Switzerland boasts over a hundred ski resorts. It is famous for its black diamond runs (the most advanced ski level) as well as some of the best nursery (beginner) slopes in Europe. Swiss service is legendary and it is not uncommon to find yourself sharing the slopes with European royalty. AprÃ¨s ski is an industry in itself with painstakingly designed spas such as Therme Vals crafted from local quartzite offering every kind of pampering known to man.
Only in Switzerland can you ride the uber modern Tschuggen Coaster (a cross between a mini funicular railway and a rollercoaster) to slopes 500 meters above your hotel. At the same time Switzerland still offers the unique old world charm of resorts that have evolved around existing villages. With the latest technology and the best service Switzerland really does present the entire package beautifully wrapped.
Timing it right
Saas Fee has a very good snow base and you can take your queue from the Swiss national team who can be spotted race training here as early as November. It is magical to celebrate Christmas in Switzerland. Celebrations are in full swing by December 5. The eve of St Nichola’s Day sees hundreds of men parading through the streets of Kussnacht in costumes with enormous transparent bishop’s miters. Throughout Switzerland the Christmas season is celebrated with an astounding variety of festivals developed through the ages as the bitter winter months isolated the people of this tiny Alpine country. You might prefer the less crowded and less expensive late season skiing. Spring is an especially good time to visit Verbier and other higher locations that offer skiing until the end of April.
Where to ski
There are over 100 top resorts to choose from and although the list is long the standards are uniformly high. To ensure snow (especially early and late in the season) book accommodation that lies above 1300 meters. If your lift system reaches altitudes over 3000 meters and includes glacial terrain, skiing is pretty much guaranteed.
On a budget? While Switzerland can seem expensive when you book it is actually cheaper than most European destinations once you get there. Avoid hotels and opt for self catering accommodation. Swiss family chalets or apartments can be found through most travel agents and websites. In many instances it is possible to book directly with the owner. Another way to avoid the resort influence and high costs is to head for one of the small stations familiales. They cater for local skiers so late bookings are generally possible.
Ask everyone from your travel agent to the ski lift operator about special offers. For instance — In Zermatt under 9 ‘s always ski free and under 16’s ski free on Saturdays!
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Classic Switzerland for:
The Serious skier
Andermatt — Idyllic quiet village with very serious on and off-piste skiing on offer
Davos (Klosters) – The highest ski town in all of Europe it offers 9 miles of uninterrupted skiing.
Zermatt — In the shadow of the famous Matterhorn it is cold, it is windy and the skiing can be brutal (It also has the longest winter season in the Alps)
The Fairytale view
Crans Montana — Great intermediate ski runs with views of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc
Grindelwald / Wengen – Dominated by the Eiger MÃ¶nch and Jungfrau it has excellent intermediate skiing — the experienced can book the heli ski.
Saas-Fee — A remote glacier village, it is the home to the highest mountain in Switzerland the Dom.
Impressing your friends
St Moritz — Although you will find it no more expensive than the rest of Europe this resort is frequented by the rich and famous. St Moritz caters for a variety of levels of experience
Renting Equipment and other extras
If you do not have your own equipment you will have to rent ski’s and boots. Expect to pay between €20 and €30 a day and around €80 per week for ski hire. Three ski lessons cost around US$ 200 per person.
What to do if you get tired of skiing
Eat chocolate and rÃ¶sti, buy a watch, go on a glacier tour or have a sauna.