The devil's playground Exploring Les Diablerets

Issue: 3/2015
From white-water rafting to snowshoeing, Anitra Green shares some insider tips for Les Diablerets.

A dangerous, cursed mountain full of lost souls, a meeting place for demons and devils who set off landslides just for fun – in the old days this was no place for any self-respecting, God-fearing human.

Today all that has changed. Les Diablerets and indeed the whole of the Vaud Alps has become a wonderful playground for tourists and locals alike – hiking, climbing, biking, ballooning, rafting and even high-altitude skiing in summer and snowboarding, sledding or snowshoeing in the winter. Or just grab a seat, a glass of excellent Aigle wine from the Rhone valley below and enjoy the fantastic views.

Les Diablerets itself, the town that takes its name from the mountain, is the ideal centre to explore the area. Joining a group of journalists on a sponsored excursion, we took a little train up there from Aigle and it was quite an experience. It's amazing that it was actually ever built, as it snakes up though wooded countryside and is perilously close to vertical. Incidentally, it's also a life line for this valley when the road is blocked by snow.

It's worth making a stopover at Vers-L'Eglise (towards the church) where there's not only a huge, charming old chalet-style hostelry but also a super museum (Musée des Ormonts). During my trip, an exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the little railway was an education. The pioneering spirit these workmen had in the days before modern machinery takes your breath away.

Back on the train, we took it as far as it goes, Les Diablerets, and stayed at the Hotel Eurotel Victoria. This is a real home away from home — cozy but modern, spacious rooms, friendly service, a swimming pool and sauna, and seminar facilities. Once we settled in, we took the local bus up to Col de Pillon where the real adventure starts with the Glacier 3000 cable car rising towards the mountain. The ride is awe-inspiring, as are the mountain views and the Botta building which houses the top station and a very attractive restaurant. Here, you catch a glimmer of why it's called Les Diablerets. Far away across the snowfield is a huge rock, shaped like a tower, known as the Devil's Skittle — just one of many legends about the devil in this area.

Onwards we hopped on a snow bus with massive caterpillar tracks. It holds 20 people and the driver told us he can take it up to 40 km/h when on military service – if he's alone. I nearly had a fit when he took us dangerously close to the edge on terrain that was far too steep. Our destination was Refuge l'espace, the little café right by the Devil's Skittle, where we could enjoy another spectacular view and a much needed hot coffee. The bastion-like rock was even bigger than I expected and had a bearded vulture circling above.

If you're heading to the area, there's much more to see in the other parts of Vaud Alps. Gstaad is part of the same ski arena and in winter you can get a SuperPass for the whole area including Leysin across the valley. And, if by now you're hooked on Switzerland's lovely railways, why not take the GoldenPass cheese train to Chateau d'Oex where you can see a cheese-making demonstration and enjoy a fondue at the Restaurant Le Chalet?

 

Photos: © Les Diablerets Tourism; Swissimages / Robert Boesch

Getting there and away

By train there are connections from Geneva - Lausanne - Montreux - Aigle to Les Diablerets and also from Zurich - Bern - Spiez - Zweisimmen to Gstaad. From Les Diablerets and Gstaad, there is a Postbus with a stop on the Col du Pillon (Glacier 3000 station) and Reusch (Reusch - Oldenegg station).
www.diablerets.ch

 

Author: Anitra Green

Has been in Switzerland long enough to be part of the scenery. Studied classics in London, now a railway journalist. Favourite occupations: travelling, hill walking, singing, good food, good wine and good company.


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