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Two Summits of Ofenhorn

There's the actual summit of the peak at the head of the Binntal Valley, which I lingered on for nearly an hour yesterday afternoon before descending to the first green place to pitch my tent.

And then there's the summit of luxury of the Hotel Ofenhorn, one of the elite Swiss Historic Hotels.

I saw these lights last night from my wind-flapping tent and thought what a different world must exist down below. As one who delights in great contrasts, I got a particular kick out of the hotel manager, Madame Rossé this afternoon.

I checked in with my pack on, hair that hadn't been washed in a week, and plenty of scruff on my chin. She knew I wanted to talk to her about the old hotel, but she was busy and said to come down in an hour.

But when I came down and asked for the wifi password, she asked if I was staying in the hotel. She was embarrassed after I reminded her that I was the same person who checked in just an hour earlier.

She called me a new man. Not really, just cleaned up a bit.

I'll write more about the history of this place when things calm down and she has time to visit. It seems that there's plenty of business and I was lucky to find a room.

Lucky indeed, but I'm not sure I can handle the luxury of these big puffy Swiss blankets. I might need to sleep on the floor like the scruffy backpacker I was an hour ago.

Next day's update:

Mme Rossé finally found a few minutes to talk this morning. It's not that she was avoiding me. I've watched her in action, and she's been hopping busy with customers well into the evening. She thinks that now that summer has finally arrived after such a rainy July, everyone wants to come into the mountains at once.

Summer is the only season for this hotel, other than the time between Christmas and New Year's and a week or so for backcountry skiers in the spring. It's been that way since it was built in 1883, long before there was a proper road into the valley. For three generations it was run by the Schmitt family, originally to house mostly British holiday travelers.

But with the world wars the hotel fell out of favor and few guests arrived. After World War II the Schmitts sold it to an association of owners who weren't able to make it work, either.

In 1980 the villagers started the Foundation ProBinn to bring back their hotel. Now there are 1,200 members of the foundation, and judging by the business I've seen, things are going very well indeed.

I'd also been curious about the Swiss Historic Hotels system. It seems that it doesn't so much require that the building be old, but that it be true to a period, right down to the furniture.

The Ofenhorn is of the Belle Epoque period, and the beautiful old creaky floorboards are part of that charm. So are the comfortable beds, which I managed to get used to.