A Simple Question: The Birth of Modern Ski Civilization in Mürren, Switzerland

Like a medieval aerie, the village of Mürren perches on a sunny terrace at the edge of a 2,600-foot cliff in the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland. This lofty symbolism is no accident. Here, whether sightseeing or skiing, you’re both cradled by mountains and flying through them. In the spacious lounge of historic Hotel Eiger, for instance, the eponymous peak stampedes through floor-to-ceiling windows, so imposing that even if you’re alone in the Victorian-decorated room, it feels like someone is sitting beside you. Someone important.

The panorama crowding the rest of the parlor is equally striking. To the Eiger’s right lean the Mönch and Jungfrau, a mountainous thumb and forefinger pinching the icy start of Europe’s longest glacier, the Aletsch. This monolithic trio gives way to the massive wall of the Schwarzmönch, and below it, the great gash of waterfall-lined Trümmelbach Gorge. The view feels like a diorama of alpinism.

Indeed, Mürren is as redolent with human history as geologic. It first appears in records in the year 1257 as Dorf auf der Mauer, or “village on the wall.” The colonizing Walser people arrived by squeezing through the no-longer-negotiable Wetterlücke gap. Over the centuries, the isolated settlement was variously known as Montem Murren, Murron, Murn, Mürn, Murne, Myrrhen, and, finally, Mürren, which stuck when the ever-intrepid British discovered it as a summer destination in the 1840s…

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