By Kati Clinton Robson
Though Switzerland's mountain resorts are glorious destinations year-round, there's something special about a snowy retreat. In addition to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world, there are a wonderland of other snow-inspired activities—plus spas, shopping, and local food and wine to warm you. Here are some tips to plan your Swiss mountain resort trip, whatever your budget.
You can save a bundle by moving farther down the mountain. Many lift passes include local train and bus service, so staying just outside the main resort area can result in cheaper accommodations and dining.
If you want five-star comfort in a more intimate setting, renting a slope-side chalet is the way to go. Rustic Alpine luxury mixes seamlessly with the best modern conveniences like indoor/outdoor Jacuzzis. Decadent catering packages are available too.
If you don’t fancy the physical exertion—and cost—of skiing, you could always just go for a walk. Be sure your shoes have traction and rent poles for about 10 francs. Many resorts maintain walking trails for visitors, and as long as you start in the resort, there are no additional fees. If you want more panoramic views, consider buying a walkers pass to use certain lifts for a reduced rate.
If you like skiing virgin powder, indulge yourself at the biggest heli-trip center in the Alps at Zermatt. The daddy of all routes is Tour Monte Rosa, where you’ll descend from 4,200 meters (13,780 feet) to Zermatt. The drop’s not steep, but the glacial scenery and fresh powder make it worthwhile. Contact Zermatt Alpin Center
for more info.
Self-catered apartments, including a serviceable kitchen, are available in all resorts. Visit the local Migros or Coop supermarket to save money, and enjoy a group-friendly alternative to dining out.
High-end restaurants are almost as prevalent as the snow. For "peak" gastronomic fare, indulge at one of the mountaintop options at Klosters
, St. Moritz
, and Zermatt
Your money will go the furthest before Christmas, provided there is enough snow. January’s colder, shorter days, as well as later in the season in March and April, are less expensive too.
Most posh hotels require a 10- or 11-night stay over Christmas and New Year’s—and charge accordingly. School vacation for two to four weeks in February commands premium rates too.
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Photo Credits: Spring skiing at Klewenalp high above Beckenried in Central Switzerland with view of lake Lucerne and Mt. Rigi Courtesy swiss-image.ch / Christian Perret. Schilthorn: Hotel Alpenruh Muerren Courtesy swiss-image.ch/Jost von Allmen. Muottas Muragl mountain restaurant in St. Moritz Courtesy swiss-image.ch/Andrea Badrutt. Skiers and Snowboarders on the Corvatsch in Upper Engadine, Graubuenden Courtesy swiss-image.ch/Robert Boesch.