Swiss Alps Overview
Switzerland plays host to some of the best ski resorts in Europe. Known for its enchanting beauty, the Swiss Alps are blessed with stunning landscape scenery, a rich cultural heritage in skiing and snowsports, some of the worlds best snow conditions and last but not least its modern facilities and excellent hospitality. Switzerland is said to be the pioneer in winter tourism in Europe. Numerous records and reports credit the country as where skiing as a leisure activity was first tested and later developed in the 19th century before becoming fully established and commercialized with the arrival of the 20th century. It is no wonder that Switzerland boasts some of Europes oldest and most authentic traditional ski resorts; some of which still bear treasures and relics of the past from the original wooden chalet-style lodges to some of its earliest pubs. Ski holidays in Austria, Italy and France tend to draw a lot more British tourists as does Switzerland but this is mainly attributed to cost as the strength of the Swiss Franc against the British Pound results in much higher overall costs for the average skier; however, the snowsure traffic-free slopes, breathtaking mountain scenery and idyllic Alpine atmosphere in the resort and generally high standard of resorts and their facilities still see a large number of British skiers visit the Swiss Alps ever season.
Major Ski Areas in Switzerland
The Swiss Alps are made up of a collection of ski areas that contain ski resorts within the same areas and share adjoining ski terrain across the Alps. A good number of Swiss resorts also form parts of international ski areas which stretch across the borders into France, Austria and Italy allowing for international skiing across borders from within Switzerland. Examples of these areas include the Les Portes du Soleil in France which includes the Swiss resort of Champery; the Ischgl/Samnaun – Silvretta Arena which includes the Swiss resort of in Samnuan and the Zermatt/Breuil-Cervinia/Valtournenche ski area which cross into both Italy and Austria. The different ski areas in Switzerland offer different experiences that appeal to different profiles of holiday-makers with varying tastes and preferences. From high-altitude resorts with glacier skiing, challenging runs suitable for advanced skiers to family-friendly resorts with gentle slopes for beginners and young children.
What’s Your Swiss Ski Holiday Flavour?
The top ski resorts in Switzerland and across the Alps continue to improve their services year on year to ensure that they are reaching a wider audience and catering to an ever-changing audience. While most ski resorts cater to just about every skier profile, some still have unique qualities that appeal to certain types of people and attract these particular groups every year. If you are planning a ski holiday to the Swiss Alps, here are a few places to consider depending on what you are looking for from your holiday.
Best Swiss Ski Resorts for Experts and Advanced Skiers
Thrill-seekers need to gather around this campfire. These resorts will favour seasoned and expert skiers looking for challenging slopes to conquer.
Verbier- This probably goes without saying but if you are an advanced skier in search of thrilling downhill runs on high-altitude, challenging ski terrain in the Swiss Alps, Verbier should make the very top of your list. It has a bit of everything, Verbier, from fancy posh glamour, luxury chalets, boutique hotels and buzzing apres-ski to hard and gritty pistes. Only 2 hours away from Geneva airport, Verbier welcomes skiers to 410 kilometres of pistes ranging altitudes between 1400 metres and 3,328 metres and serviced by up to 80 lifts. Even though 29% of the pistes are classed as intermediate and 28% are considered advanced, experts and confident intermediates stand to get a bigger kick out of the resort thanks to the nature of the runs. For example, there is a 900 metre, vertical route from Col des Gentianes to Tortin, as well as a steep downhill vertical from Vallon d’Arby down to La Tzoumaz, which covers a length of 1000 metres. In addition to these daredevil runs, Verbier also has several black runs and a variety of unmarked, off-piste runs that are neither groomed nor patrolled so visitors should be advised to hire a local guide.
Zermatt- The ski resort of Zermatt is another favourite for advanced skiers in search of challenging pistes. Renowned for having some of the highest slopes in Europe with pistes ranging altitude of 1,620 metres to 3,883 metres in altitude, Zermatt also has up to 360 kilometres of snow-sure pistes, and over 85% of its pistes are situated above the 2,000 metres mark. Confident intermediates and advanced skiers will have the pick of the runs here with several long reds and a good selection of black runs. A few red runs at Zermatt have been unofficially referred to as “dark reds” due to their difficulty; the red coming down Hohtalli at 3,286 in particular balances precariously on close to the edge of a north-facing ridge just west of the Gornergrat slope. Zermatt off-pistes slopes and yellow itineraries are an additional main attraction for advanced skiers visiting the resort. The non-monitored sections in the Stockhorn, Schwarzse and Rothorns slopes attract advanced skiers annually.
Best Swiss Ski Resorts for Families
Wengen- Wengen is a sunny, friendly and welcoming family-focused ski resort. Part of the Jungfrau ski area in Switzerland, and surrounded by some of the Alps most spectacular views, Wengen also shares ski areas with neighbouring Grindelwald and Mürren, having a combined total of 210 kilometres of pistes in total. The ski terrain ranges in altitudes between 1,274 metres to 2,917 metres serviced by a total of 40 lifts in Wengen. The ski area is perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers but especially for families with young children learning how to ski. When you take into consideration the facilities and the manner in which they are situated, you would be forgiven to think that Wegen was set up as a purpose-built ski resort for families with young children. This is because everything functions so perfect for families. There is a snow-covered field right in the middle of the resort which doubles as a nursery slope but also a large play area for children on the slopes. Progression up the slopes from the play area is through the cog railway or the Männlichen cable car. Skiing and holidaying at Wengen is perfect for the whole family including the over 65’s as well. There are gentle easy runs just above Grindewald and also including the Oberjoch, which is a slow-speed zone that is wide and perfect for visiting over 65’s who want to take it easy. Some of the views on the runs here have been described as Narnia-esqe for their astounding beauty. Additional family-friendly activities include up to 50 kilometres of toboggan runs for children and adults, including most notably, the 4 and a half kilometre toboggan run from Wengernalp back to the village.
Saas Fe- Saas Fe is a lovely car-free resort perfect for families visiting the Alps with young children. It is well equipped with ideal facilities from doorstep skiing hotels and apartments, excellent beginner and nursery slopes, family-friendly activities and child care facilities. The beginner and nursery slope areas are located in the resort centre and are perfect for children who are beginners in skiing as it is separated from the main ski area. Saas Fe also has the wonderful Kian's adventure land; a large themed play area with Kian the resident dragon. It has a myriad of children’s entertainment from snow tubbing to children’s movies being played. Excellent for families looking to keep the children entertained and engaged. Trips to the Ice Pavillion is an amazing family experience. The Ice Pavillion is 5,500 metres of pure icy interior carved into the glacier; located at 3,500 metres altitude, it is great fun for the whole family. Saas Fe is also well known for its sledging with take place both day and night, both of which are suitable for families. The night sledge features an 11 kilometre downhill slope from Kreuzboden. You can also opt for a 6 or a 3 kilometre downhill sledge ride. Other activities include winter fox trials through the Saas Fe landscape with a local guide, following quietly on a fox trail. Saas Fe also has an aquatic centre for families fully equipped with heated indoor swimming pools and saunas. .
Best Swiss Apres Ski Resorts
St Moritz- The glamorous St Moritz is the epitome of a lavish Swiss ski holiday. Christened “the world capital of winter glitz” by a Telegraph review, St Moritz is just that and then some. Attracting some of the world-famous faces and celebrities, the facilities here are ranked among some of Europes finest- including its partying. An apres-ski crafted to entertain world-famous people should certainly suffice for everyone else. It may have a less rampant apres-ski environment than Verbier and Zermatt but St Moritz makes up for this in its chic and trendy nightspots. The Kings Club which is located in the lavish 5 star Badrutts Palace Hotel is the resorts most well-known club and is nothing short of a stunning experience featuring fine dining until late at night in its plush restaurant and partying until the early hours in its lush midnight club. Bobby Pub in the resort is another great location that is less bling and more traditional Alpine apres-ski. All this partying against a backdrop of stunning Alpine beauty.
Verbier- Verbier had to make the list for top Swiss apres ski resorts and undeniably so. Probably one of Switzerland’s most glamorous resorts, Verbier also has a very lively apres ski scene to go along with its star power and celebrity pull. The apres ski party usually gets going every afternoon (lunchtime in the high season) on the Les Ruinettess slopes with dancing and drinking which later carries on unto the resort centre. The apres-ski spots in Verbier are very much focused around a number of venues in the resort’s centre. At the foot of the slopes, the party carries on in full swing as skiers and snowboarders converge on the sun-drenched terraces of Le Rouge for more partying and table dancing in the sun. Revellers can also ski directly to W Off Piste, one of Verbier’s popular hangout spots located in the W Hotel, a monument in Verbier. It’s all DJ sets, dancing crowds and glasses of bubbly at W Off Piste. Following from there, revellers can head to Pub Mont Fort, a traditional British style pub with a reputation of hosting some of Verbier’s most iconic apres-ski evenings complete with live music performances from local bands, themed parties and more. A major staple on the apres-ski for decades, Pub Mont Fort also has a great selection of beers and ales, live sports other games. End the night at Hotel Nevai’s lavish cocktail bar or party to the early morning at the glamorous Farm Club.