With its jade-green meadows, pristine lakes, charming chalets and jagged mountain peaks, Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.
While winter transforms the landscape into an icy spectacle of deep snowdrifts and frozen lakes, the plummeting temperatures do nothing to stop outdoor activities. From skiing to sledding to skating, the Swiss have perfected the art of winter fun.
Almost nothing is more iconically Swiss than skiing the country’s impeccable slopes. There are hundreds of resorts to choose from that boast a range of skiing options, from snowboarding to cross-country to championship-quality downhill runs. Zermatt‘s proximity to the Matterhorn makes it picturesque at any time of year, but the winter months shine as avid skiers hit the slopes to explore hundreds of miles of runs. For a smaller and more approachable resort, try Kleine Scheidegg, with its charming village and beginner-friendly runs.
While most ski resorts maintain mountain trails that are ideal for hiking or snowshoeing, the village of St. Cergue has cultivated a reputation for being particularly friendly to snowshoers. With dozens of trails to choose from, visitors will enjoy the stunning mountain views and fresh air. The manicured snow trails of Lenzerheide are especially suited to winter hiking.
A breathtaking sport not for the faint of heart, tobogganing is particularly popular in Switzerland. The run from Preda to Bergün covers four miles with a drop of 400 yards in altitude along the way. At night, the track is lit with floodlights, and there are places to grab a bite to eat at the beginning and the end of the track.
For those who enjoy whirling along on the ice, Interlaken features Ice Magic, a series of rinks located in the heart of the city. Occasional events include themed skating, ice sculpting and musical performances. Every level of ability is welcome in the rinks, and there’s even a restaurant for sipping hot chocolate when it gets chilly.
For those who want to take in the snowy wonderland, but don’t have the time or inclination for some of the more strenuous winter sports, a ride in a cable car allows the chance to view the landscape in warmth and comfort. The town of Zermatt has the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, a cable car traveling the heights of the Klein Matterhorn that offers sweeping views of the Matterhorn itself, as well as other noteworthy peaks spanning Italy and France.
Sometimes, just playing in the snow is not enough. Featuring the height of artistic, snow-carving talent, the wintertime igloo villages that spring up around Switzerland in cities like Zermatt or Davos are a visual spectacle that includes the chance to sample delicious fondue or sleep in a bed made entirely of snow. Visitors can wander in and out of the structures, which are often decorated in the same theme and may include hot tubs, bars made of snow serving mulled wine and rooms to be rented for the night.
Nothing is better than a long, hot soak after a day of playing in the snow. Famous for mineral springs scattered across the country, Swiss baths are especially soothing in winter, when the warm temperature of the water allows for comfortable bathing even when surrounded by snow. Solbad Schönbühl is located in Schönbühl and is one of the largest in the country, with multiple pools and an on-site bistro. The thermal baths in Leukerbad are another excellent choice.
Chugging through the frozen peaks with the landscape streaming by is an unparalleled way to experience winter in Switzerland. Relax in the dining car and sip a hot drink while admiring the little villages and snow-covered trees. The Bernina Express Train can be boarded at St. Moritz for a four-hour ride to Tirano in Italy. The Glacier Express is another good choice, traveling from Zermatt to Chur. Both trains require advanced ticket reservations.
Whether you plan to spend just a few days in Switzerland or have several weeks to really explore the country in depth, there’s no end to the amazing opportunities to savor the winter weather in all its chilly glory. From spicy mulled wine and fondue to hiking through snow-covered forests, there’s a range of exciting activities to engage any interest and make wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!