With some of the world’s best slopes and majestic mountain backdrops, the Alps are ideal for skiing and other winter avocations
Lovers of outdoor winter activities particularly appreciate Switzerland’s mountainous terrain. In fact, the Alps provide some of the finest skiing, snowboarding, hiking and tobogganing in the world. Few countries are better suited to help visitors attain mental and physical wellness than Switzerland. Thanks to picturesque scenery, charming towns and delectable food from border to border, there’s never a bad time to visit this immaculate land.
Here are some bucket-list locations in Switzerland where guests can get outside and enjoy a myriad of winter activities.
Formerly a quaint mountain village, Andermatt has developed a reputation as one of Europe’s premier skiing destinations. Located in the heart of the Swiss Alps, Andermatt is home to SkiArena Andermatt-Sedrun, central Switzerland’s largest ski resort. This resort contains two ski areas featuring splendidly groomed slopes for freeriders, well-maintained hiking trails and sunny snowshoe trails.
Skiing the slopes
Andermatt boasts one of the best snowfall records in the Alps. In fact, a winter season typically runs from mid-November to late April. The northern slopes of the nearby Gemsstock mountain are perfectly suited for advanced skiers. Alternatively, the well-lit slopes in the Andermatt-Oberalp-Sedrun are better suited to intermediates.
Toboggan runs followed by fondue with a view
The Swiss village is also an ideal spot for toboggan runs as it offers a slew of trails perfect for the entire family. When your day of playing on the snow has concluded, the historic village of Andermatt resonates with Alpine charm. It’s a perfect destination in which to unwind with the group.
Another delicious way to end your outing is to savor views over the Oberalp while eating fondue in a cable car. As guests dip their bread into the cheese, Andermatt’s lights sparkle below while the moon illuminates the mountain backdrop. A delectable chocolate dessert caps off this magical meal.
The mountain villages of Arosa and Lenzerheide in eastern Switzerland are connected by an aerial cableway. Skiers can enjoy an impressive 140 miles of slopes and hiking trails. This luminous wonderland offers countless amounts of guaranteed snow and diverse slopes for all levels and abilities. In addition, its state-of-the-art lifts allow transfers from one side of the valley to the other. Between frozen forests and shimmering lakes, the snowy landscape is superb for winter hiking, cross-country skiing and tobogganing.
Breakfast and stunning sunrise chairlift views
A spectacular way to start your day in Lenzerheide is to watch the sunrise from the top of a mountain, gazing out over freshly prepared snow. The Proschieri ski lift and Statzertali chair lift both start running at 6:30 a.m. to take skiers up the mountainside. The Alp Statz mountain restaurant offers a delightful breakfast buffet (served from 8 a.m.) to reward early risers. Arosa and Lenzerheide are home to more than 40 mountain restaurants offering a variety of delicacies. With an impressive range of mountain peaks around both towns, guests will be wowed by the sightlines.
The capital of Switzerland is a thriving city filled with museums and collections. When winter arrives, Bern embraces a variety of fun-filled winter experiences. One such excursion is the Lombachalp Trail, an unspoiled landscape surrounded by the Hohgant and Augstmatthorn peaks. Teeming with ancient spruce and pine forests, the snowshoe trail leads guests through a multitude of idyllic winter scenes. Tobogganers will appreciate Tschentenalp, Adelboden’s local mountain, which provides a range of runs that form a nearly nine-mile network of varying descents.
A summit in the Bernese Alps, Schilthorn is the highest-altitude skiing area in the Bernese Oberland. Furthermore, it has the finest view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Schilthorn is a skiing mecca, featuring steep slopes, long downhill runs and a modern transport system. It is also an excellent locale for snowboarders, thanks to Skyline Snowpark, an alluring facility designed for freeskiers and snowboarders of all ages.
Exploring the Jungfrau Region
Some describe the Jungfrau Region near Bern as Europe’s most dramatic mountain scenery and with the backdrop of the aforementioned Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, few would argue. Outdoor enthusiasts can savor activities of all types as skiers can embrace Jungfrau’s gentle slopes, steep drops and pristine snow while snowboarders can perform their craft in two snow parks. A specialty of the Jungfrau region is ice climbing, as a number of frozen waterfalls make enticing climbing partners.
Interlaken offers pistes reaching skyward
Residing in the German-speaking heart of Switzerland close to Bern, Interlaken offers outdoor devotees some of the most dramatic skiing in the Alps. With pistes reaching more than 8,000 feet, skiers and snowboarders can savor Interlaken year-round. While Interlaken’s slopes have a modern touch, the region has maintained its Old World charm, including a 100-year-old cogwheel train that transports skiers and snowboarders to the famed Jungfraujoch mountain pass (11,370 feet).
Those aiming to experience Switzerland’s largest ski resort and Europe’s highest elevated city can visit Davos in the Alps. With an elevation of 5,118 feet, Davos is a popular locale for downhill and cross-country ski zealots. Davos, along with the nearby village of Klosters, comprises six separate snow sports resorts: the freestyle mountain Jakobshorn; the ski classic Parsenn; family-friendly mountains Madrisa and Rinerhorn; the slower Schatzalp ski area; and the freeride mountain Pischa.
This adds up to 187 miles of guaranteed snow pistes. It also features five sledge runs for tobogganers and is ideal for ice sport enthusiasts and winter walkers thanks to its miles of cross-country trails and Europe’s largest outdoor ice rink.
Nightlife in Davos and Klosters
Davos also has plenty of off-mountain activities as it has an abundance of restaurants, night clubs, hotel bars, a theater, a concert hall, a casino and a winter sports museum. Klosters, the resort down the road, is connected to the same ski circuit, making it easy to explore both villages. Smaller in size, Klosters offers a bounty of shopping, nightlife and cultural events.
Originally a monastery village, this mountain resort has morphed into a modern winter sports paradise. Known for its tremendous skiing, Engelberg is home to Titlis Ski Resort. In fact, Engelberg is situated within the Uri Alps mountain range and resides 22 miles from Lucerne. Covering an altitude difference of 6,561 feet from Mt. Titlis to the village below, the resort is an ideal destination for skiers and snowboarders. Boasting 51 miles of slopes, Titlis offers many skiing, snowboarding and sledding options for everyone. Likewise, it has the longest downhill run covering more than seven miles.
Thanks to the Titlis glacier and modern snow-making facilities, the winter sports season runs about eight months, from October until May. When guests are not on the slopes, they can visit the rustic town of Engelberg, which contains homes from the Belle Epoque era. Also displayed here is an old Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1120.
A breathtakingly diverse landscape awaits visitors to the canton of Valais, as does the legendary Matterhorn mountain, which soars to a height of 14,692 feet. Located in southern Switzerland and bordering Italy and France, Valais is home to more than 70 ski areas, including some of the world’s most famous names. Among them are Crans-Montana, Verbier and Zermatt, the only place on the continent that allows skiing 365 days a year.
The neighboring resorts of Crans and Montana reside on a sun-splashed plateau high above the Rhone Valley. Together, they form one of the most popular holiday destinations in Valais. The two villages offer an expansive natural landscape and panoramic views of the Valais Alps. Ski slopes stretch to the Plaine Morte Glacier while frozen golf courses make perfect settings for cross-country skiers and hikers. Crans-Montana also combine to provide big-brand shopping, lavish nightclubs and traditional bars.
This Alpine village is renowned for both its skiing and nightlife. With numerous bars and discotheques, Verbier lays claim to some of the best nightlife in the Alps and has been described as “Ibiza in the snow.” Located high up at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, Verbier is an eye-catching ski resort that is part of the interconnected 4 Vallees, which collectively is the largest ski area in Switzerland and offers 256 miles of ski runs.
Enthusiasts flock to Switzerland’s highest ski resort to experience ideal skiing with miles of pistes and slopes. With an elevation of 5,276 feet, Zermatt lies below the iconic Matterhorn peak and has a legendary reputation among skiers and mountaineers. More than 248 miles of hiking trails lead through and out of the Matter Valley, including trails that date back to the 13th century. The town is a car-free zone and its main street is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants.
Igloo lodging and night skiing
An interesting place to stay is the Igloo Village Zermatt, where guests can enjoy an uncluttered view of the Matterhorn from the vantage point of an igloo. Zermatt’s lively ski scene encompasses 54 mountain railways and lifts. Nocturnal members of your group will appreciate a traditional Swiss cheese fondue before engaging in a nighttime ski down the Rothorn mountain, the slope illuminated only by the moon.
For more information, visit www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/experiences/winter/
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By Jason Paha