Spectacular scenery, incredible skiing, easy access, highest quality …the trademarks of a sensational Swiss ski holiday.
One of the easiest ski areas to reach in Switzerland, a short hop from Zurich Airport just one hour away, Engelberg combines a wonderful resort town with centuries of history and phenomenal skiing served by the latest high-speed lifts.
It’s one of the world’s most snow-sure ski areas too, thanks to a combination of glacier slopes and a snowfall record that’s well above the Swiss average, providing it with one of the longest winter seasons in the Alps, an average of 220 days (that’s over seven months) from October to May with snow guaranteed.
If all that’s not enough, it’s one of less than a dozen ski areas worldwide to offer more than 2,000m of lift-served vertical, with the trip up one of the fastest there is, using just two comfortable high-speed lifts. These include the incredible Rotair cable car, the first with a slowly revolving cabin so you take in the full view as you ascend … in just five minutes from the mid-station.
It all means that you can be stood at the top of one of the world’s great descents, ready for one of the greatest runs of your life, less than two hours after you get off the plane or train in Zurich!
There are slopes for all tastes and abilities here, including great ski areas and facilities dedicated to families with young children, but Engelberg has built a particularly strong reputation as one of the world’s great freeride communities, thanks to its exciting terrain, deep snow and huge vertical.
The Big 5 runs for freeriders, promoted here in the same way that people search out the big five animals to spot on an African safari, are the Laub, Galtiberg, Steinberg, Sulz and Steintäli descents, all famed for their legendary powder and all easy to reach by cable car. Booking a mountain guide to lead you to the best terrain available according to the conditions during your visit is the best way to proceed.
But you don’t have to be an experienced off-piste skier or boarder before you arrive in Engelberg; the resort is also set up to help anyone get started freeriding with special areas and dedicated ski schools to teach and learn the skills to ride the backcountry easily and safely.
Along with the 2,000m+ descent from the Titlis glacier, there’s another world-class 1,500m of vertical from the Jochstock.
Engelberg is a large resort with loads to do besides skiing and boarding. The TITLIS cliff walk, Europe’s highest suspension bridge at 3,041m altitude, is not to be missed, nor is the free-to-enter glacier ice cave.
You also have different fun ways to descend the slopes. New this year is the Snooc tour – a kind of sit-on sledge with a single ski you steer at the front.
When your legs start to get weary from skiing or boarding and maybe want to start dancing, don’t miss après-ski at Ski Lodge. Then it’s time to combine two Swiss favourites – a toboggan ride and a fabulous cheesy dinner – with a booking for the excellent fondue sledge!
TITLIS SNOW X PARK
Or ride an electric snowmobile around the TITLIS SnowXpark at Trübsee, where you can go full throttle with the longest circuit with around 1km of snowy fun.
Sustainable from the start
Engelberg has always known the importance of efficient living in the mountains and with climate change that’s taken on a whole new dimension. Since 2011 Engelberg has called itself an energy city, and now more than half of the heat comes from ecological sources and all ski lifts run on hydroelectricity with the Brunni mountain railway the only climate-neutral, certified facility in Switzerland.
What do you look for in a ski resort? A big ski area with high snow-sure slopes and a long season perhaps? Or maybe fast, easy access from your home is key? Maybe it’s important that the resort is a decent size so you’ve lots of apres ski, dining and shopping opportunities, along with plenty to do off the slopes?
Not many ski areas tick all three boxes, but Crans Montana, a beloved destination for British skiers for more than a century, certainly does and offers a lot more besides.
Indeed what many regular visitors remark on is not so much the fast, easy access from Geneva, the fantastic long descents from the glacier-clad 3,000m high peak of the slopes or that great range of shops, bars, restaurants and the rest, it’s the view when you’re there!
And wow! What a view! Crans Montana sits on a sunny ‘balcony’ in the mountains above the Rhone River valley, looking out across a vast swathe of the Alps, a breath-taking vista you can take in from almost any point in the resort or from the slopes above. You can see 18 peaks above 4,000m including big names like Mont Blanc and The Matterhorn, while you bathe in sunshine all day long.
Along with its big ski area containing 140km of slopes served by 25 ski lifts and cable cars, Crans Montana is a large and cosmopolitan destination. “This is a much larger resort than I expected, there is so much to do,” is a common refrain from first-time visitors.
Crans Montana has also created the amazing Rando-Parc, a specially designed sector for freeriding with 40km of runs that range from the perfect routes for those just learning the skills to ski off-piste, to some really challenging runs for those already expert. For freestyle skiers and snowboarders that’s a fabulous 100’000m2 snowpark regularly rated among the best in the Alps.
Crans Montana’s size means there’s a great range of indoor and outdoor sports and activities available beyond skiing and boarding. The many options include winter trail running, ice skating and curling and there’s a big indoor climbing wall.
Other snow and ice activities include 25km of prepared cross-country trails and a further 22 km of snowshoe trails. There are also winter hiking trails, a huge outdoor ice-skating rink and three indoor curling lanes and you can go snowtubing or for a longer descent on a toboggan run.
Crans Montana’s easy access from Geneva by road or rail, as well as wide pavements and a great free public-bus network, as well as those 300 days of sunshine and the great choice of accommodation and eateries all help make the resort a top choice for families too.
Young kids can learn to ski on the snow-covered golf course in the heart-of the resort and separated from the main ski slopes and play at the Snow Island. There’s also a brand new nursery for babies (from 8 months) only for our visitors.
Etoile Bella Lui is the magical festival for families during December and Christmas with the wonderful lantern path around the frozen lake a special attraction for all ages. The Etoile Bella Lui festival is based on the story of “The Shepherd and the Bella Lui Star” and honours the magic of winter lights in the mountains.
It’s a wonderful time to visit, between 2 December until 8 January 2023, with storytelling, a chef’s market, a special festival village and many magical surprises.
Older teens might prefer head to the Alaïa indoor action sports centre with its trampolines, gym equipment, airbags and skatepark or the Moubra indoor sports centre with its climbing wall, bouldering area, three indoor tennis courts, two badminton courts and two table-tennis tables.
So, whatever you want for your ski holiday resort, whether your group is skiers, boarders, non-skiing mountain lovers or a mixture of all three, Crans Montana will meet your needs whilst bathing you in sunshine and wowing you with its incredible views. Hardcore skier or complete beginner, adult, senior, child or family – it’s a winning combination.
Andermatt, the biggest ski resort in the heart of Switzerland, has been hitting the ski world headlines for all the right reasons.
This classic ski resort has benefitted from hundreds of millions invested in upgrading and expanding its ski area into one of Europe’s most modern. A network of 33 state-of-the-art, comfortable high-speed lifts whizz you around the 180km of slopes. Down at the base of the mountain, a modern resort development sits alongside the old resort town, giving you the best of both worlds.
Andermatt’s famous for its deep powder snow and freeriders will particularly love its 2,961m-high Gemsstock mountain, which offers countless freeride opportunities over verticals of up to 1,500m.
But there’s terrain for everyone with 36km of groomed easy blue runs along with 60km of reds and 24km of groomed blacks for experts wanting a change from all that powder. One popular option is to make a ski safari over to Disentis and return on the marvellous après-ski train.
It’s no surprise that such a rising star, now delivering the ski holiday experience of a lifetime, would attract the attention of the world’s largest ski resort operator, Vail Resorts, who have made it their first European base and added it to their Epic Pass network of 41 ski destinations around the globe.
Vail’s Epic promise of an “endless winter” to pass holders means they can ski from early autumn to late spring in the Northern Hemisphere and get access to top Southern Hemisphere resorts during Europe’s summer.
The authentic village of Saas-Fee is the kind of resort that everyone who visits immediately wants to return to, as soon as they hed down the mountain at the end of their stay.
Completely car-free and surrounded by no less than an incredible 18 4,000m peaks, Saas-Fee is a wonderfully tranquil mountain village that lies below one of the world’s most snow-sure ski areas, with the lifts and 150km of slopes climbing high above to 3,600m above sea level.
The village itself is one of the highest in the Alps at 1,800m, but the great height of the ski slopes means the skiable vertical is world-class, continuing another 1,800m above. It also makes snowsports possible here over an eight-month ski season from mid-summer through to the following spring. That’s one of the planet’s longest seasons!
But despite all the snow, Saas-Fee benefits from a southern European climate, keeping it pleasant.
Wandering around Saas-Fee’s snowy streets, it’s easy to lose yourself in the charming boutiques and fabulous foodie treats in the restaurants and coffee shops or just enjoying the lively après-ski.
But this winter Saas-Fee and the wider Saastal region is also promoting itself as the perfect place for everyone who loves personal challenges … and that’s not just eating lots of gorgeous cakes. Instead, they suggest you set your personal challenge and keep on exploring. That might be joining a sunrise skiing session, perhaps trying ski touring or enjoying the sunset at the Lagginjoch.
LAAX may be famed as a mecca for the world’s top freestylers, but this huge ski area is open to all snowsports enthusiasts, with something for everyone from complete beginner to utter pro.
The 224km of slopes of all levels is one of the biggest in the Alps, and over 70% of the terrain is located above 2,000m altitude, making it extra snow-sure.
Named “World’s Best Freestyle Resort” at the World Ski Awards, LAAX is unbeatable for freestyle skiing and boarding though. This winter there’s an incredible fifth park to enjoy: the Free60 Natural Snowpark, with unprepared terrain on an avalanche-safe slope.
For the youngest guests the KIDS Freestyle Academy will open this winter for kids from birth to age 8 to jump, play and have fun.
LAAX also makes special environmental efforts by working towards carbon neutrality in an initiative called Greenstyle. This year, a special book How to Run a Sustainable Alpine Destination has been published celebrating 12 years of work towards the goal to help others.
Sitting beneath the stunning backdrop of the awe-inspiring Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, the remarkable Jungfrau region has been drawing in skiers, particularly Brits, for more than a century.
The picture-postcard destination is split into the Grindelwald-First and Grindelwald-Wengen ski regions, with around 160km of perfectly prepared pistes, all served by a modern lift system that includes the new Eiger Express and the famous cog railway that climbs up from the villages of Grindelwald and Wengen.
On the slopes, there’s everything from long, undulating pistes to challenging freeride terrain as well as a ski-cross course, freestyle park and a World Cup standard half-pipe. Non-skiers will also love the idyllic winter hiking trails through this amazing landscape and the spectacular toboggan routes that include the world’s longest sledge run.
Skiing and Snowboarding
The ski region of Kleine Scheidegg–Männlichen offers 107km of piste. The famous Lauberhorn World Cup run descends 4.2km to Wengen, and it’s even possible to ski it after the race in mid-January. You can also be photographed in the starting hut and have your speed measured on the infamous Hanneggschuss section of the course where the pros have reached more than 160kph!
Opened in 2020, the Eiger Express, the most modern tri-cable aerial cableway in the world, now takes guests from Grindelwald Terminal up to the Eiger Glacier Station. The journey in 26-seat cabins with heated seats and free wi-fi takes just 15 minutes, passing the infamous north face of the Eiger. At the top, guests can choose from a number of ski runs or jump on a train further up to the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe. The V-Cableway project, which also includes the new Männlichen gondola cableway, is part of a massive CHF470 million (around £418.5 million) investment for the whole Jungfrau region.
The First Mountain, accessible by cable car from Grindelwald, offers a further 53km of slopes beneath the north face of the Bernese Alps. The sunny and clearly laid-out ski region is particularly popular with families and freestylers.
Its two freestyle parks, half-pipe and ski-cross course are a big draw for those who like to get airborne. The Oberjoch beginner’s freestyle park is ideal for those first jumps and rail slides, and on sunny weekends a 10x12m big air cushion is set up next to the Oberjoch chair lift. Experienced freestylers have the Bärgelegg Park, home to the World Cup half-pipe.
For powder-loving freeriders, two black runs are left ungroomed here the day after a snowfall.
From this winter, two additional attractions are included free of charge on the lift pass. The First Flyer takes up to four people at once down an 800m zipwire, “flying” up to 50m above the snow at speeds of up to 84kph. There’s also the First Glider that goes from the Schreckfeld station to First. It’s a similar length and speed but offers an experience of floating through the air like a hang-glider ride.
Download the Jungfrau Winnercard to measure your vertical and collect badges, photos or films to download; you might even get lucky and win great prizes.
Kids ski free on Saturdays
When any parent buys a family day lift pass on Saturdays, up to three children (aged six to 15) receive a free day card. If ski equipment is rented from Intersport, up to three children can also get free rentals.
With great hotels, fabulous restaurants in the resorts and on the slopes, as well as a buzzing après-ski scene and events calendar, this winter paradise offers skiers and snowboarders everything they could wish for.
We have a regular Podcast called The White Out where we review the latest gear, talk about the latest snow forecast and updates on where is best to ski now, as well interviews with absolute ski legends AND we spotlight a resort every week and so much more. You can check out our regular podcast here Apple | Spotify | Podcasts or search The White Out on your chosen podcast directory.