Winter Sports for Families in Switzerland

Wengen and the Jungfrau

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n the whole the Swiss cater well for families. The winter tourist industry was established in Switzerland long before it was in other countries and provides a wide variety of winter diversions for the family. We particularly enjoy resorts with spas, but many resorts also have wonderful winter walks, toboggan runs, ice rinks and creche facilities.

There are a number of hotels that cater specifically for families. The Family Hotel Gorfion in Malbun, Liechtenstein is probably my favourite and is especially good for beginners and intermediates. Although hostels are not specifically designated as family hotels in my listings, they tend to be my preference for family ski trips. They usually have play areas, provide small dormitories of 4 or 6 beds suitable for families, offer half-board and are relatively inexpensive. The hostel in St Moritz is absolutely fabulous, but do book well ahead.

Although I have focused mainly on winter sports holidays for families based in the Basel area, the information remains valid for families living in other parts of Switzerland or visiting the country from abroad. Throughout the Swiss Winter Sports database distances and directions from other major population centres are provided. Approximate transit times from Basel are listed at the Travelling from Basel page, from Zurich at the Travelling from Zurich page, from Bern at the Travelling from Bern page and from Luzern at the Travelling from Luzern page.

One question I often get asked by other parents is how feasible it is to travel by train and bus to a resort when you are burdened with buggies, ski gear and the little darlings themselves. I can assure you it is entirely practical, and we have been doing it for many years since before the kids could even walk. Those double decker trains, by the way, invariably have a family carriage at one of the ends with a play area inside. If you are well organised, you can even get Swiss Rail to send your gear to the nearest railway station to your resort in advance of your trip. Of course you can also drive to all of the resorts listed here, although the car-free resorts will require that you use a cableway, train or Shank's pony for the last leg.

Below are details of some resorts to consider visiting - click on a column head to sort the table. "Snow'n'Rail" is the scheme operated by Swiss Rail whereby at certain resorts you will get a significant discount if you book your rail (and, if applicable, bus) travel together with your ski pass. The "Family" designation referenced below is awarded by the Swiss Tourist Board to certain resorts which are especially family-friendly. The distances and times given from Basel are representative, but individual resort pages give more details of travel from all major cities.

Resort Region Language Locality Bottom m Top m Piste km Snow'n'­Rail Stat­ion Fam­ily Car-free Spa Tobo­ggan Basel Basel Distance
4 Vallées Valais French Valais 1350 3330 412 Y Y Y 3 hrs 21 mins 2 hrs 50 mins 251 km
Adelboden Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 1068 2362 210 Y Y 2 hrs 35 mins 2 hrs 158 km
Aeschi Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 860 1400 12 1 hr 52 mins 1 hr 40 mins 139 km
Airolo Ticino Italian Ticino 1700 2250 30 Y Y 2 hrs 57 mins 2 hrs 183 km
Aletsch Arena Valais Swiss German Valais 1845 2869 104 Y Y Y Y Y 2 hrs 38 mins 3 hrs 221 km
Alt St Johann Eastern Switzerland Swiss German St Gallen 900 2262 60 Y Y 3 hrs 20 mins 2 hrs 179 km
Anzère Valais French Valais 1500 2420 52 Y Y 3 hrs 22 mins 3 hrs 265 km
Arolla Valais French Valais 2000 2980 47 3 hrs 53 mins 3 hrs 14 mins 287 km
Braunwald Eastern Switzerland Swiss German Glarus 1300 1905 32 Y Y Y Y Y 2 hrs 37 mins 2 hrs 172 km
Brigels Graubünden Romansh Graubünden 1100 2418 75 Y Y Y 3 hrs 29 mins 3 hrs 220 km
Bruson Valais French Valais 1080 2220 40 Y 3 hrs 21 mins 2 hrs 38 mins 246 km
Cari Ticino Italian Ticino 1600 2300 20 Y Y 4 hrs 7 mins 2 hrs 35 mins 212 km
Caux Lake Geneva Region French Vaud 1161 2322 8 Y 3 hrs 37 mins 2 hrs 8 mins 190 km
Chamonix France French Haut-Savoie 1035 3842 170 Y 5 hrs 3 hrs 10 mins 268 km
Champéry Valais French Valais 1050 2250 650 Y Y Y 3 hrs 57 mins 2 hrs 30 mins 226 km
Chandolin Valais French Valais 2000 3000 75 Y 2 hrs 43 mins 3 hrs 11 mins 289 km
Charmey Fribourg Region French Fribourg 890 1627 30 Y Y 2 hrs 31 mins 1 hr 50 mins 164 km
Corvatsch Graubünden Swiss German Graubünden 1797 3303 120 Y 4 hrs 50 mins 3 hrs 28 mins 290 km
Disentis Graubünden Swiss German Graubünden 1227 2833 60 Y Y Y 3 hrs 38 mins 3 hrs 15 mins 262 km
St Anton Austria German Tyrol 1304 2811 340 Y 4 hrs 7 mins 3 hrs 10 mins 268 km
Engelberg Central Switzerland Swiss German Obwalden 1050 3020 82 Y Y Y Y 1 hr 49 mins 1 hr 40 mins 131 km
Feldberg Germany German Black Forest 945 1493 55 Y Y Y 1 hr 45 mins 1 hr 10 mins 73 km
Flims Laax Falera Graubünden Swiss German Graubünden 1100 3018 235 Y Y Y 2 hrs 48 mins 2 hrs 30 mins 222 km
Flumserberg Eastern Switzerland Swiss German St Gallen 1220 2222 75 Y Y Y Y 2 hrs 29 mins 2 hrs 180 km
Frutigen Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 1300 2300 29 Y Y Y 1 hr 45 mins 1 hr 39 mins 144 km
Gstaad Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 1200 2971 250 Y Y Y 2 hrs 52 mins 2 hrs 10 mins 178 km
Hoch-Ybrig Central Switzerland Swiss German Schwyz 1050 1831 50 Y 2 hrs 31 mins 2 hrs 143 km
Interlaken Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 1050 2970 Y 1 hrs 57 mins 1 hr 30 mins 156 km
Lenzerheide Graubünden Swiss German Graubünden 1230 2865 225 Y Y Y 3 hrs 6 mins 2 hrs 30 mins 223 km
Leukerbad Valais Swiss German Valais 1411 2610 52 Y Y Y Y 3 hrs 16 mins 3 hrs 10 mins 285 km
Leysin Lake Geneva Region French Vaud 1350 2205 100 Y Y Y 3 hrs 48 mins 2 hrs 30 mins 215 km
Lungern Central Switzerland Swiss German Obwalden 1550 2205 24 Y 2 hrs 26 mins 1 hr 30 mins 131 km
Malbun Eastern Switzerland Swiss German Liechtenstein 1300 2000 23 Y Y 2 hrs 52 mins 2 hrs 25 mins 202 km
Meiringen Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 1061 2433 60 Y Y Y Y 2 hrs 34 mins 1 hr 30 mins 145 km
Melchsee-Frutt Central Switzerland Swiss German Obwalden 1080 2255 32 Y Y 2 hrs 12 mins 1 hr 40 mins 137 km
Moléson Fribourg Region French Fribourg 1100 2002 30 Y Y 2 hrs 53 mins 1 hr 45 mins 161 km
Mürren Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 1650 2971 54 Y Y Y Y 2 hrs 14 mins 2 hrs 171 km
Nara Ticino Italian Ticino 914 2133 30 Y Y 4 hrs 37 mins 2 hrs 56 mins 240 km
Nendaz Valais French Valais 1350 3330 412 Y Y Y 3 hrs 21 mins 2 hrs 50 mins 254 km
Obersaxen Graubünden Swiss German Graubünden 1201 2310 120 Y 3 hrs 22 mins 2 hrs 40 mins 242 km
Obertoggenburg Eastern Switzerland Swiss German St Gallen 900 2262 60 Y 3 hrs 20 mins 2 hrs 179 km
Pizol Eastern Switzerland Swiss German St Gallen 1045 2250 40 Y Y Y Y 2 hrs 20 mins 2 hrs 40 mins 205 km
Portes du Soleil Valais French Valais 1050 2300 650 Y Y 3 hrs 57 mins 2 hrs 30 mins 226 km
Rougemont Lake Geneva Region French Vaud 992 2284 62 Y Y 3 hrs 05 mins 2 hrs 10 mins 180 km
Saanen Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 992 2284 86 Y Y Y 3 hrs 1 min 2 hrs 11 mins 176 km
Sattel-Hochstuckli Central Switzerland Swiss German Schwyz 800 1600 14 Y 2 hrs 32 mins 1 hr 36 mins 140 km
Savognin Graubünden Romansh Graubünden 1200 2713 80 Y Y 3 hrs 42 mins 2 hrs 40 mins 249 km
Sedrun Graubünden Romansh Graubünden 1500 2350 50 Y Y Y 4 hrs 02 mins 3 hrs 20 mins 271 km
Sierre-Anniviers Valais French Valais 1350 3000 228 Y Y 3 hrs 43 mins 3 hrs 10 mins 282 km
Silvaplana Graubünden Swiss German Graubünden 1750 3303 120 Y 4 hrs 50 mins 3 hrs 16 mins 282 km
St Moritz Graubünden Swiss German Graubünden 1750 3303 350 Y Y Y Y Y 4 hrs 25 mins 3 hrs 20 mins 295 km
Unterbäch Valais Swiss German Valais 1221 2521 20 Y Y 2 hrs 15 mins 3 hrs 198 km
Unterwasser Eastern Switzerland Swiss German St Gallen 900 2262 60 Y Y 3 hrs 20 mins 2 hrs 8 mins 181 km
Vals Graubünden Swiss German Graubünden 1250 3000 25 Y Y Y 3 hrs 38 mins 2 hrs 58 mins 253 km
Verbier Valais French Valais 1500 3330 412 Y Y Y 3 hrs 21 mins 2 hrs 50 mins 251 km
Vercorin Valais French Valais 1330 2374 35 2 hrs 51 mins 2 hrs 51 mins 273 km
Veysonnaz Valais French Valais 1350 3330 412 Y Y 3 hrs 17 mins 2 hrs 45 mins 260 km
Villars Lake Geneva Region French Vaud 1300 3000 100 Y Y Y Y 3 hrs 31 mins 2 hrs 25 mins 212 km
Wengen Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 1274 2320 110 Y Y Y Y 2 hrs 14 mins 1 hr 50 mins 159 km
Wildhaus Eastern Switzerland Swiss German St Gallen 900 2262 60 Y Y 3 hrs 20 mins 2 hrs 10 mins 184 km
Zermatt Valais Swiss German Valais 1620 3899 350 Y Y Y Y 3 hrs 24 mins 3 hrs 40 mins 229 km
Zinal Valais French Valais 1670 3000 72 3 hrs 43 mins 3 hrs 30 mins 290 km
Zweisimmen Bernese Oberland Swiss German Bern 950 2008 85 Y Y Y 2 hrs 19 mins 1 hr 55 mins 163 km

Tips for Families in the Basel Area

Feldberg Ski Resort in the Black Forest is close enough to Basel to be able to pop over for a few hours skiing while the kids are at school, and despite being relatively low has a suprisingly good snow record. The resort also has excellent facilities for children, learners and for doing other winter sports (including ski lessons in English). There is a two kilometre toboggan run at the Seebuck section in Feldberg, and you can hire toboggans from the Thoma shop there. Other good places in the Black Forest for tobogganing, include Kandel, Friedenweiler, St. Blasien, Breitnau and Menzenschwand. In Altglashuetten there is a short toboggan run served by a "magic carpet" lift. Above Lake Titisee the floodlit one kilometre run down to the lake from Lenzkirch-Saig is served by a toboggan bus from Titisee itself where you can also hire toboggans - and there is snowtubing at the top. Even when there is no snow you can also take the Hasenhorn roller coaster at Todtnau, also served by a chairlift.

For tobogganing in Basel itself we like to use the park at Margarethen or some of the hills in Bruderholz, such as the field at Hechtliacker.

The closest lift-served toboggan run to Basel in Switzerland is not at a ski resort. It is at Wasserfallen in Baselland. You can get there by bus, taking the number 70 from Aschenplatz via Liestal to Reigoldswil where there is a gondola to take you to the top. The bus runs every half hour and takes just over an hour to get to Reigoldswil Dorf where you have a ten minute walk to the gondola. There is also car parking at the gondola bottom station. You can hire toboggans at the lifts, but it is also a glorious destination for family-friendly winter walks.

Even closer to Basel, there is one winter sport that you can actually pursue in the city itself, even when there is no snow - ice skating! There are rinks at Eglisee and Margarethan and, for budding ice hockey enthusiasts, there are introductory courses run at St. Jakob and Margarethan. Also at St. Jakob, the professional Ice Hockey team, EHC Basel Sharks, plays matches in the National League Division B.

Basel's Christmas market is fabulous, but for a bit of variety the Christmas market in Colmar is well worth the trip. The railway station is about a fifteen minute walk from the centre of town.

For more ideas about what to do in Basel with families, visit Basel in English or Basel Life.