A true and rare winter wonderland experience in Switzerland. This was a big one on my bucket list and I’m so happy I got to do it in my second year here. A few tips before you go.
Up until 2015, it was not possible to skate on Oeschinensee for 19 years. So it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The feeling of skating on a frozen lake, on this huge area of nature-made ice, surrounded by mountains on all sides – it’s special. And it’s fun because other people are out there with you, playing hockey, trying to do pirouettes, or the little ones just learning how to skate (what an epic venue!). You’re really high up in the mountains so the air is thin and the weather changes from cloudy to sunny, back to cloudy, and sometimes the wind is strong enough that it just pushes you gently along the ice, like a nature ride. All of it adds up to this constant feeling of “oh my god I am skating on a lake!!! how cool is that!!” at least that was my mood 🙂
IMPORTANT TO KNOW
This is a weather-dependent activity. It needs to be cold in the mountains but without snowfall, so that the lake turns into black ice. If it hasn’t been cold enough or it has been snowing from the beginning of the season, skating will not be possible. Because these kind of weather conditions are rare, always check the weather before you go! Oescheninsee runs a website www.oeschinensee.ch where they post updates on whether or not skating is possible and have a 360-degree live webcam, so you can check the conditions also in the morning before you go.
HOW TO GET THERE
You can get there by car or train (for both, on a good weather day, if you stay until the end of the day, which is around 4-5pm, there will be a lot of traffic for the cars and the trains will be quite full, just as FYI). The route is Zurich to Kandersteg (a mountain village) and in Kandersteg, it’s a short walk to the gondola station (you can buy tickets there or online). The gondola takes about 10-15 minutes to the top. There you have a restaurant and a scenic view and several hiking paths, some of which lead down to the lake (there are a lot of signs and people so it’s easy to find your way). The walk down depends on the path and how quick you are, but it’s around 25-30 minutes. From Zurich altogether it takes about 2-2.5hrs.
CAN YOU RENT THE SKATES THERE?
Yes. On days when skating is possible, there is a little rental station by the lake. They have about 150 skates in total and it’s 8 francs to rent a pair. Obviously popular sizes get rented out fast. My skates were very old and unsteady, but I didn’t mind because at least I got my size almost right away, and well, not much can ruin the fun of gliding on a lake. But if you can, bring your own.
IS IT VERY COLD?
Depends on the day. When we were there it was -2 to -5 C, but the few days after I checked the weather and it was down -10C, so definitely dress warm and bring winter shoes you can hike in.