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Swiss/Austrian Alps trip late Nov to early Dec

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3 posts
new member
Sep 21, 2016 - 8:28 AM

Hi there,

I was so upset reading previous posts about the Alps being "somewhat closed and lacklustre" in November. I have an 18 day window (and my only time for vacation) and was hoping to really get in some hiking, city walking/touring, and mostly a snowboard/outdoorsy/reset and recharge trip surrounded by mountains during that time. I have strongly re-considered changing locations and maybe adding Switzerland, Austria, and Italy into a different trip based off some of the previous posts, so was writing to ask advice on a few areas and some "early snow mountains/glacier areas" I have been researching.

I am an avid backpacker and normally fly through cities and countries over short duration trips (all that current job will allow) but really wanted to take the time to see the Alps a bit more with Switzerland more likely on the tail end of my trip (Nov 19-Dec 6). I guess it's best to just list areas that I have researched and get your professional opinion on them. I have traveled to Switzerland previously spending 3 nights in Zurich (which I absolutely loved) but wanted to explore more on te nature and small village feel this trip.

So here goes (and apologies ahead of time for the long post):

1- From the forum it's looking like Lucerne is a great choice, in addition to Lake Thun, and Jungfrau

2- I am curious about Interlaken and surrounding places: Lungern (which I heard is between Interlaken and Lucerne), Lago Ritom and the funicular from Piotta, Oberhofen Castle, and Grindelwald

3-For "early snowboarding" I was told to check out: Saas Fee, Zermatt, Glacier 3000, Les Diablerets, Gstaad, Titlis glacier, Engelberg, Vorab at Laax, Diavolezza glacier in the Engadin Valley,Pontresina, St. Moritz, and Klein near the Matterhorn

4- I was also curious if there was a time duration recommended for acclimatization to the altitude for the ability to really be active and not suffer from altitude sickness. At this time of year, what is the highest peak/trail elevation that is hikable/and for snowboarding, and/or cog railway touring or cable car viewing? I live in a very low elevation area currently and would like to altitude train if possible prior to my trip if necessary.

5- Do Eurail passes work or allow for discounts on the Swiss Rail passes as well?

I know this forum is on the Swiss alps, but if you also have any information on the Austrian side of things it would be helpful as well! Thank You for taking time to read this it is greatly appreciated.

7567 posts
Sep 22, 2016 - 12:55 AM in reply to TravelLDF

Hi TravelerDF.-

Lots of good questions, but I can only start to answer. More later, and others will likely comment.

By the way, welcome to My Swiss Alps. Nice to see that you have been reading.

Perhaps you know the English expression- "To make a silk purse out of a sows ear."

Traveling in Switzerland in November is more like making a good rucksack out of pieces of good fabric, but bringing your own boots. ;-) Silk purses require travel in ski season or hiking season. ;-) And, you start with better than a "sow's ear" at almost any part of the year

But,it is certainly not the best season for enjoying the higher alpine regions on foot.

The higher alpine regions are still open by some public transport, but many of the expected tourist attractions or travel facilities or are not running are not open. They tend to shut down in late October and open for ski season at around December 15th.

Using the timetable helps a lot to understand the options, as well as a map.

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

Read the intro page.



Play with the "points of interest."

<<"Lungern (which I heard is between Interlaken and Lucerne),">>

Nothing special in my opinion. What have you heard about it? Good friend lived there for many years....

Lower altitudes are completely passable. Above 2000 meters, maybe 1600 meters, better check, if you want to hike. That means that the Luzern area has promise.

For snow activities, Arno and Annika can help more than I.

Luzern has a great variety of attractions and options.

This link shows one hike (and discusses others) which are also surely available with no snow in November:

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

My own experience is that somewhere above 1600 or 2000 meters, I start panting on the uphills.

(By the way...the Swiss think a level trail is anything between uphill or downhill by about 30 degrees. Just joking, but "level" is uncommon.)

A couple of days above 1600 meters makes difference for me, but I don't "train" I just go there and work at walking or hiking.

You'll not likely be able to access trails above 2000 meters or so, but the moderators (Arno and Annika ) can refine that comment. Of course, you can always climb up to those places, but the hiking trails to get up there may not be open above, roughly , 2000 meters.

This map is the best detailed topo:

map.geo.admin.ch/?topic=ech&lang=en&bgLa yer=ch.swisstopo.pixel karte-farbe&layers=ch.bav.ha ltestellen-oev,ch.swisstopo.swiss tlm3d-wanderwege&layers_visi bility=false,true&X=15 7160.00&Y=637800.00&zo om=6.

Others may comment on your diverse suggestions/questions.


3 posts
new member
Sep 22, 2016 - 4:01 AM in reply to Slowpoke


thank you so much for your quick reply and the expert information. I will be sure to continue to check the timetables, have also downloaded the app for them for flexibility while traveling. I guess I was hoping to really get some snow time in but will await more responses for that as well! You have been most helpful and it is greatly appreciated!

7567 posts
Sep 22, 2016 - 6:58 AM in reply to TravelLDF

Hi TraveLDF -

I think i saw that Zermatt had snow the other day...maybe last week. In late November or early December, there will be snow at higher elevations, so I would not despair.

I can't help a whole lot because I go to hike and take photographs, and not for snow activities. There are others on this forum who van help a lot more on that point.

However, to refine my comments, I am considering a visit to Switzerland in early December. For various reasons, I could not get there earlier this year. I don't know if I will go to the Alps at all. But, I did check some hotels in Wengen. One I was/am considering, the Hotel Schönegg, closes on the 9th of October for the end of their Summer season, and reopens on December 16th. The Winter season extends to late March or early April... probably depends on snow conditions.. The Summer season in 2016 began on June 3rd.

I like Wengen much more than I like Grindelwald. Grindelwald is more commercial, with more stores, etc., which could be an advantage in early December.

See this for information about the region and individual towns -

www.myswissalps.com/be rneseoberland

Many of the cableways do not run until sometime in December.

Kim, who has provided a lot of information about Wengen in this link,

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/tips-about-wengen-and-the-jungfrau-region-by-kim

has posted a useful list in this thread:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/visiting-bernese-oberland-with-young-kids

There are quite a few webcams:

en.swisswebcams.ch/web cam/1010222761

I don't know opening schedules in Zermatt, which is at a higher altitude than Wengen ( about 1600 m vs about 1200 m) but the average annual snowfall in Zermatt in November is about 40 cm. The surrounding mountains are, of course, substantially higher. I recall that there is helicopter skiing there well after the regular season closes, so where there is a will to ski and the funds to support that will, there are ways to accomplish it.

You might look into Engelberg and Titlis, too.


7202 posts
expert &
Sep 22, 2016 - 9:31 AM in reply to TravelLDF

Hi TravelLDF,

Yes, November is low season, but if you plan wisely you'll still be able to enjoy the Alps. There's even one major advantage: you'll get to enjoy the scenery without the tourist crowds of the winter season, which generally starts in December.

You've been given the right tips on early snowboard/ski options. In normal weather conditions, there should be enough snow at the higher peaks to do some winter sports activities. There are no guarantees though; there have been years in which the winter sports season at somewhat lower elevations could hardly start sooner than January/February, due to warmth and a lack of snow. Do check opening times carefully. Although quite some of the cable cars and mountain trains you've mentioned run all year round, there will be maintenance closures in November. These can be limited to just one week though, so again: careful planning allows you to find out what's accessible.

As for acclimatization: this depends on your personal experience and physical condition. Generally it's wise to spend some time at higher altitudes before getting really active indeed. Higher peaks allowing you adjust to thin air include Titlis and Jungfraujoch, but of course there are more options.

You've mentioned a whole lot of places, which aren't necessarily close to one another. I don't know how many days you plan to allocate to Switzerland, but even if you intend to spend the entire 18 days there, I'd personally limit base towns to 3 or 4 at the most. Lucerne, the Bernese Oberland, Zermatt and the Upper Engadine would allow you to explore some of the prettiest regions. List some bad weather back-up plans such as city visits or train rides in case of bad weather.

A rail pass, such as the Swiss Travel Pass, allows you to be flexible and travel to any region with clear skies. Eurail passes don't provide any discounts on Swiss rail passes. Generally, Swiss rail passes provide better coverage than Eurail passes. You can compare discounts using the "Validity" tabs on each of our pass pages.

3 posts
new member
Sep 22, 2016 - 2:48 PM in reply to Annika


Thank you so very much for your reply. I know I had a lot of places listed but the idea to keeping to the 3-4 main towns was great advice. I was just trying to wrap my head around the best places to have both nature and sport. I will start training with a hypoxico altitude machine here to get ready for higher altitudes in case. Your advice is very helpful and I truly appreciate the fast response and this forum in general!


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