You don’t have to travel all the way to the grisons or Valais for a bit of skiing or snowboarding fun in Switzerland. With the alps lying literally at Zurich’s doorstep there are many small skiing destinations that can easily be reached for a day trip and that also don’t break the bank. And on top of that they are usually less crowded than the big shots too! Here are six of my favourite small skiing areas close to Zurich.
The ski area around the tiny village of Elm is one of the best kept secrets in Switzerland. Even though it is where ski alpin star Vreni Schneider grew up and learned how to ski, the ski area is mostly popular with locals and still has a very familiar feel about it. Yet it offers some great slopes and amazing mountain views of the Unesco world nature heritage site Sardona. From Elm and it’s ski slopes you can for example see the “Martinsloch”: A huge stone hole in the mountains on the opposite side of the valley, that is connected to an old folk story, and where you can see the sun shine through brightly even from the opposite side of the valley. And when you are all powered out from skiing, snowboarding or hiking, make sure to refresh with a “Elmer Citro”, Switzerland’s most popular lemonade. And don’t miss a visit to the Munggehütte (marmot hut): it’s meals is tasty and it’s après-ski parties are legendary.
Skiing, snowboard, cross-country skiing, sledding, winter hiking trails. Rental equipment available, Skiing lessons available. Further information: https://www.elm.ch/winter/nav-top/home.html
Braunwald is my very favourite skiing area. The adventure starts with the journey there: The tiny village in the Glarner mountains is car-free and reached via an exhilarating cabletrain-ride up a steep mountain cliff. The village itself is charming and quiet, and visitors get around by horse-drawn carriages. The skiing area spreads out over an idyllic mountain landscape, offering modest slopes for beginners, that take you through enchanted forests and past romantic wooden alpine huts. For the more advanced riders there are steeper slopes further up the mountains, where the tiny mountain restaurant Seblengrat offers hearty meals and a grand view from its wooden terrace, and Gumen let’s you catch the last bit of the sun after a great day out..
Skiing, snowboard, sledding, winter hiking trails. Rental equipment available. Skiing lessons available. Further information: https://www.braunwald.ch/
Flumserberg probably the closest mountain getaway from Zurich, the biggest one between Zurich and Chur, and certainly the one with the most impressive view. Nestled high above the Walensee, Flumserberg ist just opposite the grand Churfirsten, seven ragged and mountainpeaks towering over the deep blue alpine lake. But the ski area has its treats apart from the view too: It offers a nice variety of slopes, and when there is enough snow even some challenging black-labelled ones. There is a a fun park for snowboarders, winter hiking trails, sledding and lots of other activities for children and the young at heart. A rather newly established gondola takes you from the carpark all the way to the top of Maschgenkamm in one go, allowing you to enjoy the way up without having to change ski-lifts half way there. But beware if you head all the way up first thing in the morning: The first section is one of the steeper ones and often icy.
Skiing, snowboard, cross-country skiing, sledding, winter hiking trails. Rental equipment available. Skiing lessons available.
They may not boast the highest mountains or the steepest slopes but you can still enjoy a fair bit of winter fun in the mountain villages of the idyllic Zurich Oberland. They are called Sternenberg, Fischental and Steg, and all in all are 12 ski areas offering 27 skilifts, are having one or two skilifts that are run by the locals and for the local children mainly. Steg even boasts the longest ski-lift in the canton of Zurich. These ski areas are great if you are new to the skis or snowboards, or if you don’t want to spend a lot of money in one of the bigger ski-areas and just want to get a bit of shredding in. And they are a perfect way to get in touch with locals, since you won’t see many tourists around, and there is usually a kiosk or a restaurant at the station at the bottom of the ski lift, where you can warm up with some steaming mulled cider and a bowl of soup, while getting to know your fellow-skiers. Check in with the local tourist bureau though before you head out: lifts only operate when there is enough snow.
Skiing, snowboard, cross-country skiing, sledding, winter hiking trails. Further information: https://www.zuerioberland-tourismus.ch/en/
Hoch-Ybrig is the place to go to if you fancy some cool, urban snowboard vibes without wanting to head all the way to Laax or Davos or Verbier. The ski area in the small canton Schwyz is just an hours drive away from Zurich. Here the young and hip of Zurich gather on the weekends to trade the grey skies of the city for some sun-bathing, great skiing and equally great après-skiing. It doesn’t take long to let Hoch-Ybrig enchant you: The slopes are varied and widespread, the views of the Swiss alps are great and the crowd is welcoming and fun. And if you are looking for an extra kick: Paragliding is also among the activities on offer.
Skiing, snowboard, cross-country skiing, sledding, winter hiking trails. Rental equipment available. Skiing lessons available. Further information: https://www.hoch-ybrig.ch/winter/
Remember the Churfirsten, these ragged mountain peaks that you can see when skiing in Flumserberg? Turns out you can swoosh down their much less steep and intimidating backside from the charming valley Toggenburg. Wildhaus is Switzerlands most north-easterly skiing area and part of the impressive Alpstein mountain massiv. Close to Zurich its gets a bit of a crowd on the weekends, but the slopes are wide and plentiful. Make sure to stop by at the restaurant on top of Chäserrug: Designed by famous Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron this eco-friendly building has set a new standard for mountain lodging and pleases hungry skiers just as much as design-afficionados.
Skiing, snowboard, cross-country skiing, sledding, winter hiking trails. Rental equipment available. Skiing lessons available. Further information: https://www.wildhaus.ch/winter.html