How often do you get to meet a movie star? Not often, if you’re me. And this one’s a rare gem.

She’s blonde and statuesque. A Bond girl, no less. Home is in the Swiss Alps and men and women will want to yodel their hearts out the first time they set eyes on her.

Though she’s somewhat of a mystery, shunted into the shadows by younger starlets with glitzier trimmings.

Her name is Schilthorn. And she’s a mountain that’s built for skiing in the Jungfrau region.

I find that out while perched atop the summit terrace at Piz Gloria, the rotating restaurant that doubled as a Bond villain’s lair during 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I’ve been escorted up here by Alan Ramsay, Sales Manager for Schilthorn Cableway Ltd.

Like James Bond himself, Ramsay hails from Scotland, having moved to Mürren, the cosy, car-free village at the foot of the mountain, when he was in his twenties. After meeting his wife, he never left.

Who could blame him? The chocolate-box village of Mürren (that services Schilthorn) is home to just 400 people and 2000 hotel beds, ensuring that the slopes will never be crowded. As for those slopes, there are 54km of them, serviced by trains, cable cars, chairlifts and draglifts.

So much to love about Schilthorn

At 2970m, Schilthorn is the highest ski resort in the Bernese Alps. It’s longest run stretches 15km and has a vertical differential of 2200m. An environmentally sustainable snow farming operation guarantees the winter ski season starting in early November – timing that’s much appreciated by local ski teams and avid ski bums alike.

A snow park, 10km of sledding trails, 15km of winter hiking trails and 8km of snowshoe trails add diversity to what’s already an impressive offering.

Improvements are ongoing, too. Significant works have already been done on upgrades to the Grütschalp-Mürren train line and refurbishing the 44-room Palace Hotel.

By 2026, the existing cable cars on the Mürren-Birg and Birg-Schilthorn routes will be replaced and new stations built. A direct connection will also link the valley town of Stechelberg with Mürren.

World’s oldest (and longest) amateur downhill ski race

International Inferno Race, Photos: Bruno Petroni, Yannic Reust

As for Ramsay, his signature tartan ski pants, blemished with repair patches after years of continuous use, guarantee that he’s easily recognisable on the slopes. For years, he also wore a kilt while competing in the annual Inferno Ski Race that starts at the summit and ends in Lauterbrunnen, 15km down the mountain.

This year marked the 80th staging of the world’s oldest and longest amateur downhill ski race. On January 27, 1850 crazed skiers competed for the chance to win a metal badge stamped with a fiery devil.

In 1928, when it was first held, competitors hiked up the mountain the night before and raced down ungroomed pistes in tweeds. The winner took more than an hour. This year’s Lycra-wrapped victor caught a cable car up in the time it would take to finish an Aussie-style flat white from Mürren’s Intersport Coffee Bar and crossed the finish line less than seven minutes later.

The Inferno was the brainchild of ski-mad Brits who persuaded the local railway to stay open during the 1910 winter, effectively making Mürren ground zero for commercial skiing. Twelve years later the Kandahar Ski Club was formed and lobbying began in earnest for downhill races at the Winter Olympics.

Those efforts were rewarded when the very first Alpine Ski World Championships were staged in Mürren in 1931 and at the Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen five years later.

Skiing Schilthorn

Schilthorn. Photo: Mark Daffey

As for the skiing itself, well, can I say that it’s superb? Steep, certainly – one piste, Direttissima, has an 88% incline. And beginners might struggle with the tight bends and overly generous gradings given to some of the green runs.

After paying tribute to 007 inside the interactive Spy World and Walk of Fame at Piz Gloria, Bond fans will want to ski off the summit, just like Aussie George Lazenby did in the 1969 movie. Intermediate skiers can tear through the pine forests around Winteregg. Powder hounds are spoiled for choice off the Schiltgrat.

Mürren, the village

Photo credit: Mark Daffey

As for Mürren itself, the setting is one of the prettiest you’ll ever come across, perched on a shelf, high above a waterfall-flushed valley and opposite some of Europe’s most recognisable peaks. Lodgings are understated and built mostly in traditional alpine-timbered form. The selection of eateries is limited, with Tham’s Chinese restaurant about as exotic as it gets. And night owls will be disappointed.

Instead, skiers come here to ski. And that includes plenty of families with plummy English accents, following the well-worn path once trod by their forebears. But who knows? There may even be a few young starlets among them.

Mark Daffey travelled courtesy of Switzerland Tourism and Schilthorn Cableway

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