Last week Eleanor Roosevelt told us to “…reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” We decided to take this advice to heart and go out and do something new and exciting for us, sledding the Preda-Bergün run in the Rhaetian Alps of Switzerland. Which brings us to this weeks quote, also from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
There are so many different types of fear. What is scary for one person might be a walk in the park for another, literally. For some, just going to a foreign country and trying to figure out how to get train tickets, rent a toboggan, and find your way to the top of the hill is a daunting adventure. Don’t worry if this is you, it really isn’t that difficult.
How to Get Your Toboggan On in Bergün, Switzerland
When you arrive in Bergün, the logical starting point for the day of sledding, it’s a simple matter of renting a sled from any of the rental shops in town. We got our sleds from the Club 99 outlet right there at the station in Bergün. First you’ll need to decide on the sled type, single seater or double seater. Next choose between the normal or sport model. We rented the normal, single seater sledges for 15CHF/Day (~17USD). They worked fine, but mine was a little unresponsive on left hand turns. I might go for the slightly more expensive sport model next time (25CHF/day). Pay and be aware you’ll need to surrender a photo id as hostage until you return the sleds. Now it’s time for purchasing the sledding/railway ticket right there at the station perched above this picturesque Alpine town.
- Find the ticket machine.
- Tap the UK flag for English.
- Select Sledging Ticket at the top of the list.
- Choose between single run or day ticket.
- Enter the number of adults (Erwachsene) and children (Kind).
- Feed the machine; debit/credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, Am Ex.) or cash.
- Retrieve ticket from bottom tray
- Validate the ticket in the small box next to the ticket machine before climbing aboard the train with your sled.
The UNESCO Listed Rhaetian Bahn
The Rhaetian Train system is an adventure in itself, at least for anyone interested in trains. The tracks climb high above the town on their way to the top of the Albula pass. Its tracks twist and turn through a series of spiraling, curving tunnels and viaducts. Looking out the window can be confusing as you’ll see Bergün first out the right side then go through a tunnel and it will be on the left, another tunnel and back on the right, wild! Regardless, the view of the mountains and the pretty village below is just incredible.
After the short, fifteen minute ride up to Preda, we disembarked and followed the line of sledge carrying adventurers to the beginning of the run. After climbing the 400 meters of altitude between the two villages, I was expecting a steep and thrilling ride. However, the beginning of the run is easy and mild. It’s perfect for getting used to the sled, learning the controls, and warming up for the thrills to come. After about 5 minutes of easy sliding, we came to the true “top of the hill.”
The Moment of Truth – Sledding at 40 km/hour
For most Americans, at least, sledding is a completely different thing then sledding the Preda-Bergün run. We think of sledding as climbing up a steep hill, lying or sitting on a plastic disc or toboggan, and sliding down as fast as you can with little or no control. Here, we found ourselves on the road that links the towns. It’s closed for the winter when it becomes the longest tobogganing run in Switzerland. So yes, this is a one-lane mountain road with switch backs, steep grades, stone walls, narrow bridges, and screaming sledgers! Scary? Oh yeah! One of the funnest things I’ve ever done? Most definitely!
At one point there is a long, diving stretch with a speed gun set up near the end. I got up to 40 km/hour. Not bad for a newbie! Talking with others on the train ride between runs, I found that to be about the average speed with some daredevils getting as high as 56 km/hour!
Tips to keep you on your sled:
- The sleds are controllable. Pull hard on the rope on the side you want to turn towards while leaning heavily on the other side.
- Use your feet to help slow down and steer. Drag your right foot to turn right, your left foot to turn left, both feet to slow down.
- Watch out for sections where the snow has piled into speed bumps. These will bounce you right off your sled.
- Don’t let go of the rope when you fall, you don’t want your sled to go careening off into someone else.
What to Wear for Sledding the Preda-Bergün Run
- Hats and gloves, it’s cold out on the snow and you won’t be sledding with your hands in your pockets.
- Ski pants and jacket, did I mention you are in the snow?
- Ski goggles, to keep your eyes from streaming tears down your face as you scream down the trail.
- Gators, if you have them, to keep the snow from going up into your pants and down your boots.
- Snow boots, with good soles for dragging in the ice and snow as you try to stop or slow down.
- A helmet, it’s not required and since we were born before 1976 we don’t wear one, but we should and so should you!
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
How many runs do you think you can actually survive? A single run ticket cost 10 CHF for adults while the day pass is 39CHF. If you know you’ll do more than 3 runs then the day pass is the way to go. We decided to stop after our third trip down the mountain. However, on weekends the run is lit and open until 10 P.M.! Watch your time, though, you don’t want to be out there when they turn off the lights! Speaking of time, each of our runs took approximately 2 hours. This includes the time on the train, walking out to the start of the trail, the run itself, walking back through town to get back to the train, and a stop somewhere along the way for a hot cocoa.
If you are really daring, there is one more sledging run in Bergün–the Darlux-Bergün run. Your day pass will get you passage on the chairlift located at the end of the regular Preda-Bergün sled run. You take your toboggan up the lift to the top and sledge down the service road. This was too much fear for us to master. However, since it is included in the day pass, we did take the chairlift up to the top where we were treated to an expansive view looking out over the craggy peaks of the Swiss Alps. Oh, there is also a nice little restaurant at the top of the lift where we enjoyed another hot drink and a delicious slice of cake. Again, watch the time, the lift stops running at 4:30 P.M. and it would be a long, cold walk down the mountain and back to town.
Where to Stay in Bergün
There are several choices in the village itself, all of them look to be charming models of Swiss hospitality. We stayed in the Hotel Ladina, a small hotel with ten rooms right below the train station. This is the perfect location for those sledgers arriving by train or car. It has parking, free wifi, a large screen TV with a DVD player in the room, a good breakfast with homemade jams and breads, and an excellent restaurant for dinner. We were very happy with this choice and would definitely stay here again on repeat trips back for sledding the Preda-Bergün run.
Bahnhofstrasse 3, 7482 Bergün/Bravuogn, Switzerland
+41 81 407 11 29
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Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.