Switzerland - explore the Swiss Alps

The Swiss Alps offer skiing at high altitudes and fantastic powdery snow quality which makes Switzerland a very popular ski holiday destination. Of course, Switzerland is not the cheapest country for a ski trip, and this especially in the alpine villages, but the abundant amount of snow and the good opportunities for off-piste skiing are just a couple of the reasons that outweigh this.

The normal ski season in Switzerland runs from mid-December to the end of March, but many ski resorts are also open until sometime in April. In the ski resort of Zermatt, thanks being so close Theodul glacier, they also offer summer skiing, meaning they are a year-around open resort.

The best ski resorts in Switzerland

Switzerland has plenty of fantastic world-class ski resorts and they also have some of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world. Here are some of the most famous and popular ski resorts to go on ski holidays to.

  • Zermatt is located in southern Switzerland close to the border with Italy in the shadow of the well-known Matterhorn peak and is considered one of the most snow-sure ski resorts in the Alps.
  • Verbier is known for its fine off-piste skiing and challenging slopes and has skiing at an altitude of over 3000 meters, which also makes this classic ski resort very snow-proof.
  • Another ski resort located at a high altitude is Saas-Fee, and here you can ski up to an altitude of 3600 meters. This beautiful ski resort is also known for its many hours of sunshine.
  • There are plenty of good ski resorts for skiing off-piste in Switzerland, but the question is whether Engelberg isn't the one most famous for it. Powder snow, high drops and lots of snow are what you usually associate this ski resort with.
  • If you think of a luxury skiing holiday, it is often St. Moritz that comes to mind. This ski resort is considered the world's oldest and there are several different ski areas to explore.
  • Mürren is also associated with luxury and flair and is also considered one of the world's most romantic ski resorts, something that its beautiful views and car-free centre contribute to.
  • Also Davos belongs to the more luxurious segment and as this is a city and not a small alpine village there is more to do outside of the slopes here than normal. There are several ski areas to discover here, all located around Davos.
  • Andermatt is a smaller but well-known ski resort. Like so many other Swiss ski resorts, Andermatt is associated with fantastic off-piste skiing and this cozy little village is well worth a visit.

Additional ski resorts in the Swiss Alps that may not be as well-known as those above but are well worth discovering include Arosa, Crans Montana, Lenzerheide and Wengen.

The largest ski areas in Switzerland

Similar to its neighbouring countries, Switzerland also has many large ski areas where several ski resorts are connected.

The most famous is undoubtedly Les Portes du Soleil. This gigantic ski area, considered to be the world's largest, offers a full 650 kilometres of groomed slopes for skiing and stretches across the French border. Of the total of 12 ski resorts included in the area, four of them are Swiss, including Champery and Morgins.

The largest ski area, that is fully Swiss, is the 4 Vallées, i.e. "The four valleys", and in total there are over 400 kilometres of skiing here. Verbier is included in this area together with the lesser known but very nice ski resorts of Thyon les Collons and Veysonnaz, as well as some smaller villages.

Another famous ski area is the Jungfrau Region with over 200 kilometres of slopes, and this includes Mürren and Wengen, as well as Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald.

Where to fly to the Swiss Alps

Switzerland has two major airports with proximity to the Alps with plenty of direct flights from all over Europe. The largest is the airport in Geneva, but even though it is located in Switzerland, most people that fly here do it to reach one of the ski resorts in the northern parts of the French Alps. However, this is also where you fly to reach the westernmost ski resorts in Switzerland, for example those that are part of the Les Portes du Soleil ski area. The 4 Vallées ski area can also be reached in around two hours from Geneva.

If you want to go on a ski trip to one of the ski resorts further east, you normally would fly to Zurich. From here, for example, you can reach Engelberg by car in just over an hour, and in around two hours you can reach the ski resorts that are part of the Jungfrau Region.

Two other airports in Switzerland, which are actually better located than both Geneva and Zurich, are Bern and Lugano. These two airports are smaller though and have less flights, but if you find decently priced flights to these airports, they are a good option.

It is also possible to fly to Milan to reach some of the southernmost ski resorts in Switzerland. For example, you can fly to Bergamo airport Orio Al Serio to reach St. Moritz by car in just under three hours, and if you fly to Malpensa airport, you can get to Zermatt and Saas-Fee in about the same time.

How much does it cost in the Swiss Alps?

Of all the four bigger Alpine countries, Switzerland is the most expensive, which is expected as Switzerland, together with Norway, are the most expensive countries in Europe. A pint of beer here costs closer to, or even more than 10 euros and the cost for a pizza is around 20 euros and above. Generally speaking, the food is about 25 to 50 percent more expensive in a restaurant here compared to Switzerland's neighboring countries.

The ski passes are also more expensive in Switzerland as well. On average, a lift pass for one day costs 73 euro here. The ski resort with the cheapest lift pass is Amden-Arvenbüel where a one-day lift pass costs 38 euro, and the most expensive is in Zermatt where you have to pay a full 103 euro for a day's access to the lifts.

Renting ski equipment is about 25 percent more expensive in Switzerland compared to neighbouring countries. For the rental of skis, ski boots and helmet for an intermediate package for a week, you usually have to pay between 200 and 250 CHF (about the same in euros), and in the more expensive ski resorts it can be a bit more expensive.

World-class food at the Swiss ski resorts

You might not think of high-class food first when you think of Switzerland, but the fact is that some of the absolute best ski resorts in the Alps when it comes to high-class restaurants can be found in Switzerland. In our list of the 13 top ski resorts in the Alps for foodies, four of them are Swiss, with St. Moritz in second place.

But if you are in Switzerland, you should of course also try out the local Swiss food, and here are some specialties that you should give a try during your skiing holiday here:

  • Fondue is of course the most obvious dish as it is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Swiss food. As of course everyone knows, this is melted cheese in a pot that you dip bread into with a small stick. Fondue can be prepared with different types of cheese, but it is most common to use the local cheese Gruyère.
  • Another well-known Swiss dish is Rösti, which is grated potatoes that are shaped into small pancakes and fried. Sometimes it is prepared without any additional ingredients, and sometimes they add bacon, cheese and onions or some other type of vegetable.
  • Another dish for cheese lovers is Raclette, something typical of the Valais region. This is melted cheese that is served together with jacket potatoes, pickled cucumbers, and various charcuterie are also often served with it.
  • Älplermagronen is a type of au gratin pasta which, in addition to pasta, also contains potatoes, cheese (of course), cream and onion and it is served together with an apple compote. This sounds like a funny combination of ingredients, but this dish is really nice and should be tried if you find it on the menu.
  • Muesli. Yes, it's actually a Swiss "invention" and it was created by a doctor named Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a healthy meal for his patients over a hundred years ago. In Switzerland it is therefore sometimes called Birchermüesli and it traditionally consists of apple, nuts, oatmeal as well as lemon juice and cream.
  • Switzerland is known, together with Belgium, as the world's best chocolate producer and of course you must eat chocolate when you are here. Sure, you can buy Swiss chocolate all over the world, but you'll probably find a local chocolatier in your ski resort, so don't miss out on trying their chocolate when you're there.

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