What's not to like about winter sports in Switzerland? Every single resort has superb public transport and road links, beautiful scenery, first class amenities and beguiling traditions. But which resort to choose? I've been lucky enough to visit all of the best resorts in the country many times. Based on my experience, this site provides you with the information you need to get to the resort that meets your needs and make the most of what is on offer - or otherwise point you in the right direction.
Resort pages throughout the website have links in the footer to resorts I have rated most highly and the 'home' icon at the top of the page always takes you back to the splash page with a summary of all the featured resorts. My blog and the Facebook page will give you lots of tips on how to make the most out of visiting Switzerland in the winter. On the whole I have omitted resorts generally only used by locals, with limited infrastructure, widespread surface lists and short seasons. Arolla is my one indulgence because no serious guide to winter sports in Switzerland can ignore the remote but beautiful Val d'Herens.
Let me give you a brief overview of winter sports in Switzerland and whet your appetite.
The Bernese Oberland was where ski tourism first began and includes some of the most perfect Alpine villages for winter sports. Under the stunning peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and Schilthorn, resorts include Wengen, Mürren and Grindelwald. Gstaad, together with the surrounding villages in beautiful Saanenland, and Adelboden-Lenk are also important Winter Sports resorts. On the whole the pistes of the Bernese Oberland do not get too crowded in peak season or at weekends and make a good choice for beginners and intermediates. Most resorts in the Bernese Oberland also provide plenty of alternative diversions to people who don't want to ski, and they are all family-friendly.
Dotted above the Rhône valley, the canton of Valais features some of the most snow-sure resorts, notably Verbier, Zermatt and Saas-Fee. However the canton features a host of delightful gems that are little known outside Switzerland yet offer queue-free lifts, long seasons and plenty of Alpine charm. Personal favourites are the Aletsch Arena and the villages of Val D'Anniviers (Saint Luc, Chandolin, Zinal and Grimentz). On the whole, you will get the most out of Valais if you are at least intermediate standard. If ski touring or hard-core off-piste is your thing, this is the best place to do it, but there is also extensive, relaxed cruising in resorts like Portes du Soleil and Crans-Montana.
The canton of Graubünden (or Grisons) has both the Rhine and the En (also known as the Inn) rivers flow through it. Winter tourism has existed in the canton for over 150 years, and consequently it is home to some of the longest established and most distinguished resorts, many of which provide excellent entertainment, fine dining, spas, cross-country skiing, winter walks, ice skating and tobogganing as well as downhill skiing and snowboarding. Famous destinations include the significant towns of St Moritz and Davos, but there are many lesser known villages that deserve more international recognition. Flims/Laax/Falera in particular is outstanding, especially for snowboarders. Lenzerheide is a wonderful but often overlooked destination, now linked to the well-appointed resort of Arosa. Scuol is a lovely medium-sized resort in the Lower Engadine, with a railway station next to the lifts, a public spa and an excellent youth hostel.
The resorts in French-speaking Vaud are convenient for day trips from the Lake Geneva and Fribourg regions. I particularly like Les Diablerets, which shares one set of pistes with Villars, has its own local pistes and also has access to Glacier3000. Leysin is popular with snowboarders.
From Toggenburg in the North, to Italian-speaking Airolo in the South, the patchwork of small cantons in Central and Eastern Switzerland includes a number of good medium-sized resorts. Being convenient for Zürich, some of these can get busy at weekends - although long queues are rare. There are some good destinations for families and beginners (such as Hoch Ybrig, Pizol and Sörenberg). Higher resorts, such as Engelberg and Andermatt, have the variety of runs and off-piste to keep experienced riders happy and both boast good snow records.
On the whole Swiss nightlife is more muted than in Austria, but Zermatt has often been rated as having one of the best après ski scenes in the world. Flims/Laax/Falera, Davos, Saas-Fee, Villars, Grindelwald, and Engelberg can also get lively.
There are several major winter sports areas in countries neighbouring Switzerland which you can easily get to from the main Swiss cities. From Geneva, Chamonix, under Mont-Blanc, is relatively easy to get to. From Zürich it is feasible to access the Austrian resorts of St Anton and Ischgl, both of which have outstanding après. Basel makes a good base for the Black Forest resort of Feldberg, the largest German winter sports destination outside the Alps.
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