Skiing in Switzerland
Why choose Switzerland?
Think of skiing in Switzerland and you will probably bring to mind looming, imposing mountains, glorious snow cover on wide, open, and well-maintained runs, efficient and reliable ski lifts, impressive technology (the country boasts some of the best snow-making equipment in the world, let alone Europe), great food, and friendly people. However, one of your first thoughts may also be the intimidating expense associated with a holiday in a Swiss ski resort. In the past, Switzerland has been an expensive option for those craving a winter break. Recently, though, the country has tried hard to live down this reputation, with some great deals on offer at various resorts throughout the season. Whilst you can still end up spending a month’s pay on the fabulous Swiss chocolate on sale at the local confectionary shop, the wide range of accommodation on offer in most of the country’s ski resorts ensures that even the tightest budget is catered for.
Money aside, if you are one of those skiers who is easily bored and craves variation on and off the slopes, you need look no further than Switzerland. The country boasts some of Europe’s highest, most challenging mountains and popular resorts such as Zermatt offer excellent skiing throughout the year on well-maintained glacial runs. If name-dropping is your thing, your friends are bound to be impressed by the slightest mention of a visit to resorts such as St. Moritz, which is renowned for its fashionable atmosphere and unspoilt scenery.
One of the most appealing aspects about Switzerland is that there really is something to keep everyone happy. Families with young children will benefit from the fantastic ski schools available in every Swiss ski resort. The ski instructors speak great English without exception, and will make sure that your kids are kept safe as well as entertained. There are runs suitable for skiers of all abilities, with beginners able to take advantage of the gentle slopes found at resorts situated at a relatively lower altitude and experts able to challenge themselves with the numerous off-piste opportunities available at higher altitudes. Snowfall is not only reliable across the country, but is often surplus to requirements. This means that deep powder snow accumulates very easily, making off-piste skiing a popular choice of activity for those visiting Switzerland.
The main resorts
Your choice of Swiss ski resort is largely dependent upon your preferences and what you want to get out of your skiing holiday. If you are craving a fashionable, famous ski resort where you will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, towns such as St. Moritz and Zermatt will keep you satisfied. St. Moritz is one of the most famous resorts in the world and is well-known for both its fantastic atmosphere (particularly evident during the long winter nights) and its varied skiing. Zermatt, always a popular choice with Brits, sits in the shadow of the impressive Matterhorn and is breathtakingly beautiful. Central Switzerland boasts the ‘Queen of the Mountains’, the famous Rigi Mountain which is home to the oldest railway in Europe as well as the world’s steepest railway.
Other notable Swiss ski resorts include Adelboden, a quaint mountain village located in the beautiful Bernese Oberland region. Andermatt will suit those after a larger resort, since it boasts over 30 ski lifts and access to over 160 kilometres of runs. It is located in the Gotthard region, along with Realp and Hospental. Another large resort is Davos, which, along with Zermatt and St. Moritz, is one of the most internationally famous resorts in the country. Crans-Montana is a family-orientated resort, boasting great skiing alongside a calm, quiet evening atmosphere. There are some great restaurants and bars in Crans-Montana, including one fantastic Italian restaurant located in the centre of the resort.
Champery, situated at a relatively high altitude, is located just one and a half hours away from the international airport at Geneva, making it an extremely convenient choice for British skiers. Other convenient resorts include Levsin, which is the closest skiing village to Geneva. Cross-country skiers may wish to consider Samnaun, which offers over 200 kilometres of trails suitable for them.
The people, culture, and food
The Swiss are extremely proud of both their country as a whole and their various local traditions. They are generally an intelligent people and pride themselves on speaking English to a very high standard. Furthermore, hospitality is of the utmost importance to them, making any stay in Switzerland a great experience. Whether you choose to rent an apartment or a traditional wooden chalet from a local, or prefer to stay in a luxurious hotel with professionally trained staff, the Swiss people whom you encounter during your stay will undoubtedly do all they can to make your stay both comfortable and exciting. Although the Swiss are not necessarily well-known for being particularly outgoing and exuberant, head along to any local Swiss bar and you will soon learn that they are always up for having a good time!
Folk culture is kept alive in resorts across the country. Regional variations in dress, music, dance, architecture, embroidery, and poetry are extremely important to the Swiss and you will be expected to respect local traditions. There may be unusual festivals held at certain times of the year to coincide with historical events of local importance. You may be surprised to learn that yodelling, one of the most stereotypically Swiss traditions, is not a widespread practice and is retained in only a few mountainous areas.
Apart from the fantastic chocolate and cheese on sale throughout numerous resorts (and at the international airports), Switzerland is not famous for its food. However, you will certainly not be left hungry during your stay. Hearty, and tasty, meals are served in the evenings in hotels and restaurants across the country. One popular dish is fondue, which consists of dipping bread or cuts of meat into a pot of melted cheese. Raclette is another Swiss favourite and will be popular with those who love cheese and potatoes.