Switzerland is a four-season playground
Thrill-seekers, outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers from around the world find euphoria in Switzerland’s dramatic peaks and sprawling valleys. This European adventure zone is packed with just that—adventure. From pillows of powder and steep pistes to ride in the winter, to technical trails and stunning views to enjoy in the summer, Switzerland is a mecca for adventure. But the excitement is not limited to hardcore outdoor types. People of all activity levels will find excursions that fit their interests.
Switzerland’s ability to offer year-round excitement is due in large part to its striking and varied terrain. The country is admired for its mountains, with many groups looking to connect with nature in the Jura Mountains and Swiss Alps. Roughly 70 percent of the country is made up of mountains, and Switzerland counts more than 1,400 glaciers. With thousands of miles of marked trails, some 200 ski regions and more than 1,500 lakes, there’s more than enough to keep outdoor fans satisfied.
EMBRACE THE COLD: WINTER ACTIVITIES IN SWITZERLAND
Switzerland’s snow-capped peaks offer the perfect environment for tour groups to enjoy some cold-weather activities. No matter what kind of adventure groups are looking for, there’s plenty of diversity in Switzerland’s outdoor winter activities to keep your travelers entertained for days.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Switzerland
Did someone say skiing? This is the place for it. Switzerland has a long history with the sport, dating back to the mid-18th century. And more than a few winter Olympic athletes call Switzerland home. Naturally, there are dozens of world-renowned ski resorts here. But they aren’t just reserved for the professionals. Skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels can experience the fresh powder and smooth corduroy on these famed slopes.
Nestled in the hills and sprinkled around the shores of Lake Lucerne are several acclaimed ski resorts perfect for any visiting group. Engelberg-Titlis, one of the largest winter (and summer) destinations in the country, is known as a top ski region. With nearly 50 miles (80 km) of skiing and riding terrain, Engelberg offers winter sports enthusiasts a diverse environment and freeride areas, as well as incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Advanced skiers should head to the challenging trails at the Stand Station on Titlis, while newbies to the sport can get schooled on the basics from seasoned ski and snowboard instructors.
Over in eastern Switzerland, near the city of St. Gallen, is Toggenburg, the region’s largest winter sports area. Home to the resorts Alt St. Johann, Unterwasser and Wildhaus, Toggenburg boasts 17 ski lifts and over 35 miles (56 km) of pistes to explore. For a truly unique experience, groups can sign up for moonlight skiing on the Sellamatt, to enjoy the trails with the moon and stars to guide them.
One of the most famous—and highly sought-after—winter destinations in Switzerland is St. Moritz in the Graubünden region. Considered the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism, St. Moritz is home to one of the first ski lifts in the country and has hosted the Winter Olympics twice. With 217miles (350 km) of skiable terrain and the steepest start slope in Switzerland, it’s easy to see why this is a dream winter sports destination for so many groups.
Skiing enthusiasts congregate in Zermatt, a mountain resort in southern Switzerland that resides beneath the iconic Matterhorn mountain. Guests come to Zermatt to experience perfect skiing with miles of pistes, fantastic slopes, sun and snow. Verbier, an Alpine village, is home to ski resort 4 Vallées (four valleys), the biggest ski area in Switzerland. With almost 250 miles (410 km) of linked pistes accessed by 93 ski lifts, the terrain has an incredible array of skiing options.
Davos, a small town in the Swiss Alps, has an international appeal thanks to its excellent slopes and quality terrain parks. Davos Klosters contains almost 200 miles (300 km) of guaranteed snow pistes and 57 transport facilities. The resort village of Saas Fee, near the Italian border, is surrounded by 18 13,000-foot (4,000 m) peaks and features a breathtaking landscape of mountains and glaciers. Laax is home to a large skiing area with an efficient lift system, while Andermatt, Sedrun and Oberalp have 16 ski lifts, approximately 30 runs and more than 60 miles (100 km) of pistes. Skiers in Crans-Montana can savor an impressive view of the Matterhorn and the Mont Blanc mountains as they descend down the slopes. The Crans-Montana ski resort features a variety of slopes of all difficulty levels and is a perfect place for skiers of all abilities to have fun.
Snowshoeing, Sledding and Cross-Country Skiing
Downhill ski action isn’t for everyone. This is why Switzerland offers plenty of other winter activities for visitors to enjoy. The village of Appenzell in eastern Switzerland is a quiet winter wonderland, but it still provides plenty of exciting adventures. The hilly landscape is perfect for cross-country skiing. And with a network of 124 miles (200 km) of trails, there’s more than enough terrain to challenge any winter adventurer.
For those who want to unbuckle from the skis, but still crave some adrenaline, why not try sledging. It’s essentially sledding, but with a little more intensity. Sattel-Hochstuckli and Beckenried-Klewenalp, both in the Lucerne region, offer some top-notch sledging runs. The former lets sledgers careen from the Mostelberg to Sattel, while the latter features the longest sledge run in central Switzerland at just over 5 miles (8 km).
Winter walking and snowshoeing are available at almost every mountain area in Switzerland. St. Gallen has dozens of snowshoe trails ranging in length and difficulty, giving groups of all fitness levels a heart-pumping adventure around the snowy landscape. Lungern-Schönbüel near Lucerne is a great spot for snowshoeing, offering an idyllic trail from the summit of the Brünig Pass down to Lungern.
SUN AND FUN: SUMMER ACTIVITIES IN SWITZERLAND
Switzerland’s outdoor adventures are not limited to the cold-weather months. Summer delivers its own collection of exciting activities, ranging from low-key nature hikes to adrenaline-filled rafting rides.
Hiking in Switzerland
With over 40,000 miles (65,000 km) of marked hiking trails, Switzerland has a perfect path for every group. One of the top scenic hikes for beginner-level adventurers is the Panorama Trail above Zurich. Starting from Uetliberg Mountain after a leisurely train ride to the top, the trail takes groups on a 3.7-mile (6 km) high-altitude hike to the Felsenegg. Along the way, hikers can stop to take selfies and group shots with Zurich, the Alps and lake views as backdrops.
For a slightly more challenging alpine route, groups can try the Walen Trail in the Lucerne region, running from Bannalp to Ristis. The roughly four-hour hike winds up and down high peaks and through meadows filled with wild flowers and even some grazing goats. Switzerland’s varied terrain allows groups to experience all kinds of hiking environments. From waterside strolls to intense uphill treks, there’s truly a trail for everyone.
Biking in Switzerland
For those who feel more comfortable on two wheels, Switzerland has a plethora of biking options to enjoy—from traditional to electronic.
That’s right, electronic bicycles, or e-bikes, have grown in popularity in recent years, and Switzerland has fully embraced them. The beauty of e-bikes is that they allow groups to tackle more strenuous routes and see more of the country than they would on a normal bike. Switzerland allows e-bikes on almost all cycling routes, so groups can use them in any region they plan to visit. There’s even a route created specifically for e-bikes, called the Herzroute, which takes riders through the gently rolling hills and lush meadows of the Alps. With e-bikes, groups can enjoy the route at their own pace, spending a little extra time at scenic overlooks and small farmsteads before hopping back on their bikes and speeding to the next location.
Of course, traditional foot-powered bikes are still available for those who appreciate the classic form of transportation. Bike rentals are located in cities all over the country, and more than 7,400 miles (12,000 km) of paths are waiting to be explored. Enjoy a leisurely pedal along the pristine Swiss lakes and rivers or put your muscles to the test on a steady incline through mountainous areas.
No matter if groups go electric or classic, one of the best ways to soak in the country’s scenery is from the seat of a bike.
Switzerland may be landlocked, but with its abundance of lakes and rivers, there’s more than enough water to provide groups with exciting aquatic adventures.
Tour groups can revel in a calm raft trip along the Rhine River, just north of Zurich, led by an experienced guide who can provide expertise on regional sights of interest. Or groups can grab a paddle and hop in a canoe to discover the waterways around St. Gallen. The Lake Lucerne Canoe Trail is another great option for visitors who want to take in the mountain views from the water. Groups can choose from three routes, each offering day tours for kayaking or canoeing.
Another outdoor activity visitors and locals love is swimming in Swiss rivers and lakes. Swiss locals say the water is so clean you can swim with your mouth open. Which is a good thing considering your mouth will be wide open as you stare in wonderment at Switzerland’s incredible natural beauty.
By Vanessa Day