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GSTAAD GETS OUR VOTE - Jane Peel, Gstaad
Wednesday May 9, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

The upmarket Swiss ski resort is not just for winter. There's a lot to keep you busy and active in the hot season too.

Here at PlanetSKI we are looking forward to the summer months in the mountains and beyond.

We're starting off by revisiting some of our experiences and adventures of last summer, including a four-day trip to Gstaad in Switzerland.


I'm heading for Gstaad for a couple of days of cycling and relaxing in the mountains.

I've never visited before either in winter or summer.

View from hotel Huus GstaadGstaad

The journey begins with a scenic train ride from Geneva to Montreux.

View from the train Geneva to MontreuxView from the Geneva to Montreux train

The Golden Pass train from Montreux is a new experience for me and a very enjoyable one (and not just because of the delicious chilled Swiss white wine enjoyed en route).

The Golden Pass trainThe train from Montreux to Gstaad

The Golden Pass trainThe train from Montreux to Gstaad

On arrival in Gstaad it is hot. 

Very hot.

The planned 40-minute walk turns into a 5-minuter to take some photos.



Taking a breakResting in my Gstaad garden

That's enough exercise for one day. 

Time for a BBQ.  See you tomorrow.

Day Two

Here's the thing.

I am on a cycling trip to Gstaad, which is odd since I am not a cyclist.

Cycling in SwitzerlandCycling in Switzerland

I don't mean that I don't ride a bike.  I mean I can't ride a bike.

That may be a teeny exaggeration.  I can get on a bike (usually) without falling off. 

I can ride in a (more or less) straight line.  I can change gears.  Sometimes, I even change them at the right time.

And that's about it.

So, why am I here?

The answer is James Cove. 

PlanetSKI's head honcho had decided this was good idea.

So, at 9am it was off to the bike shop.

Bike shop, SaanenReady for action?

Luckily, we would be riding electric bikes to take the strain up the steep mountain roads and tracks.

Our guide, Louis, was leading us on a 25km round trip from Saanen, near Gstaad, to the lake, Lauenensee, from an altitude of 1000 metres up to 1380 metres and back down again.

To Lake LauenenseeTo the lake

Lake Lauenensee Lauenensee

Most of the route is "easy", on tarmac roads. 

Easy, that is, unless you have to get off the bike at every road junction because you are incapable of letting go of the handlebars to signal to traffic. 

To be honest, on my battery-assisted bike with seriously good suspension, I preferred the steep off-road sections with no vehicles to fret about. 

At least, I did prefer them until I skidded on loose stones while attempting to negotiate a left turn.......

Turning leftTurning left

Falling offOops!

On the deckDown but not out

How comes the only time in the entire day that I fall off, someone is pointing a camera at me?

Somehow, despite my best efforts to delay things with my incompetence, our group arrived at the scheduled lunch stop early and there was time for a walk around the lake and to the Tungelschuss waterfall.

Lauenensee, SwitzerlandAt the lake

The smile says it all. 

Two feet good, two pedals bad:

By the waterfallThat's better

After lunch, it was all downhill.  

And that was the problem.

The e-bike had lulled me into a false sense of security.  We had come up some serious hills. 

I had no idea how terrified I would be riding down mountain roads and tracks with hairpin bends.

An instinct for self-preservation forced me to do a lot of getting off and walking, which was preferable to  going over the edge.

Hairpin alertHairpin alert

There was also a lot of braking going on, which reminds me: why on earth do bikes in mainland Europe have the rear brakes on the right handlebar, rather than the left in the UK?

Is it something to do with driving on the other side of the road?

Or is it because it's fun to see how close a British novice can come to going over the handlebars head first?

Fortunately, James Cove, you still have a Chief Reporter unscathed but for a small bruise, some dirt-covered cycling tights and a slightly dented pride.


Let's not beat about the bush. I've had my fill of cycling for this trip.

I want to do something less likely to result in personal injury.

Such as walking.

Today was the perfect day for it - sunny and hot but not too hot to be bearable.

I set out from my base at the Huus Gstaad Hotel near Schönreid for the walk down the hill into Gstaad.

View to GstaadLooking down on Gstaad

It's about 2.5 miles to the centre by public footpath but I decided to continue on for a wander around the streets of the town.


GstaadGstaad - the chapel dates from 1424

I can see why the actress, singer and star of The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews, called Gstaad "the last paradise in a crazy world".

Her husband, the film director Blake Edwards, featured Gstaad in two of his classic Pink Panther films. 

After his death, when Andrews was granted honorary citizenship, she gave the town a sculpture he'd created which has pride of place by a fountain in the centre of town.

Sitting Duck, GstaadBlake Edwards' Sitting Duck sculpture

The couple aren't the only famous names to fall in love with and spend time in Gstaad, which is known for the privacy it affords the wealthy celebrities who live here or regularly visit.

Another film director, Roman Polanski, came here to escape the media after the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, and three friends in 1969. 

He spent his 83rd birthday in August 2016 here. 

The violinist Yehudi Menuhin lived in Gstaad and founded the annual music festival that takes his name.

The Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is a local. "Gstaad is my first home; that is where I want to be laid to rest," he told a local magazine.

He owns a hotel in the town.

Hotel Olden, GstaadBernie Ecclestone's Hotel Olden

Unlike Bernie Ecclestone (personal fortune reportedly $3 billion) I can't afford the merchandise in the many designer shops here.

Shop in GstaadUpmarket shopping

Having left Louis Vuitton, Prada, Rolex, Phillipe Patek and the rest behind, the next thing on my agenda was a mountain hike.

I took the Post Bus to Schönreid station (altitude 1268 metres) for a gondola ride up to Rellerli (1833 metres).

You can ski down from here in the winter.

Piste mapWinter map

I didn't have time to hike up as well as down (well, that's my excuse, anyway), but the well-signposted steep walk down on a trail shared by hikers and mountain bikers took just an hour.

View from RelleriOn the way down

Rellerli gondola,  GstaadRellerli gondola

On the mountain, GstaadOn the mountain

And only once did I feel a pang of guilt at having taken the lift to the top -  when I met this chap going up as I went down....

Cyclist going up to Rellerli from SchoenriedGoing up

Rather him than me!


Today did not get off to a good start.

I woke to the ringing of the telephone in my hotel room.

"Where are you?"

Sod it (though that's not quite what I said).

My alarm had failed to go off and our group should have left 10 minutes ago.

So, a little later than scheduled, we set off for our tour of the Cheese Grotto, up on the mountain at Bissen, overlooking Gstaad.

What is a cheese grotto?  I had no idea, but I knew there was bound to be a lot of cheese there.


Gstaad Cheese grottoA lot of cheese

Three thousand individual cheeses, to be precise, worth a total of one million Swiss Francs. 

That's about £800,000.

No wonder they're locked away down two flights of steps in a circular rock construction that used to be a water reservoir.

It's baking hot outside in the sun but inside the grotto it's a 8 to 10 degrees. 

The temperature here remains constant in summer and winter.

Every one of these cheese rounds is officially designated Swiss Alpine cheese.

Cheese in the Gstaad cheese grottoSwiss Alpine Cheese

Swiss alpine cheeseSwiss alpine cheese

Apparently there is a difference between alpine cheese and mountain cheese.

To be certified as alpine cheese the production must take place above 1,450 metres - the cows are milked here and the cheese is made here.

For mountain cheese only the milking has to be done at that altitude.

Our guide is a farmer, Klaus Roman, who tells us that all the cheese in his grotto is from the region around Gstaad.

It is produced by a co-operative of about 75 dairy farmers who sell it to supermarkets.

Klaus RomanKlaus Roman

It's hard cheese - the type that you often see served in thin slices.  It's stored here for at least 18 months before it goes out for consumption.

This one has been around a bit longer.

150-year-old cheeseVintage alpine cheese

It's 150 years old and is said to be still edible.  I'll take his word for that.

Alpine cheese is also said to be very healthy.  It helps lower cholesterol and is high in Omega 3 oil.

I don't bother to question this claim.  It suits me to believe it since I missed breakfast and it's my first food of the day.

And what goes with cheese? 

Wine, of course.


My first drink of the day is usually coffee. 

Oh well, needs must, and it's my fault for sleeping in.

At the Gstaad cheese grottoCheers!

After four days, it was time to leave Gstaad.

Here's to the next visit......

GstaadI'll be seeing you.....

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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