How to best enjoy the snow?
The Swiss Alps are a great place to enjoy snow. Perhaps for the first time in your life? You don't need to ski to fully enjoy the snowy scenery. We'll gladly explain how to experience snow, either with or without skis.
You can't ski, but want to try?
In that case there are two options:
- Skiing looks easier than it is. The best way to learn is to book a week of ski classes. This is the minimum amount of time to properly learn the basics. In many cases a ski instructor teaches you all the techniques in the mornings, so you have the afternoons to practice your new skills.
- If you don't want to spend a week on this and just want to experience what it's like, then book a lesson for a few hours. Don't expect that you can actually ski after such limited time, but you will have fun trying.
Do not try skiing without an instructor. This is dangerous, both for yourself and anyone around.
Skiing is not cheap. You need equipment, ski boots, proper clothing and lift tickets to reach the top of the slopes. As a beginner, you also need an instructor. A short lesson is relatively expensive, but the only way to safely experience skiing. You can book packages that include everything you need, so you don't need to buy or rent gear. It will be a lot of fun! If you don't want to spend that much, then consider other activities in the snow.
Simply enjoy the wintry views!
Another way to enjoy snow is to admire the scenery. Here are ways to do it:
- On a clear day, take a cableway, cogwheel train or funicular up into the mountains. Many mountain tops feature a restaurant to watch the scenery while you have lunch. If it's sunny you can even do so on the outdoor terrace! Watch the surrounding peaks, skiers and snowboarders. Or build a snowman!
- Even though hiking is mainly a summer activity, most areas in the Alps offer a number of trails that are maintained throughout the winter and remain accessible. These winter trails are a perfect way to enjoy a walk in the snow. There are short and easy trails too. Check with the local tourist office which trails are accessible when you're there.
Sledding is suitable for anyone who's looking for some action without the need to take lessons first or spend a fortune. You can rent a sled and do your own thing, but a better way is to go to one of the sledding runs throughout the Alps. That guarantees a long, wide and safe run down the mountain. You can rent a sled on the spot. There are various links to sledding runs on this page.
Do not underestimate sledding. It does not require any special skills, but you do need to pay attention to yourself and others on the run, who are perhaps more experienced sledders. You can reach impressive speeds!
Other snow activities
- Snowshoeing: the best way to move on thick layers of snow if you don't ski;
- Cross country skiing;
- Snow boarding;
- Snow tubing (e.g. at Mount Titlis);
- Dog sledding: this is pretty rare in the Swiss Alps. It is available in a few places, and mostly needs to be booked in advance. You'll find links here on this page;
- Spend the night in an igloo!
The best time to enjoy the snow
January and February are the best winter months to find snow even down in the valleys. There's normally lots of snow in the mountains around that time. March and April are suitable as well if you don't mind going up into the mountains to enjoy the snow. December can be good too but it's different each year.
The ski slopes of Saas-Fee and Zermatt allow winter sports all year round. These areas are suitable for experienced skiers: the air is thin, and snow conditions are not easy, especially in the afternoon. If you want to learn how to ski, you'd better come in winter.
In summer you'll only find snow on the highest peaks. Most can't be reached as a tourist, but some can, like Jungfraujoch, Klein Matterhorn, Mittelallalin and Mount Titlis. Weather in the mountains changes quickly though. A summer snow storm is possible even in the valleys, but the snow will melt quickly.
How to prepare for the snow
Snow is a lot of fun, but it's also cold, and sometimes risky. Here's how to fully enjoy the snow:
- Take along sun glasses and suntan lotion;
- Wear solid waterproof shoes;
- Wear warm clothes, a scarf and a hat. Wear waterproof clothes if you plan to do more than just a walk or admire the scenery;
- Prevent collisions and do not walk on ski slopes. Skiers go pretty fast!