Photographers going to Switzerland in December

Photographers going to Switzerland in December

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javier
javier
4 posts
new member
Aug 18, 2016 - 7:12 PM

Hi!

My girlfriend and I are photographers and we're looking into visiting Switzerland in mid-December for about 5 days. We love the mountains, hiking, and obviously taking pictures, so that'w what we want to focus on. We have a few questions for you:

- Is December a good time to visit? I've read that during winter a lot of roads and attractions might close down.

-Any hikes or nice scenery that you would recommend for that time of the year? We basically would love to spend our time exploring and taking photos.

-I'm planning on renting a car. Is that a good idea with the weather? My thinking was that I could start in Zurich, and plan some sort of loop around the locations I want to visit. Then after the 5 days, fly out from Zurich.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Thanks a lot!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 19, 2016 - 2:04 AM in reply to javier

Hi Javier.

Werlcome to the forum. It will be intresting to see what others have to contibrute.

There are good things in Switzerland at any time of year. And, depending on what you like to photograph, you can find worthwhile images.

However, it will be hard work. in December if you want to do landscapes.

In the Alps, most facilities are closed until about December 15th. After that , as the snow begins to build up, winter sports become widely available as the cableways resume operation for the skiers.

Lots of high key images...snow is bright.

At lower altitudes, it is usually grey dark and cloudy (frequent cloud decks at 1000 meters or higher,.with exceptions of course). Middle European winter. Moreover the light tends to be flat. Sunset is at around 1630.

Good chance of snow or icy conditions on most roads with the exception of the Ticino ( south of the Alps.)

A car would be good if you are used to driving in snow, especially if you go to higher altitudes. Be prepared with snow chains on the alpine passes. ( legally required). And, assume that the driver has no time to enjoy the scenery...that kind of driving is strenuous.

Most people who want to see the sights rely on the rail and bus system.

Slowpoke

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
125 posts
active member
Aug 19, 2016 - 7:16 AM in reply to javier

>> My girlfriend and I are photographers and we're looking into visiting Switzerland in mid-December for about 5 days. We love the mountains, hiking, and obviously taking pictures, so that'w what we want to focus on. We have a few questions for you:

- Is December a good time to visit? I've read that during winter a lot of roads and attractions might close down.

Hi javier,

Depends what you mean by mid-December, and what areas you will go to. In the mountains, the winter season (when cable cars and hotels in the mountains get back into full swing) generally starts about a week before Christmas, so slightly after mid-December, but the timing may vary with snow conditions.

Many mountain pass roads will be closed. Those that are open all year are:

Bernina, Brünig, Julier, Lukmanier, Maloja, Ofenberg, Simplon. Slowpoke has pointed out the challenges of winter driving, and there is good information on driving in the mountains here:

www.myswissalps.com/ca r/drivinginthemountain s

Some boat trips will be operating, but you would need to check timetables.

If you travel by train, the Golden Pass and Bernina Express routes will be operating. The "official" Glacier Express won't be running between 24 October and mid December, but you can take local trains over the same route, with a few changes along the way.

Clearly, it's hard to get a good photo from a moving train, and you get reflections from the glass, but if you work the timetable carefully, you could get off the train at a few places and continue on the following one.

>> -Any hikes or nice scenery that you would recommend for that time of the year? We basically would love to spend our time exploring and taking photos.

I don't claim to have any particular expertise in photography, but in my opinion, best opportunities would in places at high altitude that have the most chance of snow, at least on the surrounding mountain tops. There are trails that are groomed for winter walking, but I don't know when they would open. I suspect not until around Christmas or later.

You could try this link:

www.engadin.stmoritz.c h/winter/en/services/w anderwege/

>> -I'm planning on renting a car. Is that a good idea with the weather? My thinking was that I could start in Zurich, and plan some sort of loop around the locations I want to visit. Then after the 5 days, fly out from Zurich.

Have you been to Switzerland before? If not, I think you will be amazed with the public transport system - coverage, frequency, co-ordination, quality, comfort. Even in the middle of winter, it will take you over high mountain passes (e.g. Glacier Express route on local trains, Bernina Express) and to the mountain tops (e.g Jungfrau, Titlis). And you won't have the stress of driving on unfamiliar roads in challenging conditions and short hours of daylight. Of course, many areas of great beauty are car-free anyway. If you take a look at the coverage map for the Swiss Travel Pass, you will see how dense the transport network is:

www.myswissalps.com/sw isstravelpass/validity

I hope this helps you to develop your plans further.

Alpenrose

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 19, 2016 - 8:21 AM in reply to javier

Hi Javier-

Forgot to mention-

Most of the trails in the Alpine regions close due to snow in the Winter. Anything above 1000 meters is likely to have some kind of snow, and at 2000 meters and above, it is likely that the snow cover will be quite deep.

www.myswissalps.com/ac tivities

The trail in the attached images - between Männlichen and Kleine Scheidegg - become impassible for hiking sometime in December, skiing begins sometime around then, and does not reopen until approximately early June. Rule of thumb is June 15th. The EXIF is a bit confused on the one from the Gipfel, but "Eiger and Tschuggen" was taken in August.

www.myswissalps.com/hi king/maennlichen-kleinescheidegg

This link is useful in the Winter:

www.jungfrau.ch/en/som mer/tourism/destinatio ns/kleine-scheidegg/hiking-trails/

Slowpoke

The trail is at about 2300 meters at Männlichen.

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Arno
Arno
7727 posts
expert &
moderator
Aug 19, 2016 - 11:08 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Very true, however there are some trails that will be prepared for winter walking, also at high altitude. Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg is one of those: jungfrauregion.ch/de/F erien/WINTER/Winterspo rt/Winterwandern. After the winter season, preparation stops and fresh snow results in inaccessible trails until summer starts.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 19, 2016 - 3:09 PM in reply to Arno

Thanks for the reminder.

That could be a beautiful walk in the Winter. I guess I'd check the details of transport to get up there for the chosen dates on the timetable, and/or ask the tourist info office at Wengen.

Slowpoke

javier
javier
4 posts
new member
Aug 19, 2016 - 3:17 PM

Wow guys, thanks a lot for the detailed responses! This really helps out!

To answer some of your questions:

In the Alps, most facilities are closed until about December 15th. After that , as the snow begins to build up, winter sports become widely available as the cableways resume operation for the skiers.

-Coincidentally, I would probably be arriving on Dec 17th. Would it be safe to say that things might be open after that?

Have you been to Switzerland before? If not, I think you will be amazed with the public transport system - coverage, frequency, co-ordination, quality, comfort.

-This would be the first time. I actually haven'y considered public transportation since it's basically non-existent where I'm from :D. I researched some locations that I would like to visit, so I have to check if they're reachable via public transportation.

I can share some of the places that I've found that look interesting to photograph with you and maybe you could give me some feedback. Since I don't know if they're accessible in winter or without a car:

-Swiss National Park: From the small research that I've done, it seem that I have to go to Zernez to get to this park. I don't know what in particular I would photograph here, but since it's a national park, I'm assuming its pretty.

-Trift Bridge: I really like suspension bridges like this, but I'm not sure if it's accessible in the winter.

-5 Lake Hike in Pizol - A fellow photographer did this hike in the summer and all the lakes look gorgeous. I tried contacting the Pizol tourism website to check if it accessible during winter, or if the lakes are frozen by then, but I never got a response.

-Matterhorn view from Riffelsee: From what I've seen, I have to get to Zermatt, which is kinda far from the other locations I've looked at. Is it worth going all the way to Zermatt to check out Mattergorn and the city? The car-less town looks very pretty but I don't know if it's worth going all the way down there, or if it's even open by the time I get there.

-Oeschinensee Lake: From what I've seen, the lake looks amazing and it has a small hike to a small restaurant/hostel kinda place.

-Mount Pilatus Overlook: I've been looking for a good location to see the mountains, and this is one place that I found. Not sure if it's the best place or if it's accessible.

-Partnunsee Lake: Another secluded lake with a small hike to reach it. Not sure if it accessible since it looks like it's in the middle of nowhere.

These are a few of the places that I've marked down. As of now nothing is set, and I'm trying to maximize my days there and try to see the best things. Again, I really appreciate all the help!

Thanks for your time!

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
125 posts
active member
Aug 19, 2016 - 5:37 PM in reply to javier

>> I can share some of the places that I've found that look interesting to photograph with you and maybe you could give me some feedback. Since I don't know if they're accessible in winter or without a car:

-Swiss National Park: From the small research that I've done, it seem that I have to go to Zernez to get to this park. I don't know what in particular I would photograph here, but since it's a national park, I'm assuming its pretty.

I don't know most of these places from personal experience, so the info below is just what I have found on the web. Hopefully others will supplement this with their personal experience.

The Swiss National Park is accessible by bus, but closed in winter. However, note that you aren't allowed to leave the marked paths.

Some links:

www.nationalpark.ch/en /flora-and-fauna/seasons/winter/

www.nationalpark.ch/en /visit/how-to-get-there/

www.nationalpark.ch/en /visit/hiking/protecti on-regulations/

>> -Trift Bridge: I really like suspension bridges like this, but I'm not sure if it's accessible in the winter.

The season for the Trift Bridge is June to October.

www.myswitzerland.com/ en-au/are-you-up-to-it.html

Here are some other suspension bridges. You could check if any of them are open in winter

www.myswitzerland.com/ en-au/hiking-to-suspension-bridges.html

>> -5 Lake Hike in Pizol - A fellow photographer did this hike in the summer and all the lakes look gorgeous. I tried contacting the Pizol tourism website to check if it accessible during winter, or if the lakes are frozen by then, but I never got a response.

Here are panorama maps of the area in winter and summer. It's a ski area in winter. I don't know at what stage the lakes would freeze over and blend into the snowscape.

www.pizol.com/media/pd f/Infomaterial/Prospek t_Winter_16-17_klein_300x240_wwww. pdf

www.pizol.com/media/pd f/resort_info/Pano_Piz ol_Sommer_2016_mit-Logos_www.pdf

>> -Matterhorn view from Riffelsee: From what I've seen, I have to get to Zermatt, which is kinda far from the other locations I've looked at. Is it worth going all the way to Zermatt to check out Mattergorn and the city? The car-less town looks very pretty but I don't know if it's worth going all the way down there, or if it's even open by the time I get there.

Zermatt is lovely in the winter. It seems you can walk (on packed snow) to the Riffelsee in winter. It lies at a high altitude though, so I imagine it would freeze over at some point.

www.zermatt.ch/en/Medi a/Planning-hikes-tours/Rotenboden-Riffelberg

>> -Oeschinensee Lake: From what I've seen, the lake looks amazing and it has a small hike to a small restaurant/hostel kinda place.

The lake is frozen in winter, and you can walk on it

www.oeschinensee.ch/un esco-ice-walk/

Again, I don't know at what point the lake would freeze over. Possibly not until January or February.

>> -Mount Pilatus Overlook: I've been looking for a good location to see the mountains, and this is one place that I found. Not sure if it's the best place or if it's accessible.

The cogwheel railway won't be operating, but you can get there by cable car in December

www.pilatus.ch/en/rail way-cableways/timetable/

You need a clear day of course, and they will shut the cable car down if the wind is too strong, so you would need to spend a few days in Luzern/Lucerne to be sure of getting a suitable day to go up.

There are lots of other vantage points around Luzern as well as other places:

www.myswissalps.com/ac tivities/naturalsites/ mountains

>> -Partnunsee Lake: Another secluded lake with a small hike to reach it. Not sure if it accessible since it looks like it's in the middle of nowhere.

The season for the Partnunsee is June to October - another high-altitude lake at 1869m.

www.myswitzerland.com/ en-au/around-lake-partnun.html

According to the site below, you can get to the start of the walk by public transport ("Öffentliche Verkehrsmittel"): Rhätischen Bahn train to Schiers or Küblis and Postauto bus to St. Antönien. (Timetable number 90.214 or 90.222). But not suitable for winter.

www.praettigau.info/Me dia/Touren/St.-Antoenier-Seenwanderung-Carschinasee-Partnunsee

So it seems December is not a good time for most of the sites you have identified - except for Zermatt and the vantage points around Luzern such as Pilatus. As already mentioned, the other thing is that you need clear weather at high altitudes, which can't be guaranteed at any time of the year. That means you really need to spend a few days in each location to increase your chances of views unobscured by clouds.

Hope this helps to clarify some of your options!

Alpenrose

Last modified on Aug 19, 2016 - 5:47 PM by Alpenrose666
Arno
Arno
7727 posts
expert &
moderator
Aug 19, 2016 - 6:54 PM

The Trift bridge won't be accessible after October. I'm 99% sure the same applies to the Partnunsee. It's very remote. If you can get there it will take a lot of time and probably requires snow shoes.

No worries though, there are plenty of places that can be reached in winter too, and nearly everything looks great if covered in snow.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 20, 2016 - 1:39 AM in reply to javier

Hi Javier-

You wrote:

<<"Mount Pilatus Overlook: I've been looking for a good location to see the mountains, and this is one place that I found. Not sure if it's the best place or if it's accessible.">>

As I read your comments, it seems to me that you think that you have to seek out specific places to see the mountains.

Ain't true.

You cannot avoid the mountains in Switzerland very easily. That is only one place out of thousands.

I have a file full of miscellaneous (mostly small and some quite old) Swiss images, from which I selected those with mountains. I got over 30 with zero effort. They are of varying age and quality...from those taken with my 6by7 or my 5DII or my Oly EM-5 to those with a pocket digital camera.

They are attached in this post and two others simply to make the point that the mountains are everywhere. Forgive the technical quality on many.

I did not have to go to my collection of edited images to get all of the spectacular ones.

I have attached the ones that were easy to pop up to this and the following two posts.

Also, I detect that you do not have feeling for the size or scale, and terrain of the country. it is not very big, but the mountains make ti difficult to travel in a straight line. And, altitude matters.

Thus, I suggest that you open up this map -

map.search.ch/

and seek upon it each of the locations from which my pictures were taken. After you have given some thought to the consequences, pick up on the kind of specific locations that you suggested and that Alpenrose has analyzed for you, and look at the map.

You will find that many of the less exotic places offer superb photography....at least, at time other than mid-December.

Most will be accessible by public transport. Using the "Points of Interest" menu, under "Traffic" in that map, you can turn on a map overlay that shows the location of transportation stops.

Slowpoke

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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 20, 2016 - 1:43 AM in reply to javier

Second post of three referred to in previous post

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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 20, 2016 - 1:44 AM in reply to javier

Third post in series of images referred to earlier

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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 20, 2016 - 1:59 AM in reply to javier

Fourth in the series referred to earlier

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javier
javier
4 posts
new member
Aug 20, 2016 - 3:17 PM

Thanks again for all the information guys!

and Slowpoke, those photos are great!

All this information and the photos actually make me want to visit in the summer. For this trip, the tricky part is understanding how far into winter it's going to be once I get there. I'm sad that some of the locations that I mentioned are not accessible..

Are there any low altitude locations that are similar to those? Similar to the lake hikes I mentioned (5-Lake, Oeschinensee)?

They don't have to be lake hikes in particular, but nice hikes with great landscape view. Also, I might be doing a photography gig for a car company. Can you recommend good roads to drive in where I could take scenic shots from the road?

Thanks again!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 20, 2016 - 4:06 PM in reply to javier

Hi Javier. Thanks. The point was not that the photos are good or bad, but, rather, that you can see the mountains from anywhere in Switzerland (almost.)

Same for roads and sights.

At low altitude in December you may have clear sunny days...I've had them. Much more common is the standard central European winter weather. A cloud deck and fog. Sometimes one or both clear in the afternoon.

With that, you get flat, dull lighting. Even Photoshop cannot do as well as a sunny day.

Perhaps Arno and Annika would have some suggestions.

Mine would be some of the locations from which I took those pictures.

Slowpoke

Arno
Arno
7727 posts
expert &
moderator
Aug 20, 2016 - 4:10 PM in reply to javier

Hi Javier,

Up to date traffic info and additional information is to found here: myswissalps.com/car/tr afficinfo. The highest passes will be closed. Passes like the Brünig, Simplon and Maloja should be open.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2657 posts
expert
Aug 20, 2016 - 4:17 PM in reply to javier

<<"Are there any low altitude locations that are similar to those? Similar to the lake hikes I mentioned (5-Lake, Oeschinensee)?">>

Here are a couple of ideas:

Some auto access on parts of each; very limited on the Südrampe walk.

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/the-swiss-path-and-southern-lake-lucerne

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/bls-sudrampe-trail (No lakes.)

The latter his a high percentage of days with sunshine.

Possibly, the St. Moritz area, with lakes, also known for sunshine

www.myswissalps.com/st moritz

Slowpoke

javier
javier
4 posts
new member
Aug 21, 2016 - 11:46 PM

Thanks again for all the info. I gotta check all the links you sent me in detail and really decide what to do. If I come up with more questions I'll let you guys again.

Really appreciate it!

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