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It must be rather elevating for the train driver since the Wengenalp (WAB) rack railway from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, in central Switzerland, is uphill nearly all the way.
Travellers can gaze out over sparkling, snow-covered roofs and pine trees, and as if to underscore the picture-postcard nature of this wintry scene in the Bernese Oberland, a brook alongside the tracks babbles into the valley below.
Not all the visitors are here to admire the scenery. Around half the passengers aboard the Wengen alpine railway are schoolchildren keen to hit the ski slopes as quickly as possible.
The sport centre is near Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau -- one of the most spectacular mountains in the Alps, and no cars are allowed. Electric buggies are used to haul the luggage to the lofty hotels. Only around 1,500 people live in these parts permanently.
Some guests spent every day of a two-week vacation exploring the 215 kilometres of piste and never once leave the snowfields. Sad really as there are plenty of other winter-sport locations within easy reach and loads to see and do for those not interested in downhill skiing.
Snowshoe hiking is popular in the Bernese Oberland and interest in it is growing. Doris Schmied, a trained guide, is a great fan too. One of her favourite routes leads from the village of Isenfluh to Sulwand, which lies 1,500 metres above sea level. The first part of the trip is the least strenuous since hikers can take the "Luftseilbahn" cable car -- it can accommodate "eight persons or one cow" as a sign in the cabin points out.
Schmied tramps off ahead, pausing only to give her charges some tips on how to tell the difference between fresh and old snow and advice on animal tracks. "Look at those -- they are from this morning," she said. "One of them was a mountain hare and the other was probably a weasel." The goat-like chamois is another native of these parts "and three years ago we even had a wolf," Schmied recalled.
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