Switzerland can be an expensive place to ski. Yet, while certain resorts such as St Moritz and Gstaad appear exclusively populated by “Made in Chelsea” Hugos and Prada-clad Natalias, writing off the land of Toblerone as a playground solely for the rich would be a shame.
The Swiss Alps are the most beautiful in Europe, less crowded than the French and with more reliable snow than Italy or Austria (let alone slush-fest Slovenia). It’s also the easiest of all the Alpine countries to get around thanks to a fabulously efficient rail system, now conveniently linked to Eurostar’s ski train. Swiss tourism bosses have also finally realized that there’s a recession going on and have cooked up a range of winter deals from discounted ski passes to two-for-one packages.
So with dozens of resorts, running from A (Andermatt) to Z (Zermatt), where to begin? Here’s three that might be your cup of glüwein.
All photos by Switzerland Tourism
V is for Verbier
For the younger crowd it’s hard to beat Verbier, Switzerland’s answer to France’s Trois Vallées, though without the same amount of Brits on the piste. You’ll find a staggering 410km of red, blue and black runs in the surrounding 4 Vallées area, plus plenty of fresh powder to explore with a guide. With snug little bars and regular guest DJs, Verbier has the best après-ski in the country, while events feature everything from ski dating to snowboard film festivals; be sure to visit in March for the annual Freeride world tour. For a budget lunch between black runs (and “budget” means under £20 in Verbier) try La Vache (The Cow), a mountain restaurant dreamt up by celeb trio James Blunt, Lawrence Dallaglio and Carl Fogerty. Staying in Verbier itself will take a large bite out of your budget (for last-minute chalet deals try Verbinet). Nendaz, in the next valley north, is more affordable and part of the same ski area.
J is for Jungfrau
Known for its high-altitude railway and the classic silhouette of the Eiger, the Jungfrau region packs in four resorts – Grindelwald, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen and Mürren. As well as some of the most dramatic scenery in Switzerland, you’ll find a wide range of terrain from gentle nursery slopes to slightly unhinged black runs. Every January Wengen becomes the focal point for flag-waving, cow-bell clinking ski fans when World Cup racing hits town. The highlight of the competition is the butt-clenching 150km/h Lauberhorn Run, the longest downhill course in the world. Boarders will love the White Elements SnowPark, a perfectly groomed series of jumps and rails (just check your travel insurance before taking this on!). This winter the Jungfrau region is offering 20 percent off ski passes and two-for-one deals.
E is for Engelberg
This monastery town (it translates as “Angel Mountain”) sits in the geographical heart of Switzerland and offers some of Europe’s finest backcountry powder (Swedes and Norwegians discovered this decades ago and come here in their hundreds). Thanks to the glacier-capped Mount Titlis (accessed by the world’s first revolving cable car) the season here lasts all the way from October to May. Engelberg also hosts the annual Ski Jumping World Cup. Whether or not you have fond memories of Eddie the Eagle in action (see below), viewing this sport close-up is a jaw-dropping experience and attracts a good mix of Swiss fans and tourists. Check out engelberg.ch for last-minute offers and “White Weeks” package deals including seven nights accommodation and a six-day ski pass.