There was no going back. Our small group piled into the last gondola of the night and glided up to the top of the mountain. Within minutes I was fanny down, legs splayed on a small, blue, plastic sled. I was also praying that I got through this without tumbling into the dark abyss on the far side of the road. The only way to steer or slow the descent was to dig my boots into the icy road. The only light was a tiny red glow on the back of the sled in front of me. That light soon disappeared as I kept breaking to catch my breath and slow the ride by grinding my lug soles into the ice and snow. This wasn’t my vision of night sledding. I’d imagined a well-lit ski slope like those in California’s mountains and a toboggan piled with quilted sledders to hold onto. Here I was, a boomer, flying solo through the winter night on a high, deserted road above Interlaken.
The fear gave way to gumption. There was no way out but through. I swore that I wasn’t going to be the only person stranded on the mountain. Around a bend, I spotted the red lights moving in the dark. Voices then the group materialized, stopped to wait and strategize with our guide, Petr. I was with three young women from Korea and Japan. None spoke much English but we grinned till it hurt, our cheeks red with cold and climbed back on our blue flyers to follow Petr. The winter had been warm and there were icy patches ahead, he warned us, so be ready to stop and walk for a bit.
It got easier. Natural night vision kicks in surprisingly quickly. It really wasn’t that hard, as Petr suggested, to steer the sled clear of the big white shapes and stay on the road. Soon I was no longer last in line. Perhaps Petr slowed a bit too, but within 40 minutes we spied the pine tree strung with lights near our starting point. We stopped and dragged our sleds into the shed at the back of a restaurant. Our reward? A modest dinner of delicious fondue with chunks of bread, a bowl of cheesy pasta, salad, and a pitcher of beer to share. The best part was a sense of accomplishment. The worst – wishing I hadn’t come to Interlaken solo and could share the experience with my friends. I don’t know if they’ll believe that I’ve actually done this. No matter. I’ll convince them to grab a sled when we return to experience the wonders and challenges of winter in Switzerland and especially, all that Interlaken has to offer.
Where did night sledding come from?
The story is that night sledding is a tradition. Swiss adventurers would hike up to Alpen Huts, eat and drink (perhaps a bit too much) before heading out and down the mountains after dark. Makes sense to me. I once went night skiing after a surprise Thanksgiving snowfall in Seattle. We slid around the snowy Arboretum slopes well fueled with turkey and copious amounts of wine. It’s no stretch to imagine the same in Switzerland and it’s the purest way to experience the glow of the mountain villages under a massive night sky full of stars.
About that Outdoor Interlaken sled experience
Since 2001, Outdoor Interlaken has been offering all manner of outdoor experiences for the adventurous traveler. John Fauver, an American, Benny Steuri, a Swiss local, and Riaan Mointjes, from Zimbabwe, all ex-guides, opened the company together. In 2009 they purchased and renovated the current storefront that was once a workshop space.
They’re open 7 days a week with activities year round and all within an hour of Interlaken. They offer packages and not only winter sports, there’s water, zip lining, parasailing and other land-based activities.
The Outdoor Interlaken site has great information on what to expect and bring for each of their trips. I was picked up at my hotel and we stopped at the shop to be fitted with gear (for rent.) There’s no need to pack bulky ski pants, boots and gloves when you plan to take a sled to the top of a mountain. Children under 12 need to be with an adult and I’d suggest that those with knee or lower back issues wait at the restaurant to celebrate with the sledding crew.
Interlaken is full of surprises for outdoor adventurists. I’ll never forget walking through the central square as a parasailer descended expertly onto the snow-patched green less than fifty feet from me. That’s an adventure I’ll enjoy from a distance!
Riding to the top of Europe is another fun adventure when you visit Interlaken. Here’s my earlier story.
More about winter sports with Outdoor Interlaken
My night sled adventure was made possible by Discover Interlaken, Outdoor Interlaken, and Swiss Travel System. All opinions are my own. Alltures are from Outdoor Interlaken.
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I could feel my natural fear of everything you described welling up as I read. I am not a fan of snow, winter, going down hills quickly, or darkness. However, I know that feeling of being stuck there. Having gone too far, with no choice but forward to get through. You did awesome. I wonder if I could have relaxed into by the end of the 40 minutes.
Thanks, Rhonda. I’m so glad my impulse was towards fight and not flight (giving up.) I’m so glad to have had the experience.
That looks like fun! And I love a fondue! Looks like a great experience!
So fun. Earned every calorie of the fondue.
amazing photos. What an adventure you guys have had and it makes me feel like going there. The clear starry night surely gives the photographers unique opportunities.
The photos are all from the Outdoor Interlaken site. They hosted me.
Sounds like so much fun, especially at night! I love the story about how it is thought to have become a tradition–makes perfect sense! I would really like to try this out sometime–winter adventures are our favorite 🙂
I’m now a fan of winter adventures after years pursuing tropical fun.
Wow, love snow, sounded awesome and what a great experience. The starry night is spectacular! @ knycx.journeying
It was hilarious in retrospect. Glad I took the dare.
I’m sure this must have been a lot of fun, Elaine. I didn’t know they had night sledding in Interlaken. I’m sure my husband would have liked to try it.
It was wonderful really, being out on the mountain on a starry night. I just had to adjust my attitude and go with the flow…
This sounds like an incredible adventure! Can absolutely vouch for Interlaken as one of the best places in the world for outdoor adventure; we did skydiving and canyoning here, though I would love to head back to spend more time, and this time around book for a sledding adventure one night!
You are so intrepid! I’d love to return in summer to explore more of Interlaken and all of Switzerland.
We spent a few days in the region and although didn’t really spent time in Interlaken except for a few hours it was enough to know that it is the adventure capital of Switzerland. While I was aware and read and seen activities like para-gliding, this is something totally new and so cool and more doable for someone like me. Loved how you described your experience and thanks for the information.
Thanks, Raghav. Sledding down a dark mountain was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done!
That is one adventure I need to try……getting caught in a storm in a kayak was not enough for me…
Caught in a storm while kayaking?! I just hope it was warm water.
What a thrilling experience it must have been for you while night sledding. The dark nights, cold breeze and the flying free experience. The fondue looks appetizing. What really blew me was the spectacular view of the outdoor Interlaken! The starry sky has got me head over heels in love with it.
I’d go back up that mountain on a full moon anytime!
This looks like so much fun!!! Would love to give it a go. Swiss fondue sounds delicious too – shouldn’t have read it before eating lunch now I’m starving!!
Sorry to make you hungry. I go through that same hunger when fasting and running through my food Instagram account!
That looks like so much fun – I will need to check it out if I ever go to Switzerland! I will make sure to bring my friends along!
Truly a fun and just-scary-enough experience!
This looked like a rush! It would be scary to do this in the dark but that night sky is just breathtaking!
It was a beautiful, calm, winter night and a long way down!
Night sledding, that sounds like a lot of fun, especially with food at the end. The night sky pics are really good.
Thank, Marcus and Mel. The pictures were from Outdoor Interlaken.
Sliding down a dark mountain in Switzerland sounds and looks like so much fun! I can tell you all had a wonderful time from your photos. Switzerland is on my bucket list especially after reading your post! #theweeklypostcard
I hope you get to visit Switzerland one day. Beautiful year round too.
I love Interlaken, a great place to be based for hiking, the mountains and of course, it’s Switzerland adventure sports playground. So need to go back and sledge down a hill or throw myself off a mountain (with a chute of course!) 😀
There’s definitely lots of winter sports that you’d enjoy in Switzerland.
Looks like you guys had so much fun! I am so impressed by your nighttime shots. The sky with all the stars looks amazing. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
Thanks, Anisa, it was quite the experience and all the photos were from Outdoor Interlaken. I had no way to carry or use a camera on that ride!
Wow – such fun. I went to Interlaken last summer and would really like to go back, but I didn’t try this…You are perhaps braver than me!
I just went for it without really investigating all that was involved & I’m so glad there wasn’t time to reconsider!
That must have been a lot of fun. 🙂 And those night skies, one of my favorite things in the world to watch and enjoy.
Thanks, Bilyana, it was so much fun and yes, quite beautiful.
It looks like tremendous fun but I am not sure I would have the courage – lol!
Thanks, Lyn, it was incredible fun and just one of those adventures you have to throw yourself into.
I’d do just about anything for a Swiss fondue so would definitely try sledding at night lol
Luckily for you, there are much easier ways to enjoy fondue!!