A Taste of Winter at Hotel Victoria, Kandersteg

A customer review

This week could so easily have been a disaster. The ingredients were certainly there:

- I arrived in Kandersteg on Saturday with the start of a cold, which gradually developed as the week progressed.

- We arrived in Kandersteg to find very little snow at village level and a forecast of rain. Indeed it did rain and rain over the first couple of days and any remnants of snow that persisted were quickly washed away. The events planned for Monday (cross country skiing lesson in the morning and torchlit walk in the evening) both had to be cancelled, so we had nothing as such scheduled.

However, not ones to let a few hiccoughs ruin a holiday, we made plans to do our own walks down in the valley and thoroughly explored (having first visited the pharmacy and stocked up on cold remedies – well, things that would at least make me feel as if I was tackling it). We had some good walks in varying conditions and were it not for the fact that we were expecting to be doing winter sports in the snow, we'd have been immensely happy! The hotel certainly helped to lift the spirits as everything was beautifully organised, the space was comfortable and our room immensely spacious and well-equipped.

On the Sunday evening, the owners organised aperitifs and canapés for us in the bar, and we got to meet a few of the other people staying there. Finally, on Tuesday the snow arrived and by evening the place was transformed into a winter wonderland. We went on a torchlit walk in the evening and had gluhwein in the woods before returning to the hotel. I had half expected this event to be a bit twee, but it was not at all. It was quite magical to be able to experience the snow in the dark. The gluhwein was a real treat, too. By Wednesday the gondola was open and we were able to get up to the higher level and have a wonderful walk in the snow. The hotel has a supply of toboggans you can help yourself to, and we had a go at this in the afternoon, determined to make the most of the snow. It was hard work pulling the toboggan up the slope, but mostly good fun descending. We also had a curling lesson scheduled on the Wednesday. We hadn’t thought we would bother, but as we were back from tobogganing in time, we decided we would give it a go. Perhaps it would have been better to have missed it. Unfortunately, the two organisers of the lesson had little English between them and even less in the way of teaching skills. Conflicting and confusing information really didn’t get us any nearer to understanding how the game worked and when it transpired that the room had been double-booked, so that we had to share the space available with another huge group, we decided to call it a day.

On the Thursday, we had a snowshoe walk scheduled in the afternoon, but before this, we decided to have a go at downhill skiing. Phil had done this before, albeit 30 years ago, but I had never even got close. It was, however, something on my bucket list, so it had to be attempted. We arranged our ski passes and hired equipment. As it was not possible for me to book a lesson at this short notice, Phil had to stand in as my tutor! The hotel arranged a lift for us up to the gondola station – something I would not have thought necessary before attempting to walk in ski boots and carry the skis! I hadn’t realised how much energy would need to be expended just to get up to the area we could ski in! Once up there, surrounded by small children whizzing about proficiently on their skis, making it all look so easy, I had to go through the humiliating process of learning to walk without falling down. It was quite some time before I was rewarded with the exhilaration of skiing downhill without falling! And actually, the falling was nothing compared to the effort required to get upright again!  We just made it down to the village again to get a bit of lunch and join the snowshoe walk in the afternoon. This was good fun, especially in virgin snow, once you got the measure of how big your feet were!

On Friday, finally we had our cross country skiing lesson. This was supposed to take place at the beginning of the week and our original idea was that, once we’d had our lesson, we would then take off on our own and do some of the routes available. Little did we know how difficult it was going to be. I’d imagined it would be easier than downhill skiing. The boots were less cumbersome – actually quite comfortable – and the skis were certainly lighter, and after all we’d be on the flat, so how difficult could it be?! To begin with, it was indeed relatively easy and I began to build a little confidence. But then I had a fall, and unlike the falls I’d had in deep snow which cushioned the blow somewhat, this was a hard fall which I was keen not to repeat. My confidence took a bit of a blow and then, just as it is never flat when you’re cycling, the same can be said for cross country skiing. After two similar falls, my confidence was practically non-existent, and without this, it is really difficult to make any progress. The conditions were quite icy, which probably didn’t help. I had to admit defeat and head off for lunch, but over lunch Phil managed to convince me that we should have another go, just once round the circuit. Again, to begin with it was fine, but once I’d had another fall, that was it; I just wanted to stop falling! It was really quite painful and by the time we’d returned the equipment and got back to the hotel, I was battered, bruised and thoroughly exhausted. A soak in the bath helped us to revive to a certain extent, but it did occur to me that it was just as well we were due to move on the next day!

In between all this activity, there was the comfort of the hotel with nice meals and some nice company. Starting the day with a good breakfast always helps and there was something there for everyone. Fresh fruit, bircher muesli, croissants and coffee helped to set us up for the day. And having filled in our choices for our evening meal, we had that to look forward to while we were out and about. There is always a vegetarian option and a fish option, so we had no difficulties avoiding meat. Even the wine with the meal was included in the price, so there were no hidden extra costs at the end of the holiday.

Ms R Reeder, 24 January 2020

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