917-18); organised the first modern slalom (1922); founded the Kandahar ski racing club (1924); and staged the first World Championships (1931), all at Mürren.
I am no ski racer, but I love skiing in the tracks of our pioneering ancestors. On the morning chairlift I swing up to Maulerhubel, named after Arnold Lunn's favourite tipple, and down the powdery piste to Winteregg via the Menin Gate.
Who needs to ski off-piste when the piste is untracked velvet corduroy? In the other direction a new chairlift hoists me to the Hog's Back and down to the Schiltgrat chairlift where I bump (not literally) into Arnold Lunn's grandsons Bernard and Stephen, out for their morning blast.
I commiserate with the brothers on the recent loss of their father Peter, a pre-war Olympic ski racer and post-war spymaster who spent his retirement winters in Mürren and skied his final run there last April, aged 96. But the brothers have other worries: Bernie Lunn lost to his 10-year-old son Jake in the club slalom last week. What can you expect, if you settle in Mürren and treat your son to a regime of home education?
"Shall we do a Hindenburg?" asks Bernie and off they rocket through Shambles Corner. Halfway down, Bernie peels off and hurtles back to the chalet for two hours of mental arithmetic and irregular verbs before Jake's ski lesson at midday. Stephen and I stop at the cosy Suppenalp refuge to demist our goggles.
Do I know the story of Martha's Meadow, Stephen asks, as we ride the chairlift for the Nth time? Remind me. Martha Mainwaring (or possibly Manwearing) was an unknown late entry to an important ladies race who flew out of the bushes – right there, beneath our feet – won the race, and turned out to be a well-known male ski hotshot by the name of Knebworth, in disguise. "My grandfather was furious, but it was my grandmother's skirt and scarf Knebworth was wearing," says Stephen.
The scene of this fine joke now hosts a terrain park, with jumps and a half-pipe for the rubber-kneed crowd. No need for a terrain park this year. The roof of every chalet and cowshed on the mountain is a ski jump, with a guaranteed soft landing.
Visitors who write Mürren off as a one-run mountain – referring to the spectacular descent from the Schilthorn – ought to have a morning history lesson with Stephen Lunn on the lower slopes. When we did go to the top, we stumbled about in the fog and made our way back down as quickly as possible (as Lunns do). By the end of the history lesson my legs were screaming.
Avoiding all bars, I made my way back to the Eiger and its pool, which comes with an Eiger view (no supplement).
"We think this is the best place in the world for looking at mountains and not doing much at all," say my neighbours at dinner. I agree, or would do, if there were any mountains to look at. While it keeps snowing, the only solution is to keep skiing.