THE FIRST time I stood and gazed up at the north wall of the Eiger, I was so amazed I dropped my camera. If there is a more dramatic backdrop to a ski area I have yet to see it.

Zermatt's Matterhorn is, of course, more distinctive and in a sense more spectacular; but it is remote from the village (and invisible from half of it). The Eiger towers 3,000m above Grindelwald, putting the resort in the shade for practically the whole day in January.

PLUS POINTS: It has an extensive, unthreatening ski area. The mountain railway is jolly, and gives access to glacier expeditions as well as sightseeing. There are good sports facilities and long cross- country trails and walks. It is also fairly lively in the evenings.

MINUS POINTS: The mountain railway is slow, and still an important access route into the skiing. Expert skiers are dependent on off-piste conditions. A large influx of skiers from valley towns can cause queues.

(Photograph omitted)