Summer heats up for Adelboden

Traditional life in the Alps is one of Adelboden's unique selling points. Adelboden Tourism

Better known as a ski resort, Adelboden has been declared by a leading magazine as Switzerland’s best summer holiday destination.

This content was published on July 28, 2003 - 09:39

The French-language “Bilan” magazine put Adelboden at the top of a list of 25 Swiss resorts, saying it offers holidaymakers the best value for money and lauding it for its charm.

Bilan described Adelboden as having the right mix of leisure activities suitable for both adrenalin-seekers and holidaymakers wanting a more relaxed vacation, and all at the right price.

It went on to add: “Pedestrians have the right of way over traffic in the high street, which is lined with discreet hotels, traditional restaurants and unpretentious boutiques.

“Along the same street and in the alleyways you see children accompanied by their grandparents, adding to the serenity of the village.”

The Bilan ranking is also in recognition of Adelboden’s efforts to correct the imbalance between summer and winter tourism.

Winter first

The Bernese Oberland resort makes 75 per cent of its turnover in winter, which is not unusual among alpine resorts.

“If we look back at how tourism developed, we find that people used to come to the Alps only in summertime,” says tourist director, Roland Huber.

“Our predecessors made a lot of money from summer tourism and we have to study their methods if we want to be successful again.”

With a reputation as a troubleshooter within the tourist industry, Huber took over the helm at Adelboden at the beginning of last year in an effort to turn around the fortunes of the ageing resort.

Before his arrival, Adelboden had rested on its laurels as a ski resort, failing to invest to modernise its infrastructure and to position itself as an attractive summer destination.

Selling the Alps

“We are alpine people so we should know better than anyone the qualities of the Alps and how to sell them,” he says critically.

While Huber looks for investors to build a modern spa, he and the tourist community have done a lot of small things right over the last couple of years to win over holidaymakers, particularly families.

In the high season (mid-July to mid-August), Adelboden’s six “family hotels” offer affordable seven-day packages, which include half board and a children’s pass.

The pass entitles the children to take part in numerous activities as well as full-day adventures (see video and audio links under related items).

Among the highlights are rock climbing, learning from real circus performers how to juggle and be a clown, and spending the night on straw in an alpine hut.

The kids’ programme frees up parents to explore the numerous mountain trails on foot or by mountain bike.

The tourist office has published a hiking guide to the region, which not only grades the difficulty of the routes but marks which ones are suitable for prams as well.


Adelboden has also opened a unique wheelchair trail. The 2.5 kilometre route winds its way through alpine pastures at the foot of the highest mountains in the area.

The restaurants close to the trail have been accordingly equipped with lifts and toilets for the disabled.

Adelboden would have fallen well down Bilan’s list, if nightlife was considered in the criteria.

With the exception of taking in a movie or classical concert, some of which are given at the village’s 15th century church, tourists have little choice but to adopt the “early to bed, early to rise” motto.

But Huber is not concerned. The natural alpine environment is what he wants to sell.

Stormy weather

The day before he spoke to swissinfo, a powerful thunderstorm hit the village, turning a warm summer’s day into night. The village was pounded by hailstones the size of golf balls.

The skies cleared a couple of hours later and white puffy clouds clung innocently to the mountaintops as if nothing had happened.

It was a natural spectacle worth paying to see.

“The unpredictable summer weather is part of what makes life in the Alps so unique,” Huber says.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Adelboden

Key facts

Adelboden is located at the end of the Engstligen Valley (see map under links) at 1,350 metres above sea level.
It has 3,500 year round residents, and counts about 200,000 overnight guests each year.
There are about 300 kilometres of hiking and biking trails around the resort, which are made accessible by an excellent network of buses and cable cars.

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In brief

Adelboden came out on top of a survey of 25 summer resorts by the French-language magazine, Bilan.

Bilan tested the resorts on price, public transport infrastructure, the variety of hiking and sports, the quality and selection of restaurants and availability of rainy day activities.

Kandersteg, also in the Bernese Oberland, came second, followed by Crans-Montana in canton Valais and Sils in the Upper Engadine.

Among the high profile Swiss resorts, Gstaad fared well, placing 6th. Grindelwald ranked a disappointing 15th, while St Moritz, Davos and Zermatt lingered close to the bottom at 20th, 21st and 22nd respectively.

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