Switzerland Ski Holidays Guide

Switzerland Ski Holidays Guide

Switzerland has some of the most famous ski resorts in the world. There aren’t many people who have never heard of St. Moritz, Verbier or Zermatt. These Swiss ski resorts are big, bold and beautiful, but they are not the only choice for a memorable ski holiday in Switzerland.

Contents of this guide:

Zermatt Ski Resort

The Matterhorn dominates all views from the village of Zermatt and peace and quiet reigns thanks to the ban on all cars in the resort. The streets are packed with pedestrians and the air is as clear as can be. Once skiers turn their attention from the shops and cobbled streets to the surrounding mountains, they will discover fabulous skiing among some of the highest peaks in Europe. The three ski areas are served by cable cars and lifts going up to a maximum of 3100 metres. The longest run is 8 miles for a challenging Switzerland ski holiday.

With such a vast area, there are runs for all levels of skiers. Zermatt tends to lean more to the intermediate and advanced, but broad, safe pistes will keep the beginner happy. Mogul fields, steep forested gullies and off-piste areas delight the adventurous and there is even the opportunity to ski over the border into Italy.

The Four Valleys

Verbier is part of the 4 Vallées ski area in Switzerland. A single ski-pass gives skiers over 250 miles of pistes and 92 ski-lifts. Verbier’s beginner slopes are located close to the town, providing easy access for frequent breaks. Intermediates have full scope to improve during their ski holiday in Switzerland a little further away from the town and top skiers have steep descents from the summit of Mont Gelé.

For those who want to experience a Four Valleys Switzerland ski holiday in a less mainstream resort there are plenty to choose from, Bruson, Veysonnaz and Nendaz to name but a few.

St. Moritz

The most glamorous Swiss ski resort, St. Moritz attracts the global jet-set who hide out in five-star hotels and luxury shops. But there is much more to this resort with a massive skiable area at snow-sure altitudes and a modern lift system. Beginners may be a little overwhelmed at the steep mountain sides but there are a number of nursery slopes and easier pistes to start on.

This is really a ski holiday in Switzerland for the intermediate and expert skier who will delight in wide, well-groomed slopes and difficult black runs. Après-ski can carry on into the wee small hours and there is something for everyone, be it black tie night spots or down to earth bars.

Interlaken

While Interlaken has no skiing of its own, it is an ideal base for the nearby Jungfrau resorts with links to Grindelwald, Mürren and Wengen by ski bus or rail. Even a day-trip to Zermatt is possible and as Interlaken is such a beautiful place to stay, it could be the most varied and interesting Switzerland ski holiday. Wengen and Mürren have a rich history in competitive downhill skiing and each play host to competitions every year. For mere mortals, however all three Jungfrau resorts are usually described as an intermediate’s paradise.

As free from traffic as Verbier, Mürren is picture-perfect and accessible only by cable car. Experienced skiers can enjoy 20 miles of pistes on the demanding Schilthorn. Grindelwald has very affordable accommodation and a wide range of restaurants and bars. The skiing suits everyone. Wengen is ideal for families with predominantly easy to medium difficulty pistes.

Saas Fee

Glaciers rise around Saas-Fee and the car free policy makes it a magical Switzerland ski holiday. It is the largest and highest village in the Saas Valley and offers over 60 miles of runs. Thanks to its altitude, even the lower beginner slopes are usually open all season. There are plenty of runs for intermediates and advanced skiers have their fair share of difficult runs. Like most other Swiss ski resorts, Saas-Fee has other activities such as hiking, snowshoeing and ice climbing to make it a fun-packed Switzerland ski holiday.

Arosa

Nestled in eastern Switzerland, down to earth Arosa attracts families thanks to its childcare facilities and one of the best ski schools in the country. An excellent choice for a ski holiday in Switzerland, there are runs to suit all levels and for experienced skiers, a ski pass including nearby Davos and Klosters is available.

Snowboarding in Switzerland

There is no one Swiss ski resort that is perfect for snowboarders. Switzerland looks after its boarders and most resorts have good facilities. For freestyle, St. Moritz, Davos and Laax have the best halfpipes and snowparks. Both Zermatt and Verbier have lovely open terrain and snowboard parks. Verbier hosts the annual Verbier ride in its Swatch snowpark and many a Big Air Comp. Zermatt has a dedicated snowboard school.

When to Go Skiing in Switzerland

Switzerland ski holidays are very popular with the European crowd with the most famous resorts being busiest. Low season is from around the 6th of December to Christmas, January and late April.

The snow is generally good in January and a full day’s skiing can be achieved if skiers rise early. The higher resorts still provide a good covering of snow late in the season so for sunny, April ski holidays in Switzerland choose altitudes of 2000 metres or higher. And in Switzerland there is lots of choice.

Ski Accommodation in Switzerland

There is a slew of luxury hotels on most Swiss ski resorts that will cater to the skier’s every need. However, affordable accommodation is possible in Switzerland. Catered chalets are available and, when booked through a tour operator, come with flights and transfers included. They range from three to five-star so there is something for every budget. In today’s climate, these companies are offering some very good deals so it is worth shopping around.

Self-catered chalets are sometimes situated outside the ski resorts themselves, but as most villages have a good bus service, this shouldn’t be a problem. Self-catering is ideal for those with cars who bring their own food or can access nearby towns and cities for their weekly provisions.

Book ahead and reasonably priced hotels can be found in or near resorts. Often half-board accommodation can work out cheaper than going out to eat every night.

For the young and carefree, youth hostels are frequent both in resort and in nearby cities. They are clean and comfortable and provide a good base for an inexpensive ski holiday in Switzerland.

Getting to Swiss Ski Resorts

Most resorts are within a three hour transfer from a major airport. When going on a Switzerland ski holiday to eastern resorts such as St. Moritz, Laax or Davos it’s best to fly to Geneva. Zurich is handy for the south-west and the Four Valleys. Trains to the resorts are excellent with lots of direct routes up the mountains. There are few resorts without their own train stations or one more than 9 miles away. The bus service is also very good, but less frequent than the trains. It’s a good idea to plan any ski holiday in Switzerland in advance, especially when using public transport. The sbb.ch website in English is an excellent way to plan a trip and links to sites that sell special Snow’n’Rail tickets which can work out to be very good value.

Eurostar is a simple way to embark on a ski holiday in Switzerland. With one change in Paris skiers can easily get to Zurich and Geneva.

Driving in Switzerland is a dream with a good network of roads, accessible from the rest of Europe. Bear in mind that all cars have to display a ‘vignette’ costing CHF 40 or £27, which can be bought at border crossings. There is a fine for those caught without it. Roads are cleared in winter with only the mountain paths likely to have a covering of snow. Good tyres are recommended as are snow chains. Norfolkline.com has the cheapest ferry crossings and Eurotunnel is cheaper for early morning trains.

Car hire is a good option when travelling with a group and when booked in advance. Cars can be picked up at the airports and, conveniently, they all come with the ‘vignette’. It’s advisable to check which resorts do not allow cars on their streets. Verbier and Mürren are two examples. If guests have booked accommodation in the heart of the village, it might be best to stick to public transport.

There is a huge variety of ski resorts to look at when choosing a ski holiday in Switzerland. The common factor, however is the abundance of high altitude and virtually snow sure mountains. The Swiss know a lot about skiing and their resorts bear testament to this knowledge with efficient lift systems, immaculate pistes and great amenities. Getting there couldn’t be easier and shopping around will seal the deal on a snow white Switzerland ski holiday.