Switzerland has not always carried the reputation of being a playground for winter sports enthusiasts.
Due to the treacherous access routes into the mountains, the Alps have long been off-limits. This was especially true during winter months when snow and ice covered important paths. While we take ski lifts for granted, they are quite a recent innovation. Before, skiers spent the majority of time climbing slopes, and little time skiing downhill.
The development of access roads, gondolas and ski lifts that would someday carry thousands of skiers to the top started with a major breakthrough: The Gotthard rail tunnel of 1882. At this point, there was no more holding back for tourism in Switzerland. People started flocking to the Alps for recreation, ultimately creating the need for a marketing organization to coordinate efforts. (As a consequence, Switzerland Tourism was born in 1917.)
So, what are some of the boldest, funnest, most adventurous winter sport activities in Switzerland?
Go horizontal with an airboard.
It sounds crazy, but it might just be the ride of your life: Hop onto an inflatable sled, belly down, and let gravity do the rest! Airboarding requires no special skills, but it usually requires you to scale a mountain on snowshoes first as it is prohibited on ski slopes.
Skiing in the dark is the new black.
At a time when most skiers hit the “après ski” clubs, some others hit the slopes. Night skiing is a magical experience you should try out at least once. Sure, in the absence of the sun, temperatures will drop significantly. On the flip side, the snow quality will be that much better.
One of the biggest night skiing areas in Switzerland is at Corvatsch. Every Friday night from 7 PM to 2 AM, the slopes will be flood-lit while the pizza oven at Restaurant Murtèl is in full swing.
(Photograph copyright St. Moritz Tourism)
Step into the shoes of “Cool Runnings” in St. Moritz
Remember the Jamaica national bobsleigh team? They went from zero to 120 km per hour in no time! This season, it is your turn to chase down the world’s only natural ice channel… Olympia Bobrun in St. Moritz offers adrenaline inducing “guest rides”, accompanied by a professional pilot and a brakeman.
The track is 1.7 km in length, and if you manage to stay alert during all the twists and turns, you might feel the 4G centrifugal force. Oh, and don’t worry, the experience lasts just over a minute…
Snowkiting is like kitesurfing on frozen water.
Attached to a kite, snowboarders and skiers can quite literally enter a new dimension. Thanks to the pull of a large kite, you get to skim across snow or ice effortlessly.
The mecca for snowkiting is on top of the Simplon pass. The Swiss Snow Kiting School offers equipment rentals and most importantly, beginner’s classes.
Ski jumping for the masses.
Who would have ever thought that a normal human being would consider flying through the air with two sticks attached to their feet? Ski jumping seems like a perfect sport for a daredevil, but there is a public ski jumping ramp for normal people like us in Marbach near Interlaken.
(Photograph copyright Skiclub Alpina St. Moritz)
Sledding down Europe’s longest sled run.
Tobogganing, or sledding, is a favorite pastime of many Swiss. Provided that there is enough snow, many local hills are turned into sled runs. The saying that “the destination is the way” becomes true as walking to the top, sipping on mulled wine and sledding back down are all part of the fun. Make sure to wear some solid winter boots – it can get chilly on the sled run!
(Photograph copyright Sonnenhof Preda)