Jan 2020 – I’d heard from very few people that Liechtenstein wasn’t really worth their time or effort to experience. I’d also heard from TheMcCarthyFamilyAdventure mention that there was a pretty charming village in the higher altitude region of this tiny tiny microstate of a nation. We had a free weekend open for plans and we also wanted to get the kids into the snow since, at the time, the winter in Baden-Württemberg had been so inconsistent. A quick googlemaps search yielded that Bergbahnen Malbun, the country’s only ski area, was barely a 3-hour drive away.
We decided it was worth our time. We also figured that on our way home, we’d find a place in Liechtenstein’s neighbors, Austria or Switzerland, to board. Liechtenstein ended up being one of my more enjoyable experiences throughout the Alps.
The drive down was cloudy and rainy: this had us worried that the trip would end up being a bust. Arrival into the open-border nation is pretty uneventful but, when driving from Switzerland, you do get to cross over a beautiful glacier blue section of the Rhine River. Unlike its Swiss and Austrian neighbors, you don’t need a windshield sticker to drive its highways; however, since there is literally no way to get there via car except through one of those nations, you’ll end up having to buy one from one of those countries.
We figured since it was such a short trip in total, we’d drive straight to the slope area and get the kids on the snow. They hadn’t been on a slope at all, at that point. Again: attributed to the awful winter the entire Alpine region was having. After driving high into the nation’s mountains and turning countless switch-backs, it’s pretty much a lone highway that takes you straight into the village’s center where you can utilize a few pay-to-park areas or a great parking garage.
I’ll start the real description here: Malbun has an awesome kids’ practice slope. It has everything both parents and kids need to practice. There is a balance carousel, a magic carpet, a trainer tow-line, and a little obstacle course. It has A BAR. Perhaps, most importantly, use of the entire thing is free (except your alcohol, of course.) The area is called Malbi-Park and it’s awesome. If your kids still need practice on turns, tow-lines, general skills, Malbi-Park is easily the best thing about Malbun since you can stay there all day without spending a dime.
Since we took the kids straight to Malbi-Park when we arrived, we didn’t have much time for anything else so we went back down to Triesenberg where Hotel Kulm would be our stay for our two nights.
If you can secure a west-viewing room, your views will be completely unbeatable. The room setup is pretty basic; however, the kids’ beds are in a separate room, so that’s a plus. Breakfast (free) was a typical Alpine display: cold cuts, yogurts, hard boiled eggs, and a solid variety of breads and jams. If we come back, we’ll probably check back into Kulm. The views are too good to pass up.
Interesting sidenote: half-decent Tex-Mex can be found just across the border in Sevelen, Switzerland. Cantina Bad-Rans had a real margarita that my super American wife approved of, and “relatively” decent food if you’re heavily experienced in what the USA has to offer. It’s nice and loud, too, so if you’ve got imperfect kids, you shouldn’t feel too out-of-place. Call ahead of time. Reservations are the norm. Recommend-o.
During our second day, we found an amazing service offered up by Hotel Turna Malbun: a daycare!!! I think it’s best to call the day prior; however, they were pretty accommodating to us and we weren’t even hotel guests. Hopefully your kids know some German: that was the only way the childcare lady was able to talk with our kids. I honestly cannot remember how much it was per hour for the both of ours…but I do recall that the hours were from like 11:00 to 21:00. This service is a huge find because ski lessons in Liechtenstein are astronomical (120 Swiss Francs for each kid for a single day).
I love my kids and all, but there is no way I’m throwing down like I’m drunk at a blackjack table in Vegas just so I can get away from them for 4 hours.
As far as the snow and slope quality goes: I thought the powder areas felt good but, as it is in Liechtenstein, it’s very small. There are two sides of the ski area and both are about the same length. The western area of the slopes are your standard European blues; however, if you can hike a bit, you can drop in from some great elevation just above the lift drop-off points. The run on the eastern side is really thin and not that fun until you are given the opportunity to drop-in to some “bowl-like” terrain. I enjoyed it, a lot.
One of the very cool things about Malbun’s slopes are that you can literally snowboard or ski, from both slope sides, through the village’s streets as you’re coming to your run’s end and lift. Depending on how the winter is, this could include tiny bits of gravel hidden in the snow as it did with us. This sucks hard because you basically immediately need a wax job afterwards. Use your best (inebriated) judgement.
Oh right: expect to likely pay about 50 Swiss Francs per person for a day. Take it for what it is. Liechtenstein is small and they’re rich. Gotta stay that way, right?
So I made mention in my Switzerland page that there are ways to circumvent spending so much in Switzerland, which stands the same for Liechtenstein. Buy drinks and snacks before leaving Germany, Italy, or wherever you’re coming from. I’ve read that German prices are so much more reasonable that even Swiss citizens drive over the border to buy groceries in border areas. If the Swiss do it, it’s probably a smart idea.
Also, don’t think you can just walk into restaurants during dinner time and expect to find a table. This place is heavy heavy on reservations. Don’t make this mistake. We did like idiots. Haha. We’re silly because we’re Americans.
Here’s a random geography lesson for you featuring an incredible view from Bergrestaurant Sareis.
My verdict: I thought Malbun was awesome. A totally free area for your kids to practice on in addition to a hotel offering up daycare is absolutely amazing. The views in basically all directions are amazing, but you will have to deal with Swiss prices. I thought that the local brewery was great and that the Alpine cuisine measured up just fine to Liechtenstein’s Swiss and Austrian neighbors. The Malbun area even has public bus systems to take you straight to the slopes if the main parking deck is full up. The slopes are good for a relaxing day rather than shredding your face off through jumps and trees.
I think, if you’ve got the time or you live close enough to Malbun, it’s worth a visit. Everyone knows Swiss and Austrian Alps, but I really don’t run into people who can provide decent info on Liechtenstein other than, “It’s small”. Take a trip and judge for yourself!
If there’s anything you feel is missing or if you’ve got any questions, drop a comment below! I’ll get back to you!
Bis zum näschtes mal!The Snowboard Dad In Europe