Summer and Winter: High on Melchsee-Frutt

Melchsee-Frutt Lodge

The third article in a Summer and Winter blog series of four.

The single best hiking day on my 220-mile trek along the Via Alpina during the summer of 2019 was the traverse of the Erzegg ridge from Engstlenalp to Meiringen in the Central Swiss Alps. It’s known for unobstructed views that stretch into the Bernese Alps and across terrain high above the timberline.  Just one problem—On the day I hiked it, the cloud level dropped significantly and so our views below were non-existent. On the ridge my visibility was limited to about 30 meters—enough to enjoy the sights close at hand like wildflowers, goats, and cows.

Still, I enjoyed passing through the farming hamlet of Tannalp and being entertained by the resident goat population before ascending the high ridgeline trail to the west, which eventually arrives at Planplatten to begin the descent to Meiringen. I got a taste of the Melchsee-Frutt plateau but was never able to see it because of the cloud cover. I had to return.

When it came time to plan my January cross-country ski vacation, I put Melchsee-Frutt at the top of my list. Melchsee-Frutt is conveniently set in the Central Swiss Alps, near Lucerne, but it’s a Swiss mountain resort that few Americans have ever heard of. Over 90 percent of their guests are Swiss, and American sightings are rare. The Nordic trails lie between 6300- and 6600-feet elevation, making Melchsee-Frutt one of the highest cross-country ski areas in Switzerland.

Observation Tower Melchseee-Frutt
Observation Tower Melchseee-Frutt

Melchsee-Frutt started attracting visitors in 1936 with the installation of a gondola that connected Stöckalp with Melchsee-Frutt and a Kahaus, an alpine sanitorium, was built near the lakeshore in what has been a summer farming pasture for over a thousand years. The Kahaus burned in 2004 and was abandoned until an investor with the foresight and inspiration came along to build the Frutt Lodge and Spa, opened in 2011.

The Frutt Lodge and Spa is an unexpected gem (see featured image)—Unexpected, in part because the exterior looks like a commercial office building that towers over the surrounding meadows. But once inside, you’re instantly taken in by the spaciousness and immense amount of wood used in its Alpine chic design. The 67 rooms are large and all open to lake or mountain views. The Frutt Lodge and Spa is known as the highest elevation 4-star superior hotel in Europe.

Everything about the Frutt Lodge and Spa lives up to—and often exceeds—its 4-star superior rating. The attentive service, the restaurant, and especially the pool and spa facilities are all top notch. Watch for the special gourmet touches and a focus on some of finest Swiss products, such as their own line of chocolates, the Willi Schmid cheeses, and the Eberle specialty spreads at the breakfast buffet. We loved the convenience of parking our car at Stöckalp’s covered parking area in the valley below, turning over our bags to the attendant, riding the cable car to Melchsee-Frutt, and having our bags delivered to the room. The ski-in ski-out setting is something everyone who hates walking in ski boots will love.

Tannensee Ski Trail
Tannensee Ski Trail

When the sun crested over the ridgeline in the morning, we had 15-km of freshly groomed snow-sure trails to explore. The expanse of the plateau means trails and lifts radiate out in all directions, so there never appears to be much of a crowd. In the crisp and clear winter air the views stretched to the glacier-flanked Mt. Titlis.

I’ll be returning to Melchsee-Frutt and look forward to sharing its charms with a wider international and North American audience. I know I can count on great skiing in winter. As for summer, I’ll have to arrange better weather to take advantage those spectacular views.

Tannensee, Switzerland
Tannensee in the summer.
Greg Witt
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