When dreaming of taking a ski trip, Switzerland is usually the country that first comes to mind.
Why wouldn’t it? It is where the big boys like to play.
Some of the worlds top snowboarders, freestylers and skiers frequently head to Switzerland to take part in International winter competitions, like the Ski World Cup and the Freestyle Championships. Competitions that, we have all gotten to know and to love.
With guaranteed snow during the winter months at each of its top premier ski resorts, it is no wonder why Switzerland ranks as the worlds number one ski destination.
It doesn't matter if you are a newbie or a near pro, these resorts have some incredible ski schools, offering professional and accredited coaches that will show you the ropes. Before you know it, you could just be gliding down the slopes just like a pro.
So pack up those woollies and thermals, buy yourself that uber cute ski outfit you have always wanted and let's help you start planning your trip.
Insiders Guide to saving money in Switzerland
Before we can list our favourite ski resorts, we would like to offer you some budget-friendly tips.
It’s no secret that Switzerland is expensive, but there are a few ways you can make it easier on the pocket.
When to go
If we have learned one thing from travelling the world, it is this - travel during the low session will save you a penny or two. Switzerland is no different. Not only, are the ski slopes less crowded, but the hotels make it more affordable too. Usually, the prices are lower during December (except during the Christmas and New Year period) and in January.
During some Decembers however, there has been little or no snowfall, so carefully look into this as it could not be the most ideal time to ski. The last two weeks of March offer a good alternative and are to, friendly on the budget. Skiing over Easter is something to consider as well.
Some ski resorts offer you a 20% discount when booking your ski passes online, usually one to two weeks in advance. The same rule applies to ski equipment rental and ski lessons.
Most hotels in Switzerland will give you a tourist card for the duration of your stay. It is usually issued by a local tourist office and gives you all kinds of advantages, like discounts at the local stores or restaurants, public transport, free access to a swimming pool or ice skating rinks, etc.
Types of Accommodation
Eating out in Switzerland can literally eat into your budget, so booking a half board package at your hotel or a self-catering chalet, that will allow you to cook your own meals, can save you a ton of money.
Types of Ski Resorts
Luxury mountain resorts like Zermatt, Verbier and Gstaad can be costly, however, smaller, lesser-known village resorts can offer more affordable alternatives. We have included a few of our budget-friendly resorts in the list below.
Budget Travelling with children
Travelling with children in Switzerland doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, Switzerland is a country that caters more for children than for the adult. Don’t be surprised to find that most hotels allow children to stay for free when booking a family room.
What’s more is that ski passes for children under the age of 6 or 9 are free, with older children enjoying big discounts too. Similarly, ski rental companies provide children’s ski equipment free of charge when renting equipment for yourself.
World Class Resorts
If you are looking for a premier ski resort, famous worldwide, then Zermatt is your place. It’s outer-worldly beauty will leave you in awe. Aside from its famous Matterhorn mountain that everyone is talking about, the views from its 37 other 4000-meter peaks are just as incredible.
Its high altitude and glacier make this a possible ski destination all year round.
There is 360km worth of trails waiting for you to explore it. These trails cater for almost every skill level.
For experts, the 36km black track will get you the most excited and ensure your adrenaline will be pumping. Whilst it is marked, it is not a groomed track and will take you all the way down to the village.
Davos - Klosters
Did skiing at Europes highest city make it onto your bucket list? If so, then the Davos-Klosters ski area is your place. It is the highest city of Europe and a real delight, appreciated by the “Upper Class”. Here you could just run into your celebrity crush or the likes of Prince Charles.
Not only is the region incredibly picturesque, but it also offers 300kms of slopes across its six mountains, peaking at 2,844 meters. It has been dubbed as the biggest snow sport region of the Alps.
The Parsenn ski area above Lake Davos is a favourite, offering runs of up to 12 kilometres catering to various skill levels. If you prefer snowboarding then you will appreciate the Jakobshorn Fun Park, geared for the freestyle snowboarder.
Snowboarding and skiing are not the only things that this region is famous for.
The area is also amazing for cross country sking, which you can do completely free. Tobogganing is also famous here, having started in 1883. There are nine toboggan runs, each promising fun and diversity. More so, Davos is home to Europes largest natural ice-rink, where you can practise your ice-hockey skills, speed skating, or just a regular ice skate.
Snowshoeing is a must here too. You can venture into deep snowy forests and enjoy the untouched winter landscapes. Night hikes are the in thing, where along with a mountain guide, you can appreciate the landscapes under the full moon and opt to spend a night in a traditional mountain hut.
If you are travelling as a family, then the Laax Resort is for you. The Laax for beginners ski school finds “little” ski enthusiasts coming here each year to learn how to ski. What's nice about this one is, you can leave your children in the hands of trusted professionals while you enjoy a few of the 224km ski runs of your own.
What’s more, is that the resort town has retained its traditional charm, boasting a rich history and Swiss architecture.
Grindelwald can be found in the Canton of Berne and is surrounded by the world-famous alpine peaks of Eiger, Wetterhorn, Faulhorn and Fiescherhörner. It is also home to the famous UNESCO Jungfrau Railway which takes you to the Top of Europe.
It is 3,453 meters above sea level, making it the highest railway station in Europe. The journey up is incredible offering spectacular close up views of the towering Eiger North face and views of the Grindelwald valley.
The Ice Palace boasting a range of artificial ice sculptures is something special to see, and while you are there, visit the highest chocolate shop in the world - The Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven.
Skiing at Grindelwald is world class. The resort town offers over 60 kilometres of sun-kissed groomed slopes with magnificent panoramic views.
53 km of prepared ski and snowboard pistes, toboggan runs and a network of winter walking trails are what await you at the Ski Resort of Mürren.
Adrenaline is guaranteed on piste No. 9; the steepest slope in the Jungfrau area. It offers an incline of 88% and breathtaking panorama views can be enjoyed on its long descent.
Snowboarders and freeskiers you can appreciate the runs at the Skyline Snowpark.
St Moritz ranks high up there as one of Switzerland's most premier alpine resort towns. Celebrities are bustling here, for its modern alpine lifestyle which is characterised by top-class restaurants offering gastronomic variety, glamorous hotels and high streets filled with big-named designer boutiques.
Despite all of this, the towns real riches lie outdoors, in the mountains. It has 88 snow-covered slopes, sparkling in the sun, waiting to be explored. There are four large and varied ski areas, namely, Corviglia/Piz Nair, Corvatsch, Diavolezza/Lagalb and Zuoz, as well as five smaller ones, equally as beautiful. Collectively, these areas offer runs of up to 330km.
The town is also the birthplace of alpine winter tourism, which started 150 years ago. It has hosted the Winter Olympics twice as well as the world-championship Cresta Run (a bobsled run made of natural ice) and has an outdoor olympic ice rink. Its frozen lake hosts polo, cricket and even horse racing on ice.
In the heart of the Vaud Alps, Les Diablerets offers exceptional skiing at a fraction of the cost, especially during the months of October to May.
The 112 kms worth of slopes is perfect for the whole family and offers spectacular scenery. Children under the age of 9 can take advantage of free ski passes and can learn how to ski in the resorts snow gardens. Advanced skiers can appreciate the fantastic snowpark; Glacier3000 that offers the highest slopes in the region.
In addition, you can find many self catering units, and restaurants offering budget meals, specifically the L’Ormonan’s, where you can enjoy a chinese meals from 5CHF.
The lakeside town of Interlaken has become a favourite amongst backpackers. Whilst there is no local ski area, it is a great base when wanting to access the ski areas of Wengen, Grindelwald and Murren.
Apartment rentals here are a wallet-friendly and trains and buses around the region are usually offered free of charge when you have a ski pass.
Coop, Migros and Aldi will save you a pretty penny when it comes to nosh - pick up a sandwich at one of the delis for a mountain packed lunch.
If you are just starting to learn how to ski or snowboard, then you can appreciate the free access given for Park Tracouet. The idea behind the access is to give beginners to learn all the basics.
What’s more, the resort offers additional canny ways to save. Instead of purchasing a pass that covers the full 412km of slopes, you will be able to purchase the Printze Pass. This pass only covers 220km worth of trails but will save you 60CHF in the long run.
There are budget-friendly accommodation options on offer here too. That said, catered chalets in the area offer packages that include both food and wine in the overall price.
You won’t be disappointed with the slopes at Saas-Fee. They offer some of the best ski conditions in the Alps, thanks to the Allalin Glacier. There are 145km of pistes to be discovered and you would be surprised at the number of deals this resort town has on offer.
Children under the age of 9 can ski for free when purchasing a 6-day adult pass. Similarly, groups of 10 people can benefit from the lift passes that are also thrown in for free.
Local restaurants like Bar No 1 are making it easier to have an easy-on-the-pocket-trips as well. For example, you can enjoy their meal of the day for as little as 10CHF, saving you at least 60% on dinning out.
Moreso, nights out in the town don’t have to break the bank either. Gletcher Grotte offers the cheapest beer and glühwein around.
Article commissioned by Travel Start, South Africa
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