The local thoroughbred biker and trail builder
Pirmin Kündig has lived in Engelberg for eight years. In winter, he works at the piste rescue service. The last time I met him was in February. In a few free hours, we had drawn a few beautiful lines in the deep snow on the Jochstock. "It's almost as good in summer," he had casually remarked at the time while riding the chairlift. "Excuse me?" - "Come back in a few months and I'll show you what I mean," he had said. So here I am. Still a bit sceptical, but ready to get into it, to experience the flow as in the pulse procedure even in 20 degrees and sunshine.

"Well, that was like a ski tour now," says Pirmin. "Earn your turns ... But for the next few kilometres, relaxed cranking is the order of the day." He should know. He knows the trails between the Engelberg Valley and the Melch Valley like the back of his hand. And the 28-year-old has helped build some of them himself. "We've put a lot of heart and soul into it over the past few years," he says as we pedal up the small climb to the Tannensee. In winter, the slopes around Engelberg have long been legendary among freeriders: Laub, Titlisrunde, Galtiberg, ... and, and, and. Compared to this, the development of mountain biking in the region has only just begun. But a detailed look at the terrain and infrastructure shows: especially for enduro bikers who like to use the lift sometimes, the area between Melchsee, Jochpass and Trübsee has a lot of potential.

There are plans to extend the flow trail to Engelberg.
In summer 2017, the Swiss trail construction experts from "Trailworks" moved in. Their successful projects include the Bikepark Lenzerheide and the World Cup cross-country and downhill trails there. Their mission: to build a new flow trail from the Jochpass to the Trübsee. Pirmin, who has been taking care of the bike trails around Engelberg as a trail shaper in summer for four years, could not be missing as local support. "After the course was roughly modelled with an all-terrain excavator, we worked out the rough stones with a pickaxe and rake. Then we applied a layer of fine grit and compacted it with the vibratory plate. After all, we want the trail to last and not be washed away during summer thunderstorms," says Pirmin. The construction work lasted from July to mid-October. And Pirmin proudly adds: "It's a really fun line - we're going to test it right away."

While my mouth is already watering at the prospect of this biking treat, we reach the next highlight of the tour. The sparkling Tannensee. A little above it is the Tannalp alpine cheese dairy. "They have very special delicacies there," Pirmin grins. At Tannalp, cheese is still made the way it was centuries ago. Inside, the cheesemaker has already stoked the fire in the wood-burning oven. A mighty cheese vat hangs over it, in which milk and rennet are slowly turned into a tough mass that will later ripen into loaves in appropriate moulds in the cool cellar. 

We continue on to Engstlensee. The sun is burning down from the sky. Now for a little cooling down! So off we go: "One, two, three ...!" Ohhh, damn fresh! No wonder, because the lake is fed by streams from the flanks of the Joch glacier. Often the ice on the lake doesn't thaw until June," says Pirmin. So it's not surprising that trout and char feel more at home in the cool water than overheated bikers. Anglers come here even in winter for ice fishing. Those who are less enthusiastic about fish will find hearty refreshments at the Engstlenalp dairy. 100 loaves of Bernese alpine cheese are produced up here every summer, each weighing eight to ten kilograms. Plus 1000 kilos of alp butter, 4000 kilos of Alpmutschli and 500 kilos of Ziger. 

Beyond the lake, the terrain rises again. Up to Jochpass. We float up the 300 metres in altitude - by chairlift. "Time for a little refreshment," says Pirmin at the top. In the Bärghuis, Erwin Gabriel serves "Urner Häfelichabis", a traditional stew from the region with mutton, white cabbage, turnips, onions and potatoes. The Bärghuis Jochpass is not only a bike-certified accommodation, but the boss himself is also infected with the bike virus. On his own initiative and financed by himself, Erwin built the first trail here with his Slovenian downhill friend Janez Grasic. An old hiking trail became the "Trudi Trail", named after Erwin's wife Trudi, who likes to get into the bike saddle just as much as he does. "This is the more difficult variant down to the Trübsee," the 58-year-old reveals.

From summer 2018 - Full of flow on the Jochpass Trail
"Come on, I'll show you my new playground," says Pirmin after the stop. And he already puts his bike into the first bend of the Jochpass Flow Trail. Pirmin didn't promise too much: Just like in winter, when terrain shapes, cornices and kickers entice you to play with gravity, the flow trail invites you to smoothly surf on your bike. On 400 metres of depth and five kilometres, approach curves, rollers and jumps alternate. The course is designed in such a way that even beginners and children can manage. "Which doesn't mean that cracks don't have fun here," interjects Pirmin during a short stop halfway. "Just like on skis, the demands increase with speed." Pumped full of happy hormones, one thing is clear after this rollercoaster ride: "Again!" In no time at all, the Jochpass chairlift takes you back to the top. "We want to multiply this flow feeling even more," Pirmin reveals. The plan is to extend the flow trail by another 700 metres in altitude down to Engelberg. But there is another alternative. It has already been built: On the way back, the Hells Bells Trail from the Jochpass down to Engstlensee awaits. "Don't worry ...", Pirmin reassures, "... sounds wilder than it really is." This bike trail also offers plenty of flow - hellishly beautiful!


Text: Christian Penning

Pictures: Oskar Enander