Spending some time in winter in Switzerland if you are a non-skier can seem a little frustrating!
After all, Switzerland is all about skiing, right?
Luckily for us, there are dozens of fun things to do in Switzerland in winter, even if you’re not into skiing or snowboarding.
And the number of winter activities on offer is constantly growing. Sure, it used to just be sledging and ice skating, but these days there are so many other fun and even adrenaline-pumping activities to do in Switzerland in winter.
This post is huge, but I have divided it up so you can quickly scan the table of contents below and skip to the things that spark your interest. From dog sledding to ice climbing, there is something for everyone!
Table of Contents
I don’t know about you, but as a child, I was always extremely excited to get on a sled as soon as there were a few specks of snow. This was probably also due to the fact that there were no mountains where I grew up and we had to find other ways of having fun in the snow. The sled never disappointed us.
In Switzerland, sledging is taken very seriously, is part of growing up, and is deeply set into the Swiss culture. Sledging is a big thing and most ski resorts have one or several prepared sledging runs in the area. And it’s a lot of fun, once you get the hang of it.
I recommend you start a little slower to avoid painful crashes and speed things up once you get going. In the end, the runs can’t be long enough.
You usually take a lift up, ride your sled, and zoom down the mountain. Zero effort, maximum fun!
You can usually rent sleds on-site for a reasonable price or buy one in any sports store or bigger supermarket. Needless to say, there are many different types of sleds, but the traditional wooden one is still the most loved.
Sledging runs can have different grades (beginners to experienced), so check that before you get started. Also check the weather and trail conditions because sledging on ice or in slush is not a lot of fun.
If you want a special experience, check out the night sledging. It’s truly magical.
Here are some resorts which promise a lot of sledging fun:
- Preda-Bergün – 6 km – Runs under the beautiful railway arches of the Albula Valley
- Kerenzerberg – 7 km – With beautiful views over the Walensee
- Melchsee-Frutt – 8 km – Longest run in Central Switzerland
- Fist-Faulhorn – 15.04 km – “The Big Pintenfritz” . The longest sledging run in the world.
- Les Diablerets – 7.2 km – Long family run near Geneva
For a full overview, the Schweizmobil website is a good place to start.
And once you’ve had enough of the sled, but want to stay on skids, try the “Skigibel“. It will surely keep you challenged for a few hours.
Cross-country skiing, also called Nordic skiing, has, much like snowshoeing and ski touring, really boomed during the last few years. You can find dedicated areas in nearly every corner of Switzerland.
The runs often go through fields, forests, or over frozen lakes. They also come in different grades. If you have never cross-country skied or skied before, I would suggest you start with the classic style, where you ski in prepared tracks.
The skating style is more for those who have skied before. It’s freestyle, there are no tracks and it’s a bit more strenuous. However, no matter the style you choose, you will always get a good workout.
If you have time, I would recommend taking an introductory lesson, just to learn the technique and to avoid sore muscles for days after.
A lot of the runs are lit up during the night, so a lot of locals go for a quick ski after work.
Cross-country skiing gear can be rented in most ski resorts or sports stores. It is usually cheaper if you rent for longer periods of time.
There are a lot of cross-country ski runs in Switzerland. Too many to list here.
For a full overview, you can check the Schweizmobil website.
Here are some of the more popular areas:
- Pontresina / St.-Moritz – a unique experience of endless trails on frozen lakes
- Einsiedeln – lots of runs for different levels close to Zurich
- Goms – 100 km of trails through a beautiful mountainous landscape
- Jura & 3 lakes district – 57 km of slopes through romantic hills and villages
- Davos Klosters – enjoy the quietness on one of the many slopes in the side valleys
I started snowshoeing about 20 years ago. I felt I was too old to learn to ski and I much preferred the solitude that comes with snowshoeing. So, I invested in some snowshoes and I was good to go.
I must say, I absolutely love it. You can get far away from the hustle and bustle of the ski slopes and enjoy the beautiful winter wonderland in full peace and quiet. Back then, there were very few snowshoers, nowadays it’s a lot busier.
Snowshoeing has become very trendy, so many ski resorts invested in preparing snowshoeing trails around their resorts. The big advantage of these trails is:
- the trails are very easy to get to
- they are marked and thus generally safe.
The downside of it all: there are a few more people around.
If you’re new to snowshoeing, I would suggest you rent a pair of snowshoes and sticks (normal hiking poles will do), pick a trail according to your fitness level, and go for it!
It’s really not that difficult and depending on length and altitude gain, you can decide what kind of workout you want. I would start with a 1-2 hour trail.
The snowshoeing trails are usually marked with pink markers and arrows with a snowshoeing person or snowshoe on them.
If you decide to go off the beaten track, don’t forget to thoroughly check the snow conditions and avalanche situation, before you set off. Plan your route carefully and take your avalanche equipment with you (and know how to use it). Snowshoeing may seem like a simple and safe sport, but anywhere in the Alps is potentially dangerous in winter.
I’m not going to list any preferred locations, as there are too many to choose from. I recommend you select your destination and then start looking for trails.
You will get a lot more options if you search in German. So, try searches for
The Swiss walk a lot at any time of the year. Not just during summer, but also during winter. And they are so right!
Which other winter activity gives you the pleasure of enjoying stunning landscapes on perfectly groomed paths without having to break your leg while doing it?
This is the perfect activity for a pleasant day in the mountains without too much effort. You can go with the whole family, take an all-terrain stroller, or put your little ones on a sled and pull them along.
Switzerland has a vast network of winter walking routes, that pass through forests or, even on frozen lakes. Nearly every ski resort will have the walking trails marked in pink on their winter activity maps. Along such routes, you will always find pink markers/arrows to guide you along.
There really is no excuse for not trying it out at least once. I promise you will not regret it. And don’t forget to stop for cheese fondue, a rösti, a Glühwein or a “Schümli Pflümli” when you can.
I have never been much into ice skating, but in Switzerland, the ice skating rinks always try to lure me in. People are always out having so much fun, that it’s hard to ignore.
As of November a lot of cities and villages open their ice skating rinks to the public. They are normally used for ice hockey training sessions. But in winter, they’re open for everyone who wants to try their luck on the slippery ice.
Besides the artificial ice rinks, natural ice rinks also start to pop up as soon as the lakes are frozen. Depending on the location, the size of the lake, and the temperatures, they may start to open in January.
During the few last years, some regions have even developed “ice paths/trails” through forests. Gliding through the snow-capped trees really is magical and makes you feel like you’re in a fairytale.
Normally, you can rent ice skates at the rink at a very reasonable price. And for the little ones, or the adults who don’t feel comfortable on the ice, little “penguins” help you to glide along.
Some of the ice skating rinks are set in beautiful locations or are even integrated into a Christmas market. You almost feel like you’re part of a romantic Christmas movie. At night they are often lit up and some of them have dedicated ice skating disco nights.
What are you waiting for?
Ice Skating Recommendations
Listed below are a few natural and artificial ice rinks that we have tried or are famous. However, there are many others and you can be sure that there will be one just around the corner.
- Ice skating around Zurich
- Lac de Joux – big natural ice rink in a beautiful setting
- Alp Raguta – one of the highest natural ice rinks in Europe set at 1952m
- Engadin – natural ice trail going through the forest and along the river Inn
- Aletsch Area – ice skating with breathtaking backdrops
Dog Sledding / Husky Rides
Dog sledding is such a unique experience. From the minute you arrive at the husky farm to the moment when you need to leave those lovely creatures behind.
I used to be afraid of dogs. I got bitten a long time ago by a small dog and have avoided dogs ever since. Then one day I decided I had to get over my fear and visited my friend in the Yukon who has 20+ huskies. After one week, I did not want to leave anymore and would have taken all the dogs home.
There are a few different husky ride options in Switzerland, but each is unique in its own way. However, they usually follow a set pattern
First, you usually to spend some time with the dogs who are so excited to see you and will probably lick you to death.
After that, you hop into or onto a sled and glide through a winter wonderland. The only thing you will hear is the silent noise of the sled cutting through the snow and the dogs’ paws hitting the snow. It’s breathtaking and you really need to experience it to know what I’m talking about.
I’ve written a more detailed post on dog sledding in Switzerland and I hope I could convince you to try it out.
And just in case you were wondering, no, you cannot take the dogs home after your visit.
Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride
Maybe you really need a break after all those winter activities or you’re looking for an alternative to get from A to B in a mountain village? Then a horse-drawn sleigh ride might be just what you’re looking for.
Get into the carriage, snuggle up under the blankets, and let the world pass by. For a moment you might even think you’re Santa Claus. The carriages are often beautifully restored pieces of art and the driver will often give you some fun facts about the region you’re riding through.
Some of the more beautiful rides can be found in the following regions:
- Val Roseg – one of the most famous ones
- Val Fex – absolute quietness and pure nature
- Val Bever – a ride through a UNESCO World Heritage site
- St.-Moritz to Lake Staz for a really romantic experience
- Braunwald – with an aperitif and fondue carriage
- Rigi – go for a ride on Mt. Rigi near Lucerne
- Gstaad / Lauenen – feel like a royal one day and take a ride through Gstaad and Lauenen
Igloo Building & Overnight Stay
For a lot of people staying overnight in an igloo equals endless hours of shivering in the cold. Let me reassure you that this is rarely the case. I have built an igloo (under supervision), had a very good sleep in it, and was never cold. It’s all about the right gear and the right mindset.
Building an igloo requires a bit of work, but since you’re usually in a team, the work is divided up. It’s quite satisfying to see your house taking shape and knowing you’re going to spend the night in it. I really loved it.
You will receive all the tools and techniques to build the igloo and the necessary equipment to keep you warm during the night. After a short introduction, you start building (and building up a sweat) and after a few hours, your house is finished. You can then sit back and relax, have an aperitif, and maybe enjoy a filling cheese fondue to finish the day.
There are a lot of ski resorts offering igloo-building experiences, so check the area where you would like to go and sign up.
Alternatively, you can spend the night in an existing igloo village, complete with a bar, restaurant, and actual bedrooms with all the bells and whistles. I leave the choice up to you.
- Lötschental – igloo building in a beautiful area
- Engstligenalp – build your own igloo, different offers
- Different locations for igloo villages
Many of the activities above require some kind of physical activity. If you feel like taking the day off and actually relaxing your muscles and mind, then I would recommend visiting one of Switzerland’s many thermal baths. They offer pure relaxation and often with a stunning setting.
I have listed some of the more beautiful ones in this post.
So off you go – relax and unwind!
Curling is an intriguing sport. It requires excellent teamwork, good team spirit, precision, and concentration. I have done this as part of a team event and it was a lot of fun.
Sliding the polished granite stones over the ice sheet and getting it as close to the “house” (a marked circled area) is not as easy as it looks. We were going mad with the brushes, hoping to extend the path of the stone, change its direction, or straighten its trajectory. It requires a lot of practice and I’m not sure we actually achieved anything by brushing the ice like mad.
Nevertheless, I think this is a perfect half-day of fun for the whole family and is definitely worth doing once. Next time you see them in the Winter Olympics, you will know how hard it is.
There is another sport which looks very similar to curling. Some call it “ice stock sport” or “Bavarian curling”. In German it’s called “Eisstockschiessen”. The participants slide the ice stocks, which have a stick on the top, over the ice surface in order to hit a target or to cover the longest distance. There are no brushes involved.
Lots of ice fields offer introductory courses for curling and anyone can give it a try. No experience is required. Here are some examples:
- Saas-Fee – offers both curling and ice stock sport
- Lausanne – website only in French
- Zurich – all clubs in Zurich listed (website only in German)
- Arosa – offers different introductory courses
- St. Moritz
Snow Fatbiking / Snow Biking
Gone are the days when you thought you could only mountain bike in warm weather. Say hi to fatbiking in the snow.
Originally from Alaska, fatbikes not only look super cool, they are also easy to ride and safe. The extra wide tires give you better traction on soft terrain like snow. So, you can fully focus on your surroundings and enjoy the beautiful winter landscape.
You might need a few minutes to get used to it, but anyone with a normal fitness level can ride a fatbike. You don’t need any special equipment, just a lot of layers of clothing. Why? Because you will be sweating when you go up, and cooling down quite fast when you go down. Although it is winter, you can still get very warm (and cold).
More and more ski resorts rent out fatbikes (including helmets and other gear) and prepare special tracks for fatbiking. Often it’s also allowed to go on the winter hiking paths. Just be careful not to go on to the cross-country runs, as it will ruin their tracks.
Here are a few examples:
- Gstaad – offers a wide range of different tracks, even some downhill ones
- Davos – fatbiking on Mt. Pischa
- St.-Moritz – fatbiking trips in the Engadin area
- Zermatt – fatbiking by night
The combination of a big rubber tube/tyre and a snowy steep slope has to be a good one and it is! Snow tubing will guarantee a few hours of fun along with loud screaming – depending on the steepness of the slope.
There are a lot of snow tubing slopes and anyone who’s up for a bit of adrenaline can do it.
How does it work? It’s pretty simple:
- you chose a rubber tube (sometimes they have different sizes depending on age and height)
- you sit or lie in the tube
- grab the handles
- and zoom down the slope (screaming is allowed)
Have you considered going backwards?
You usually pay per run and it gets cheaper if you buy a 5 or 10-run pass. Sometimes snow tubing is part of the all-in winter activity pass for a ski region. So, be on the lookout for those options too.
Also check the map of your favourite ski resorts to see if they offer snow tubing too!
Snow Tubing Recommendations
Here are a few places to check out:
- Titlis / Trübsee – here you can try snow tubing for free
- Leysin – snow tubing through channels at an exhilarating speed
- Saas-Almagell – slopes for the whole family
- Crans Montana
Air Boarding / Snow Body Boarding
And while we’re talking about fun in the snow on air-filled objects, we also need to talk about air boarding.
It’s like body surfing, kind of. With air-boarding or snow body boarding you lie flat on an air-filled snow bodyboard or air board and race head first down the mountain. Adrenaline kick guaranteed.
Depending on the track, you go fast. Really fast. So, like with any new sport you have never tried, talk to some people with experience, as it is really not your usual stroll though the snow.
Information on where to buy/rent an air board or available slopes can be found on this website. Sometimes slopes are shared with sledding, so inform yourself before setting off.
Air Boarding Recommendations
Air boarding is still relatively niche, but I found the following areas where you can try it out:
We’ve seen them on television: 1-4 people climb in a tiny bobsled and race at an insane speed down a bobsled track, going through tight curves, hardly ever breaking. You can feel the adrenaline pumping just by watching it.
Ever thought about trying it it yourself? It’s possible on the St.-Moritz-Celerina Olympia Bobsled Run. As of mid-November special construction workers wait for the snow to fall to then start with the three-week construction of the world’s only natural ice bob run and the oldest bob run still in operation.
You can book a guest ride, where you sit in a slightly modified 4-man bob sled between the pilot and the brakeman. In 75 seconds you will race down the world’s longest ice sculpture of 1722m at a speed of up to 135 km/h. If this doesn’t get your blood pumping, I’m not sure what will.
You can find all the information on booking and pricing here (the English version is right next to the German version – Gästebobfahrten). If you decide to go for it and still have some breath left after you’ve finished, let me know how it went, as I haven’t had the courage to try.
As you might have noticed, Switzerland has a lot to offer in terms of winter activities. Some are more extreme than others. This one is definitely more of an extreme sport.
Ice climbing requires a lot of technique, muscle power, and a bit of an adventurous spirit. But with the right attitude, strength and a bit of stamina, those frozen walls are waiting to be tackled by you.
You can read more about it in a more detailed post here.
Snowkiting is basically kiteboarding on skis or a snowboard. So if you’re a kiteboarder, this should be relatively easy. I have not tried this one personally, but I can understand its attraction.
Some claim that snowkiting is easier to learn than kiteboarding as there is less friction, so it requires less power. I would say you really need to take some lessons to get going and to learn about the safety measures and weather conditions. More and more schools offer snowkiting lessons, so its up to you
If you want to try it, Switzerland is not a bad place to start.
Here are some schools that I found during my research:
- Silvaplana & Bernina Pass – Swiss Kite Surf GmbH
- Simplon Pass – Swiss Snow Kiting School
- Silvaplana & Bernina Pass – Kite Fun AG
- Andermatt – Excite Kiteboarding
There is something very calming about fishing. And ice fishing is no different.
Picking a frozen lake, deciding on where to drill a hole, and then the suspense while waiting for the fish to bite. Maybe you catch a trout, a char, or even a perch. Only time will tell.
And while you’re waiting for that fish, you can enjoy your surroundings: not only do you sit (don’t forget that little chair) on a frozen lake which in itself is already quite unique, but you’re most likely to be surrounded by some breathtaking mountain scenery.
Ice fishing has become more and more popular, even in Switzerland. Several specialised organisations organise tours or rent out the required equipment (snow drills for example). There are even a few spots where you can go on your own. Just make sure you have the permit and have checked the conditions of the frozen lake. We don’t want you to fall into a frozen lake!
Check this very detailed website on ice fishing in Switzerland, unfortunately only in German for the moment. It also lists all the lakes where it is allowed to go ice fishing. I can imagine that the Oeschinensee, Melchsee, Arnersee, and Silsersee are pretty awesome.
Do you like to spend your time underwater and want to take your scuba diving experience to another level? Then maybe ice diving is what you’re looking for.
The snow-covered frozen lakes appear to be sleeping, but underneath a magical spectacle awaits. Sunlight dances through the frozen shield, amazing colours appear, ice bubbles decorate the surface and you might even spot a fish checking you out.
Take It Very Seriously
Ice diving requires serious preparation and experience. I recommend you read this post if you are interested in going, so you get a feeling for what is involved.
Ice Diving Options
There are several lakes in Switzerland where you can go ice diving with professional companies. In Canton Vaud, for example, you can go ice diving in Lake Lioson.
Ice diving courses in different locations can be booked here, just to name a few (most websites are only available in German)