Swiss Winter Fun for non-skiers
Winter fun- no skis required!
We’re in the middle of ski heaven, here in lovely, central Switzerland. The mountains surround us, their snowy peaks beckoning us to come play. But what if you’re not really a downhill skier? Maybe you have small children and it’s not so simple to get them all geared up to hit the slopes, or maybe the speed and adventure of downhill skiing is not really your thing. No worries: here are some ideas to get you outside having fun, without having to ski down a mountain if you don’t want to.
When the snow falls, taking a walk through the snowy woods brings out the kid in me. During the Christmas holiday, our family had a lovely experience hiking up the Zugerberg during a snowfall. Donning our weather-appropriate jackets, trousers, and shoes, we trekked up with one goal in mind: stopping at a specific fire pit to build a fire at sunset. We hiked the familiar trails as the landscape transformed before our eyes. The woods became silent and the light at sunset during snowfall took on an otherworldly glow. You can do that too with the right gear, so there’s no reason not to get out and explore. Just dress up warmly and get some poles and good hiking shoes (or YakTrax- detachable cleats for your shoes) are recommended. Head to any one of the local sporting goods shops and they’ll recommend the gear that’s perfect for you.
If you looking for something more majestic, I suggest visiting the Queen of the Mountains, Rigi. Hikes range from easy to more difficult and several routes also include cable cars and trains to help get you up and down, depending upon your starting point. The Panoramaweg is mostly flat and not too strenuous. On the afternoon we were there, the sun was out and we had amazing views of both Lake Zug and Lake Lucerne. Again, the correct clothing is necessary. The wind and temperatures change on the mountain and you don’t want to be caught unprepared.
Most mountains around the area have snow shoe trails. They are usually marked with purple arrows and poles. While there might not be as many snow shoe routes as there are yellow Wanderwegs (hiking trails), you won’t be disappointed. Snow shoes make it possible to tread through deep snow, across hills and valleys, and even up ski slopes while enjoying nature at your own pace. Recently our family took the world’s steepest funicular up to Stoos for a morning of snowshoeing. We chose a 5k loop and even strayed off the path more than once where we were able to go through fields and make fresh footprints through the snow.
Snowshoes for purchase can run from CHF 180-290. If you’d like to rent first to see if you like it you can actually do so rather inexpensively. We rented ours at SportXX in Zugerland. The snowshoes were CFH11/day and poles were CFH 5. Intersport in Zug also has rentals for CFH 20/day. It’s a good idea to wear snow or waterproof hiking pants and sturdy hiking boots along with gloves, hat and the appropriate layers. Temperatures up on the mountain can vary, and snow shoeing can be quite strenuous so it pays to layer your clothing for comfort.
If you’d like to ice skate but think you need to be a graceful figure dressed in a sparkly outfit I can happily assure you that is not the case! I’ve assembled a short list of rinks that offer views and down to earth and fun ice skating experiences for everyone.
Rink with a view: the Bürgenstock Hotel and Resort overlooking Lake Lucern turns their outdoor tennis court into an ice rink in beautiful natural surroundings, and they even offer packages for a skating and fondue experience. This is great fun for visitors or for that special occasion or special someone. The rink is open through February 17th. Call +41 41 612 61 30 for more information.
Professional inspiration: the BOSSARD Arena in Zug’s outdoor ice rink is popular among locals and visitors alike and is the perfect place for aspiring hockey players. Click here for hours and prices.
Something for everyone: Spend a Saturday at the Mall of Switzerland. Mom can shop, Dad can enjoy the food in the outdoor surrounding restaurants and the kids can skate in the Ebisquare ice rink. It’s open until Feburary 23rd, so there’s plenty of time to hit the ice!
For adventure seekers: Have an ice-skating adventure on a path through the forest at Skateline Albula in Survana. Recently my friends and I went there to check it out. We took our own helmets and rented the skates which included pads for elbows, knees, and wrists. I highly recommend using the protective equipment and taking the time to get familiar with the ice before taking the shuttle bus to the starting point, however. We were shaky on the ice at first but we really enjoyed skating and a totally unique experience on the descending 3km Eisweg. Be aware: skating on the Eisweg is not the same as on a groomed rink. There are hills, natural divots, and ripples in the ice, making it less smooth but certainly more exciting.
Sledding or Sledging, as it is known by the Brits, is the most kid-friendly activity there is. Who wouldn’t love to be pulled up a hill only to let gravity have its way with you on the way down? The number of hills worth trying are numerous. If you don’t have your own sledge or access to one, many mountains offer rentals at their base. Don’t leave this winter favorite only to the little ones; on our Rigi hike, we were on the way down when a couple in their 20s passed us while shouting and laughing, “Coming through!”. This is something for the whole family, regardless of age. Just remember to dress warm and remember, helmets and back protectors are important!
What are your favourite non-skiing activities to enjoy in the winter?