Ski resorts in Switzerland
Just because we’re in the alps, it does not necessarily mean that skiing is the only way to go. In fact, you needn’t participate in any adventure sports at all if you please. There are other ways to enjoy Switzerland’s ski resorts and these range from partying to dipping in hot tubs. Here is a look at five better known ski resorts in the mountainous country.
It is at the foot of the Matterhorn, which is the star of this Swiss ski resort. There is no “open” season here because it is pretty much covered in snow all year round, and then there is the added advantage of artificial snow making, should natural snow supply be low. Having said that, for snowsure slopes, visit between December and April.
It doesn’t matter if you’re adept at skiing, still upgrading your skills one ski trip at a time or don’t know how to ski at all. The glitzy, car-free town is teeming with tourists of all kinds, especially during its peak seasons. Here is why: it has some of the best Swiss restaurants in the country, sports enthusiasts not into skiing find a challenge here, and those with no inclination towards physical exertion can idle away time by simply admiring the Matterhorn.
This may sound like a cliché, but at least take a picture of the Matterhorn reflecting off the almost still surface of Lake Riffelsee. You just may be asked for this photographic evidence of your trip by those in the know. Another angle for a beautiful shot of the slopes is by hovering over them. Europe’s highest cable car, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise carries you 3,883 metres above the peaks, which gives a perfect ariel view of the Matterhorn. If you’re in top physical shape, attempt a climb up the Matterhorn (be careful though, because she is known to be merciless) for panoramic views of the resort from the top. A little less scary would be cycling along the lake and past the mountain or hiking on the Matterhorn Glacier Trail.
There are plenty of relaxing tours too in Zermatt, such as a tour of the Zermatt village from 100 years ago or gastronomy tours that take you to the kitchen where you can dine with the chef. Home-made cheese and chocolate shops are found in plenty here and are the best souvenirs to take home.
This ski resort is situated in the canton of the Valais in the south-western part of Switzerland. Bordering the village is France to the left of Verbier and Italy to its south. Situated at an altitude of 1,500 metres, it has ample snow supply through the year. However, tourist season here is from mid-December until April-end. If you want to stir clear of thick crowds, don’t book around Christmas and New Year, and the weeks overlapping February/March.
For a typical snow and ski experience, it would be worth riding the La Chaux-Express chairlift to access the namesake snow park, simply because it is teeming with activity and the journey to it is picturesque to say the least.
There is a sports centre in the village here where you can go for a swim or book a squash court. It also has snow and ice karting, ice hockey and ice-skating. Close by is the local golf club with an 18-hole golf course, but it is open only during the summer.
Verbier has a young and sporty vibe to it and is popular amongst the athletic crowds because of what it has to offer. Afterskiing parties are all the rage and it isn’t uncommon for people to make a stop at this resort just for its dos too.
Ironically there is a traditional Swiss restaurant named Le Namasté, after the Indian form of greeting. The mountain cabin is located at a height of 1,937 metres. Other than that, there is a 500-metre stretch in main Verbier from Place Centrale to Médran that has a cluster of restaurants, shops and cafes. That’s all there is to Verbier — a limited choice of activities that doesn’t involve much of snow or sports. Yet, it’s a beautiful destination to simply be.
Part of the Visp district, Saas-Fee is the main village of Saastal that receives sunshine 300 days a year. It is surrounded by mountains
and glaciers, and most of its slopes are snowsure all 365 days of the year with light powder. This is perhaps why summer skiing is a joy here. In coordination with other ski resorts in the country, this one too is busiest between January and April. Avoid visiting around July-August for these are Saas-Fee’s hottest months, and December-January because of the biting cold winds.
The village is a recent development, which, up until around 1951 was only accessible via a donkey-pass. Even today, the only way to reach the car-free resort is by road. In fact, a farming community is still active here and it is common to see cattle sheds around the village. Strolls through this tiny settlement are beautiful, with the juxtaposition of old buildings and modern chalets, all under the shadow of 13 towering snow peaks.
The lift system ferries passengers in large gondolas to ski stations. One of the gondolas takes you to Hannig that offers a different set of activities from skiing, such as snowshoeing, tobogganing and parapenting to name a few. In addition to these, skating and roller-coaster rides on rails are other entertainment options in Saas-Fee. For something more relaxed, there is the option to swim in a heated swimming pool, dip into a hot tub or unwind in the steam and sauna rooms in and around the village, at different altitudes.
While you’re here, make time for Allalin that is at an altitude of 3,500 metres. Don’t drop in on the first day though because you will need to acclimatise before arriving here. It has the world’s highest revolving restaurant, giving you a proper view of the
This may sound like a cliché, but at least take a picture of the Matterhorn reflecting off the almost still surface of Lake Riffelsee
surrounding alps while you eat and drink. It has an ice pavilion too where one can learn the history of ice from 2,000 years ago.
Its base overlaps with another ski resort — Flims. The old part of this rustic village is known as Laax Dorf, while the new part is simply known as Laax. It is in the modern half of the resort where the lift base, parking and modern hotels are situated. However, the resort is commonly known as Laax as a whole. December to April is when tourists are rampant.
While it is popular amongst skiers, Laax has a host of attractions to please all kinds of tourists. Actually, receiving strong sunlight almost constantly has proved to be a liability for the snow quality here, which is why the region is appealing to one more set of clientele — freestylers. One can enrol for fun freestyle workshops that can be practised on the slopes of Laax too — and if you dare, at the world’s biggest halfpipe located here. Halfpipe is a channel embedded in snow for rollerblading, snowboarding and skateboarding. Adrenaline seekers will find thrill in snowbiking too.
Alternatively, there are a good number of spa hotels where one can wind down with a wellness treatment, or refresh with a steam and sauna. The most attractive bit for people who don’t come from snow covered terrains is the outdoor heated swimming pool. To be embraced by steaming hot water while you take in heavenly sights of snowy peaks and snow-fringed greenery is a surreal experience for many. After this, spending the evening at Switzerland’s
Winter walks or hiking in the snow is something new for many who don't frequent ski slopes
largest public telescope isn’t a bad idea. To be able to see asteroids, comets and satellites up close, albeit through a lens, is another awe-inspiring moment.
Laax’s diversity continues in its food offerings too — everything from traditional Swiss cuisine, Italian pasta and Mexican tacos to juicy burgers, mulled wine and cold beer is available here. It has local apps that allow you to have the food delivered to your location, and it has tours that take you on a gastronomy trail.
Most are familiar with Davos as the host for the World Economic Forum held in January. Most others know it as a ski resort from February to April. Few may know that Switzerland’s skiing tourism started from Davos and because of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In Victorian times Davos was better known for its clean, crisp air that was believed to be ideal for tuberculosis patients. Sanatoriums were built here for their well-being. One of the patients here was Doyle’s wife. While he tended to her here, he also took a fancy to his latest winter discovery — skiing. He spoke about it to Strand magazine and ever since there has been no looking back for Davos.
There are two parts to Davos — Platz that is a cluster housing most of Davos’ hotels, shops and eateries, and Dorf through which one accesses the ski slopes. Its six main ski areas cover a total of 320km of snow covered slopes. Besides skiing, Davos’ reputation has grown because of its ice hockey team. The resort also has the largest natural ice-skating rink in Europe. Of course, where there is skiing and other winter sports, there will also be tobogganing, snowboarding and sledding in all likeliness and it is no different here in Davos. Winter walks or hiking in the snow is something new for many who don't frequent ski slopes. Ice climbing, fat biking and paragliding are other activities available here. During summer, the region opens up for golf, stand-up paddling and tennis to list a few.
PREVIOUS PAGE: Skiing and snowboarding station at Saas-FeeABOVE AND RIGHT: Matterhorn's reflection on the Riffel lake, Zermatt; and a freerider in Verbier
LEFT AND BELOW: Snowpark in Laax; and taking a break in Davos