" Black Ice - dark beauty | Engadin, Switzerland Download_on_the_App_Store_Badge_US-UK_RGB_blk_4SVG_092917 ic_keyboard_arrow_right_48px default-skin 2 estm_eng_2chair_lift estm_eng_3chair_lift estm_eng_4chair_liftestm_eng_6chair_liftestm_eng_aerial_cableway estm_eng_funicularestm_eng_gondola_cableway estm_eng_magic_carpet estm_eng_ponylift estm_eng_ski_lift estm_eng_snowtube 4_close Generated by Fontastic.me stm_booking_bergellstm_booking_bike_hotelstm_booking_bus_cable_railway_asteriskstm_booking_busstm_booking_bus_cable_railwaystm_booking_bus_cable_railway_asteriskstm_booking_golfhotelstm_booking_hotel_skipass_bstm_booking_hotel_skipass_bstm_booking_railway_incstm_booking_railway_inc_asterisk

Dark beauty

Black-ice in the Engadin

Frozen Lago Bianco

When the winter days and nights get colder and colder, fans of black ice start to hope. Although the Engadin is famous for its cross-country ski trails over the frozen lakes, the phenomenon of "black ice" is by no means a foregone conclusion, even in the relatively dry high valley.

Alt text
Alt text

So what are the required conditions for the glistening waters to turn into darkly shimmering sheets of ice?  

It is common knowledge that water freezes at 0 degrees. Consulting a physics book, we learn that water has its highest density at 4 degrees. In other words, water is heaviest at 4 degrees. As soon as autumn cools the top layer of water in the Engadin lakes down to 4 degrees, it sinks and pushes warmer water from the depths to the surface. For a lake to freeze, the first step is for the entire water volume to settle at a temperature of 4 degrees. Only then can the top surface of the water continue to cool without sinking. If air temperatures continue to remain around freezing, the water at the surface slowly begins to turn into a layer of ice. However, the actual duration of the freezing process depends not only on the number of cold days in autumn and winter, but also on how deep a lake is. The deeper the lake, the longer it takes for all the lake water to circulate and reach 4 degrees.

For the Engadin lakes, this means that the Lago Bianco reservoir on the Bernina Pass always freezes over first. This is followed by Lake St. Moritz and the smaller Lake Champfèr (Lej Suot) - usually as early as December. In the case of Lake Sils, it takes a little longer due to its size and somewhat more exposed location - the wind can also stop a rapid "Seegfrörni" and literally blow away the freezing process. The last to freeze is usually Lake Silvaplana, which is significantly deeper than the other lakes in the Upper Engadin.

Complete freezing of the lakes in the Engadin can (still) be expected every year, even in comparatively milder winters. For the formation of the mysterious black ice, however, an additional condition must be fulfilled: It must not snow during the days of freezing. Only in this way does the frozen lake surface remain transparent and lend the Engadin plateau a particularly magical glow for a few days or weeks.

If you want to venture onto the black ice on skates this year, you need to keep your fingers crossed: Lago Bianco officially opens a defined zone for skaters for the first time. Alternatively, there are various prepared lake ice rinks in the Upper Engadin for ice skating, such as the two round ice rinks on Lej da Staz or on Lake St. Moritz.

Alt text

Symphony of the Frozen Lakes

Black ice offers an unforgettable experience not only for the eye but also for the ear as the dark beauty also attracts attention with mysterious sounds. The ice concert from the depths of the frozen lakes includes loud pops and cracks, strange bubbling and crackling, and supernatural sounds reminiscent of whale songs.

Science has a simple explanation for the singing lakes. The reason for this natural phenomenon is the changing air temperature. If it gets warmer, the ice on the surface expands; if the temperature drops, it contracts. This causes cracks to appear on the underside of the ice layer lying on the water. These movements of the ice surface and its cracking are responsible for the special acoustic effects of the black ice. When it begins to snow, the snow absorbs the sounds and slowly silences the mysterious music.

 Black Ice 
 Black Ice 

(Still) no “black ice” in sight?

Then take advantage of the wait for an adrenalin blast with a difference. Frozen Lago Bianco is regarded as one of the finest locations for snowkiting among those in the know. The wide-open spaces are ideal for everyone from racers and freestylers to backcountry enthusiasts, snowkite tourers and complete beginners.
Snowkiting  at Lago Bianco

Snowkiting among the highest peaks of the Eastern Alps.

Outdoor Activities

Further information