The BASE Jumper's Quick Guide to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Where To Stay, Eat and Burn Your Weather Days

2014 was the third summer I lived in Switzerland's Lauterbrunnen Valley. For many BASE jumpers, the place I more-than-occasionally call home is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, so I'm constantly asked to play tour guide. 

I don't mind, really. That said, it's nice to have a way to share basic life-in-the-Valley information without conducting a personal orientation. I used to use Google Maps for this purpose, but it's -- y'know -- clunky, and BASE jumpers aren't going to hike and jump with their laptops (unless they're Brett. Brett does that.)

So! I found a mobile-friendly solution: Foursquare.

My efforts are illustrated here in list form. The descriptions I give are the extended version of what I've posted to their Foursquare counterparts, and give a bit more detail. Hope it helps!

So, without further ado:

The BASE Jumper's Guide to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland *

* I HAVE NOT pinned the Valley's long list of official exit points. This is by design, so don't email me and ask for them. Most of the exits in the Valley are by no means entry-level, even for hardcore slider-down BASE jumpers. Some of them are downright deadly for an athlete who hasn't seriously leveled up in tracking and/or wingsuiting, and all of them really require an experienced, familiar jumper for a site intro. In order for the Valley to stay open to the sport, every BASE jumper needs to do his/her homework by reading up on the Swiss BASE Association website and making sure to tick off all the must-dos before making a jump.



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Where To Stay

The Swiss sunset as seen from outside the Hotel Falken in Wengen.
The Swiss sunset as seen from outside the Hotel Falken in Wengen. Image by Annette O'Neil

You probably already know about the rooms at the Horner and the Im Rohr, so I'll leave those out. Here are a few kinda-off-the-radar options.

The Hotel Falken

Owned by the family of a local BASE jumper, the Falken (in gorgeous above-it-all Wengen) often rents its seasonal staff rooms to visiting jumpers for economical rates.

To book, speak to Jenny directly. (She's "Jenny McZolla" on Facebook.)

The Chalet Aelpli B&B

Perched on the very edge of car-free Wengen, the Chalet Aelpli sits on a scenic, quiet overlook right next to the trailhead for the Yellow Ocean and La Mousse jumps. (If you've jumped here before, you'll recognize the Aelpli's outdoor fountain -- it's where we traditionally fill our bottles for the hike.) Rooms are classically Swiss, with wooden wainscoting, low ceilings, lovingly restored antiques and sweeping mountain views from almost every window. Wi-Fi and breakfast are included in the rate.

BASE Point

New on the scene, the BASEPoint Café is the only place in the Valley run by and for BASE jumpers. The bar and restaurant downstairs is already open. The upper floors will, over time, be gradually converted into a full-blown jumpers' hostel. As it stands at the moment, you can currently contact the owner through the Facebook page for (unrenovated) room rentals.

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Where to Eat (and Meet Your Friends)

Airtime Cafe makes the best damn brownies. Seriously. Get one. Sorry not sorry.
Airtime Cafe makes the best damn brownies. Seriously. Get one. Sorry not sorry. Image by Annette O'Neil

Restaurants are jaw-droppingly spendy in Switzerland if you're not earning stacks of Francs, so get to know the Coop grocery store across from the train station and ready yourself to eat a lot of noodles. That said: wo/man doesn't live on home-cooked food alone. You'll need places to regroup and caffeinate between jumps. Here's where to go.

Airtime Café

The place where BASE jumpers meet in the daylight hours, Airtime serves magnificent mochas and housemade cake, among other goodies.

In the back, you'll find Valley BASE Gear -- the bigger-than-what-meets-the-eye local depot for gear, accessories, swag, footwear and equipment. The shop, owned by beloved expat-local Lisa Hutchins, vends for almost all the manufacturers.

Pizzeria Da Sina

When you tire of the Horner, head up the hill. The food is good, the prices are a little less startling than most of the other venues in the neighborhood and the ambiance is nice enough for a date.

The Horner Pub

Ah, the Horner. Long established as The Official Meeting Place for après-jump drinks, the BASE community has papered the inner walls over the years with air sports brand stickers and portraits of fallen comrades.

Loads of BASE jumpers bunk in the creaky rooms upstairs, but they are quite expensive for what they are -- and book months ahead of time during the summer high season.

There's a shoddy discotheque on the second floor, which opens when it's getting late and the downstairs pub is still crowded. If you do go upstairs, be prepared for the mess that follows. It's the kind of place I usually come home from with bruises -- from climbing in the rafters -- and one hell of a hangover.

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What to Do on a Weather Day

The spa at the Hotel Victoria will iron out your hiking muscles.
The spa at the Hotel Victoria will iron out your hiking muscles. Image Courtesy Hotel Victoria Lauberhorn

Hotel Victoria Lauberhorn 33* Spa

The Wengen Victoria is the home of the 33* Spa, where jumpers come to soak away hiked-out muscles in the whirlpool, sauna, and steam room. Pricey massages are available, but the simple day pass to the facilities is the best deal.

Steiner's Second-Hand Shop

This might be my favorite Lauterbrunnen "secret."

Need a cheap tea kettle? Need a scooter helmet? Freezing without a blanket? Aching to have your own personal saucepan without taking out a mortgage to buy new at a Swiss housewares store? Love the weirder side of antiquing? This enormous old house, now a confusing warren of tiny rooms brimming with secondhandedness, is your huckleberry.

It's a few minutes from Lauterbrunnen, in nearby Interlaken. That said: It's worlds cheaper that buying new, it's the only secondhand shop in the area, and it's funky enough to be worth the trip just to burn some time on a weather day.

Want More?

For more, check out the rest of the list on my BASE Jumper's Guide to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland Foursquare tag family, linked in the heading.