Best Ski Resorts in Switzerland

I recently revisited my Swiss Winter Resorts web site to update it with what I have learned skiing and talking to people these last two months. I also revamped one of the landing pages, largely because I have come up with a few recommendations framed in terms of the ‘best five’ for various criteria. What do you think?

View over the Pennine Alps

Resorts you could spend a whole season in – good altitude, good attitude:
1. Zermatt, 2. Verbier, 3. St Moritz, 4. Davos, 5. Saas-Fee

Best for boarders and parkers:
1. LAAX, 2. Saas-Fee, 3. Adelboden, 4. Arosa/Lenzerheide, 5. Grindelwald

Intermediate heaven:
1. Champéry – Portes du Soleil, 2. Saas-Fee, 3. LAAX, 4. Samnaun, 5. Wengen

Cute car-free ski-in, ski-out resorts:
1. Wengen, 2. Mürren, 3. Aletsch Arena, 4. Stoos, 5. Lauchernalp

Resorts with a great hostel – good for budget breaks and singles:
1. St Moritz, 2. Scuol, 3. Saas-Fee, 4. Grindelwald, 5. LAAX

Villars is a family-friendly resort

Resorts young families and beginners like:
1. Saas-Fee, 2. Villars, 3. Wengen, 4. Thyon, 5. Grächen

Best for backcountry:
1. Verbier, 2. Val d’Anniviers – St-Luc/Chandolin, 3. Davos, 4. Arolla, 5. Disentis

Good snow record, long season:
1. Zermatt, 2. Saas-Fee, 3. St Moritz, 4. Verbier, 5. Andermatt

Good for spa and ski:
1. Leukerbad, 2. Arosa, 3. Scuol, 4. Lenk i.S., 5. Saas-Fee
Other resorts with spas include ValsSt MoritzBad RagazOvronnaz and Villars.

Eating out at the Olympique, Attelas, Verbier

Foodies delight:
1. Zermatt, 2. St Moritz, 3. Gstaad, 4. Arosa, 5. Crans-Montana

Most highly rated hotels:
1. Zermatt, 2. St Moritz, 3. Lenzerheide, 4. Pontresina, 5. Flims
If you include all the hotels in the Gstaad area, it would have been on the list.

Shier above Les Diablerets

Best resorts from Geneva, Geneva Airport and Lausanne for short or long breaks:
1. Champéry – Portes du Soleil, 2. Villars, 3. Verbier, 4. Leysin, 5. Zermatt
Geneva has an inter-regional railway station within the airport building.

Best resorts from Zürich or Zürich Airport for short or long breaks:
1. Engelberg, 2. Andermatt, 3. Arosa, 4. Davos/Klosters, 5. Jungfrau(Wengen/Grindelwald)
Zürich has an inter-regional railway station within the airport building.

Smaller resorts you can get to quickly from Zürich for day trips:
1. Hoch-Ybrig, 2. Flumserberg, 3. Braunwald, 4. Toggenberg, 5. Stoos

Best resorts from Basel for short or longer breaks:
1. Jungfrau(Wengen/Grindelwald), 2. Engelberg, 3. Adelboden, 4. Gstaad Mountain Rides, 5. Meiringen-Hasliberg

Smaller resorts you can get to quickly from Basel for day trips:
1. Feldberg (DE), 2. Engelberg, 3. Sörenberg 4. Klewenalp, 5. Melchsee-Frutt
With the exception of the first in the list, these are also the most convenient for Luzern.

Rhein Valley gems:
1. Flims/Laax/Falera, 2. Obersaxen, 3. Disentis, 4. Sedrun, 5. Brigels/Breil

Rhône Valley gems:
1. Crans-Montana, 2. Nendaz, 3. Aletsch Arena, 4. Anzère, 5. Belalp

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The Cutest Village Ski Resorts




Zermatt
The Daily Telegraph has just identified what it thinks are the 15 cutest village ski resorts, and I have to disagree with their choice. For instance, Zermatt “cute”? Hardly. Car-free, rocking, beautiful, busy… but cute? And hardly a village. In my opinion most of the cutest villages have limited pistes and antiquated lifts – which is maybe how they tend to stay cute.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my list of villages in Switzerland that are both cute and have access to plenty of the white stuff, in no particular order (click on the links for more info):

Adelboden
Adelboden
Gstaad
Gstaad
Mürren
Muerren
Wengen
Wengen
Andermatt
Andermatt
Stoos
Stoos
Briel (Brigels)
Brigels
Celerina
Celerina
Klosters
Klosters
Lenzerheide
Lenzerheide
Pontresina
Pontresina
Samnaun
Samnaun
Silvaplana
Silvaplana
Les Diablerets
Les Diablerets
Champéry
Champery
Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee
St Luc/Chandolin
St Luc
Grimentz
Grimentz

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Green Skiing and Snowboarding

On the face of it hurtling down a mountain amidst all of it’s natural splendour under your own power appears to be making the most of the environment. It isn’t. Getting there has had an environmental impact. According to SnowCarbon a typical round trip to the Alps from London by plane produces around 180kg of CO2 per person, whilst an average car will produce 450kg of CO2. The round trip by rail, in contrast, would produce only 20kg of CO2 per person.

Here are the climate impact per passenger kilometre in grammes of CO2 for various means of travel as reported by the Swiss Public Transport Association and TimeforaChange: long distance rail 7, regional rail 13, motor coach 53, regional bus 107, passenger car 187, air 375.

Snow Carbon provide rail-based holidays to a number of Swiss Resorts. Ski Freshtracks from the Ski Club of Great Britain offer environmentally-friendly holiday options, and Crystal, include an optional carbon offset fee to make their flights carbon-neutral. Responsible Travel provide a large number of eco-friendly holidays, including winter sports in Switzerland.

There are also some eco-friendly places to stay once you get to the resorts. Perhaps the best example is Whitepod above Villars.

In the resort itself there is much that can be done to reduce the environmental impact. Put plastic bottles in PET waste rather than regular waste, use recycle facilities wherever possible and avoid littering the slopes.  Thomas Allement, project leader of the Summit Foundation, quoted in SwissInfo said of the areas around the bottom of ski lifts: “You can find up to 30,000 cigarette ends at such places… and when you know that depending on where each one is it can pollute up to 500 litres of water, you can imagine the impact that has. And remember they can find their way into the intestines of fish, cows etc., it’s a whole ecosystem that’s affected.”.

Many parts of Switzerland, such as Lenzerheide and Engelberg, have resisted pressure to create “mega resorts” because of environmental concerns.  And many resorts have adopted environmental measures to reduce the environmental impact of tourism. The Ski Club of Great Britain publishes a register, provided by SaveourSnow, of many resorts and their environmental credentials. In summary, based on a checklist of recycling, green power user, traffic reduction, sewage properly managed, climate policy and green building policy, these are the ratings of Swiss resorts in the register:

Arosa 6
Davos 6
Flims 6
Laax 6
Saas Fee 6
Adelboden 5
Grindelwald 5
Verbier 5
Crans Montana 4
Engelberg 4
Lenzerheide 4
Murren 4
St Moritz 4
Wengen 4
Gstaad 3
Les Diablerets 3
Villars 3
Zermatt 3
Leysin 2
Chateau d’Oex 1
Kandersteg 1
Klosters 1

It’s a very rough guide to environmental measures and I recommend you sign up to the Ski Club or SaveourSnow to find out more. Summit Riders  also provides a guide  to the environmental policies of Swiss resorts here.

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Largest Areas of Piste

Region Area      Top (m)  Piste (km)
Valais & Vaud Les Portes du Soleil 2500 650
Graübunden Davos-Klosters 2844 427
Valais & Vaud Verbier – Les quatre vallées 3330 410
Graübunden Engadin-St. Moritz 3303 350
Valais & Vaud Matterhorn ski paradise 3900 313
Graübunden Lenzerheide-Valbella 2865 310
Bernese Oberland Gstaad Mountain Rides 2971 250
Valais & Vaud Skiregion Aletsch 3118 239
Valais & Vaud Sierre-Anniviers 3025 230
Graübunden Alpenarena 3018 220
Bernese Oberland Jungfrauregion 2970 213
Bernese Oberland Adelboden-Lenk 2330 210
Valais & Vaud Crans Montana 3000 200
Graübunden Silvretta Arena 2900 200
Valais & Vaud Saas Fee 3600 145
Graübunden Disentis-Sedrun 2903 110
Valais & Vaud Leysin 2200 100
Central Switzerland Engelberg Titlis 3020 82
Valais & Vaud Les Diablerets 2971 80
Graübunden Engadin-Scuol 2800 80
Graübunden Savognin 2713 80
Graübunden Brigels 2418 75
Valais & Vaud Villars-Gryon 2200 75
Graübunden Arosa 2653 70
Eastern Switzerland Flumserberg 2222 65
Valais & Vaud Leukerbad 2800 60
Bernese Oberland Alpenregion Meiringen-Hasliberg 2433 60
Eastern Switzerland Toggenburg 2262 60
Central Switzerland Andermatt 2963 55
Central Switzerland Sörenberg 2350 50
Central Switzerland Hoch-Ybrig 1938 50
Valais & Vaud Anzère 2500 40
Eastern Switzerland Pizol 2226 40
Valais & Vaud Lötschental 3111 33
Eastern Switzerland Brauwald 1905 32

Source: http://www.myswitzerland.com

It is worth mentioning that some of the best skiing is off-piste, and increasingly the trend is to provide access to off-piste areas that can be reached by the lift systems, and which are generally safe even without a guide.

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