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Active Travels: Hiking in the Alps from Leysin to Berneuse

Kuklos in Leysin, Switzerland
Kuklos in Leysin, Switzerland

By Steve Jermanok

Come winter, Montreux serves as a base for skiers who want the cosmopolitan feel of a city after spending a day on the slopes. It’s only an hour train ride to the exclusive resort town of Gstaad, 90 minutes to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. If you want to stay closer to town, you can simply hop on a train to Aigle and then take the mountain train up to Leysin, a great family ski area. Yesterday we did exactly that to hike up to the top of the ski area and lunch at the revolving restaurant, Le Kuklos. The Swiss trains that climb slowly up the steep mountainside are an engineering marvel, rewarding us with great views of the green valley below.

Our hike started in Leysin, where we spotted a class of young schoolchildren rock climbing. Obviously, a love of outdoor recreation in the mountains starts at an early age in Switzerland. We were at an altitude of 4,429 feet surrounded by the mighty peaks of the Swiss and French Alps, but unfortunately socked in by thick clouds. Our first stop was a cheesemaker, L’Alpage Temeley, who was creating rounds of Gruyere and Tomme Vaudoise cheese in massive 900 liter vats. Soon we were climbing up a series of switchbacks, smelling the sweet pine and hearing church bells and the occasion cow bells from the valley below. Every now and then the layers of clouds would disrobe and we were treated to a mind-boggling view of the Dents du Midi, a dome of serrated ridges that top out over 10,000 feet. The summit of mighty Mont Blanc, standing to the left of the Dents du Midi at 15,781 feet, pierced a dense cloud.
Two hours and 2300 feet later, we were dining at Le Kuklos, staring at the nearby twin peaks of the Tour d’Ai (look like arrowheads) as the restaurant moved around in a circle. We dined on venison and cheese rösti, not my typical lunch food, washed down with a delightful dry white wine from nearby Aigle, Merveilles des Roches. Thankfully, we only had to take the gondola ride back to town because after the heavy food, I was ready for a nap!
Steve Jermanok Working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor at Budget Travel, and regular contributor for The Boston Globe, Men’s Journal, and Yankee Magazine, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1500 articles on 80 countries. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. With his wife, Lisa Leavitt, Steve launched a boutique travel agency, ActiveTravels.com, in May 2012. His clientele includes many people in the travel business, including Steve Kaufer, founder of TripAdvisor (designed his honeymoon to Turkey), and Mark Snider, owner of The Winnetu Resort on Martha’s Vineyard and The Nantucket Hotel on Nantucket. You can follow him @ActiveTravels
Steve Jermanok Working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor at Budget Travel, and regular contributor for The Boston Globe, Men’s Journal, and Yankee Magazine, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1500 articles on 80 countries. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. With his wife, Lisa Leavitt, Steve launched a boutique travel agency, ActiveTravels.com, in May 2012. His clientele includes many people in the travel business, including Steve Kaufer, founder of TripAdvisor (designed his honeymoon to Turkey), and Mark Snider, owner of The Winnetu Resort on Martha’s Vineyard and The Nantucket Hotel on Nantucket. You can follow him @ActiveTravels
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