Adventure Ideas 11: Winter Switzerland Adventures

Winter snowshoeing Winter snowshoeing
Bench on the Uesser Egg with views of Appenzell's winter wonderland, against the backdrop of the Saentis massif. Bench on the Uesser Egg with views of Appenzell's winter wonderland, against the backdrop of the Saentis massif.

This post brought to you by MySwitzerland (with video provided by GoViral). All opinions 100% our own.

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Downhill skiing is just one small part of the Switzerland adventure options in winter

Kirstie Profile Small Adventure Ideas 11: Winter Switzerland AdventuresAre you up for a last minute winter adventure? Before you throw your Ugg Boots at me, no I don’t mean the rubbish winter at home where even the sun is lacking in vitamin D, and you long for a single sign of spring to pop out from underneath your frozen washing. I mean the kind of winter where the sky is a better shade of bright, the ground is glittery white and you don’t notice the hours slipping away. In this edition of Adventure Ideas we look at some options for winter adventures in Switzerland where every effort is being made to make time stand still while you fill your days with action and adventure. 

A place where time stands still

A couple of weeks ago we were almost the only ones at our check in desk at Liverpool airport as we headed off for some winter sun in Portugal. Pretty much everyone else with sunglasses was checking in skis and scarfs for Switzerland, heading to Geneva on some of the cheapest winter flights currently around.

We’ve talked about going for years but somehow never found the time, which is the very thing the Swiss Tourist board are currently trying to get rid of. Watch this charming video and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Now that makes the place seem very timeless, relaxing and stress free, which of course is not really our kind of holiday. But it did get me onto the net to take a closer look at ideas for a winter family Switzerland adventure on the MySwitzerland site. And I was blown away.

Mountainside events

To start with there are plenty of strange and wonderful events to watch and take part in. Some are high speed, some are high altitude and some are just highly strange.  I really liked the idea of watching the Snow Golf Competitions in Gstaad (they use yellow golf balls) or watching the Horn Sledge Race on Klewenalp and making your own group sledge while you are at it.

Family tobogganing heaven

Of course if you don’t want to watch there is plenty to do. If you like tobogganing you really can take it to the next level in Switzerland. There are some great toboggan runs that would make a great family outing. If you want a small run try something like the Schlittada run to Savognin. It’s a sweet seven and a half kilometres long and takes you through forests and a tunnel.

If you want to go big or make a day of it Grindelwald has “Big Pintenfritz”, the longest toboggan in Europe. It has a vertical drop of 1600 metres over a distance of 15 kms. You have to commit yourself to this; it takes two and a half hours to walk up to the top, to the summit of Faulhorn. But surely the descent has got be be worth it? Take a picnic and make a day of it, although once you get started on your descent you might not want to (or be able to) stop for it!

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Tell me what kids (or adults) don’t enjoy sledging fun?

If you’ve little ones and want to scale things back and give them a little independence you could try snow tubing. We had a go at this in Manchester and it was great fun but I just know it would be so much more fun on a 150 metre long run like the one at Lake Trub near Engelberg. The snow tubing complex there has its own magic carpet conveyor belt to take the pain out of going back up again and the minimum age is just six.

Switzerland Adventure options for grown-ups

If you’re without the kids then the ultimate toboggan ride has to be the Olympic Bob Run at St Moritz. Over 18’s can book to ride down the largest ice sculpture in the world  (squeezed between a pilot and brakeman) at up to 135km per hour. Rest assured it costs a small fortune and it won’t take long (approximatey 75 second) but you’ll probably see your whole life flash before your eyes and remember it for ever.

On the subject of adult only fun, if you are a qualified scuba diver then you can also go ice diving at Les Mosses on Lac Lioson. Divers can access the icy underworld through three well maintained access holes but you do this at your own risk and take full responsibility for your own equipment, actions, safety and consequences.

Sample village life up high

While Switzerland is famous for some of its more glamourous (and expensive) resorts like St Moritz, Saas Fee and Verbier, there’s a more affordable charm in the tiny village resorts, many of which focus on welcoming family visitors who travel to Switzerland.  Why stay in Zermatt when you could sample life nearby in the small, family friendly village of Grächen, high above the Zermatt Valley.

Zermatt may have the Matterhorn but if you’ve got young kids then they’ll probably appreciate Grächen’s kinderpark more, especially the ski carousels, snow tubing run and a cinema in an igloo where kids films are projected onto a screen made of ice and snow. How cool is that? Probably very cool, but they do provide blankets.

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Tiny Swiss villages can make an excellent family winter break

It’s not all about the skiing

For us, a winter break is about getting out into the outdoors and having fun with the kids. And you don’t have to ski to do that. In fact avoid the high slopes and you also avoid high charges for equipment and lift passes. Grächen does have a small ski area which is perfect for starting out and dabbling but it also has great trails for winter walking, snow shoeing or even cycling.

Biking in the snow?

Yes you can go biking in the snow here. In fact the Snowbike World champion is allegedly a regular on the slopes in Grächen so watch out. But you won’t see him on a regular bike. Snow bikes have two skis instead of  wheels, one behind the other. You strap little skis to your feet and ride down the slopes. The local ski school can provide lessons to get you started and they say it takes just a couple of hours to feel comfortable, after that you’re free to explore.

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Winter snowshoeing
Image: swiss-image.ch

Tread softly on the snow

There is no finer, simpler, more timless activity than winter walking and Grächen has plenty to offer with 38 kilometres of winter walking paths, 23 kilometres of snow shoe trails and its own walking guide, ‘Mrs Gruber’. If you’ve never snow shoed before Mrs Gruber can help equip you with snow shoes and hiking poles, show you some untouched trails and get you started on this most special way of taking off into the winter landscape and the soft, silent woodlands. And before long you will forget  clocks ever existed.

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Bench on the Uesser Egg with views of Appenzell’s winter wonderland
Image: Appenzellerland Tourismus

 Adventure Ideas 11: Winter Switzerland Adventures

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Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of the project, the misadventure magnet part of the partnership and a busy mum.

2 Responses to “Adventure Ideas 11: Winter Switzerland Adventures” Subscribe

  1. Thomas Arbs March 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Grindelwald, Grächen! Adelboden, Lenk! Ha! you should’ve told me you were writing about this, we’ve been in all those places with the kids. In fact I even sat in that very cinematic igloo, and it’s not half cold when you are dressed for the snow anyway and come in from a fresh wind. I never knew about the snow-bike, though, but saw a wheelchair rider on a ski piste this winter who was using a very similar device, a mono ski to support his motionless legs and two small skis on sticks he was operating with his hands. He was one hell faster than I!

    Switzerland is a wonderful place for families, in winter as well as in summer, albeit with a price tag. You must know beforehand what will hit you, chalet, ski rent, ski school, ski pass, but also the everyday cost of life are substantial. Once you decide it is worth it, it is indeed. Food, landscape, you get good quality for your good money.

  2. Adventure Strong May 17, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Incredible pictures! I really like the skiing and sledging photos. Switzerland is on my list of must-visit countries.

    I’d probably stick with snowboarding or snowshoeing but out of curiosity, how much was the bobsledding? That would be a rather unique experience.

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