7 Invigorating Winter Activities to Enjoy in Switzerland If You Don't Ski
A Winter Playground That’s All Yours
Whether or not you like winter, you have to admit there are a lot of ways to have fun when the snow hits the ground. Skiing is one of the more popular winter pastimes, especially in Switzerland. The Alps are simply breathtaking, and not surprisingly they attract people from all over the world.
But if you don’t ski, you might be wondering what options you have. There are still a ton of different things to do in Switzerland in the winter that don’t include strapping on skis and plummeting down steep slopes. Let’s take a look at what they are.
Ice skating is a personal favorite when it comes to winter activities in Switzerland. It’s pretty easy to learn, even if you have never tried it before. There’s just something exhilarating about gliding across the ice, racing around with your friends. And then grabbing that obligatory hot chocolate afterward.
There are plenty of ice skating rinks throughout Switzerland, both in cities and at ski resorts. But perhaps the most magical experience would be in one of the open-air ice rinks in Zurich. The Dolder Open-Air Rink is the largest of its kind in Europe, and is surrounded by trees and nature.
It’s away from all the city crowds and when the surroundings are covered with snow, it’s a true winter wonderland!
Something you absolutely have to experience once in your life is dog sledding — it’s undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Switzerland in winter. You’ll get to enjoy stunning mountain views while a pack of beautiful huskies pulls you over the snow in near silence.
You can usually choose the length of your ride — from short 20-minute rides that are great if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy the experience to full tours that last several hours.
You will find dog sledding options all over Switzerland, so there’s bound to be one in the neighborhood no matter where you are. The Husky Lodge at Erlebniswelt offers tours near Lucerne, and Team Nature is the go-to husky team in the Geneva region. If you are in Zurich, Flumserberg is the mountain to hit. The huskies there can even take you on a two-day tour if you wish!
If you are not afraid of the cold and enjoy spending time in the snow, then igloo building is the perfect experience for you. And since this is meant to be a team experience, don’t forget to bring some friends along!
There are a few different places where you can go and build your igloo. The most popular locations are Grindelwald, Arosa and Toggenburg. That last one is the option closest to Zurich — just over an hour drive away.
I personally did it a number of years ago deep in the Alps near Andermatt. We spent the day carving snow and building blocks, then spent the night in our warm (yes, warm) igloos. Fondue was provided in a nearby restaurant to add a little extra Swiss-ness to the experience too!
Wherever you decide to build your igloo, you will be guided by a team of experts. They will help you cut the bricks out of snow, and show you how to build a perfect full-size igloo. Some places will even let you spend the night in your newly built home!
If you are up for a real adventure and want to experience a Switzerland winter to the fullest, then go on a tobogganing run. This involves hopping on a sled and sliding down the snowy slopes. You can go on a tobogganing run in pretty much any part of Switzerland, including Wildhaus, Schwarzsee, Bern and many more.
But the most popular, and maybe longest, tobogganing run is without a doubt from Preda to Bergün. It follows the famous Rhaetian Railway line, which has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and leads you through the Albula Valley.
The six-kilometer-long route will take you through some stunning scenery, and the 400-meter descent will really get your blood pumping. It’s definitely the top Swiss experience for the adrenaline junkie in you.
Bobsledding & Snow Horse Riding
Did you ever watch that movie about the Jamaican bobsled team? And then want to give it a try yourself? Now you can.
St. Moritz, Switzerland’s oldest winter tourism town, is also home to the oldest and most “natural” bobsled track in the world. Completely cooled and run using winter temperatures and ice, you can book yourself a run down at your own peril.
I have not done it yet, but if you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie then it might be just your thing.
If not, then St. Moritz has another winter extravaganza called White Turf. It is a few days of crazy horse racing on the frozen lake opposite St. Moritz. But not just any old horse racing — they also have some events where skiers are dragged behind the horses racing around the track at very high speeds! And another where they sit on sleds as well.
And while you are watching the races you can also watch the people. St. Moritz is one of the richest and most expensive areas in the country and this race attracts fur coat-wearing prima donnas from all over the world. Champagne and horse races seem to do that, right?
It might not be a uniquely Swiss experience, but it is definitely something you should try out if you’re not a fan of skiing. Snowshoeing is incredibly easy to learn, and it’s a really fun way to experience the snow-covered slopes. It is pretty much hiking, but just in bigger shoes!
You can buy a pair of snowshoes, or you can rent them when you get to your destination. Most winter activity centers will rent them out to you, especially the ones that offer snowshoeing tours.
You should definitely get your own pair of snowshoes if you want to have complete freedom, in terms of where you go, what you get to see and how much time you want to spend. But if that’s not for you, then you can opt for a guided tour. The ones in Gstaad, Chur, Haslital and Naturpark Gantrisch are among the more popular choices.
Ride in a Cable Car
If you want to have fun and enjoy the winter in Switzerland, but you can’t really cope with the cold, I have the perfect experience for you. It’s a cable car ride! There are tons of these throughout the different regions, and each ride has something unique to offer.
You are safely confined in the cable car, so you won’t be as cold as you would on the slopes. Plus you are high above the ground, and get to enjoy some stunning scenic views. There is even a cable car cocktail bar in Schwägalp, where you can enjoy a few drinks while you admire the views of the nature below.
If that’s not your thing, no problem. There are plenty of other rides you could go on. The most popular ones are in the Lucerne area, because of the panoramic views — namely, the rotating gondola at Titlis and the Stanserhorn. There is also the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise in Zermatt, the Gelmer Funicular in Bern, the Gondola Cableway in Grindelwald and many others.
So, now you are armed with more than enough “non-skiing” activities to put a smile on your face while visiting Switzerland in winter!
Want more great travel information about Switzerland? Be sure to check out Expert World Travel!