While your ski skill level will help narrow down where to go, all these locations offer the chance to escape the city and get some fresh air in the sprawling Swiss countryside. Expect panoramic views, enchanted forests and, most importantly, world-class skiing.
Check out these six affordable and easily-reached ski villages from Zürich, where you'll be escaping into a winter wonderland adventure in no time.
1. Elm, one of Switzerland's best-kept secret ski destinations
The ski area around the tiny village of Elm is one of the best-kept secrets in Switzerland. Even though it’s where alpine ski star Vreni Schneider grew up and learned how to ski, it’s still most popular with locals. The village offers some great slopes and fantastic mountain views of the Unesco World Heritage Natural Site, Sardona. There you can see the ‘Martinsloch’: a huge stone hole in the mountains on the opposite side of the valley (watch for the sun shining through).
When you’re all tuckered out from skiing, snowboarding or hiking, refresh with an ‘Elmer Citro,’ Switzerland’s most popular lemonade. And don’t miss a visit to the Munggehütte (marmot hut); its tasty meals and après-ski parties are legendary.
2. Braunwald, a remote delight with charming horse-drawn carriages
The adventure starts with the journey there: Braunwald is car-free and reached via an exhilarating cable train – ride up a steep mountain cliff. The village itself is charming, quiet and an excellent place for a family holiday or day out. Visitors get around by horse-drawn carriages, and the hotels are welcoming and cozy.
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.
3. Flumserberg, closest to Zürich with some truly inspiring views
Flumserberg is probably the closest mountain getaway from Zürich, the biggest one between Zürich and Chur, and certainly the one with the most impressive view. Nestled high above the Walensee, Flumserberg is just opposite the grand Churfirsten, seven ragged mountain peaks towering over the deep blue alpine lake.
But the ski area has its treats apart from the view; it offers a nice variety of slopes and even some challenging black-labeled ones when there’s enough snow. There’s a fun park for snowboarders, winter hiking trails, sledding and lots of other activities for children and the young at heart. A 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 halfway there. But beware if you head all the way up first thing in the morning: the first section is steep and often icy.
4. Zürich Oberland, great for beginners and budget travelers
They may not boast the highest mountains or the steepest slopes, but you can still enjoy a fair bit of winter fun in the idyllic Zürich Oberland mountain villages. Visit Sternenberg, Fischental and Steg, all of which include 12 ski areas offering 27 ski lifts. Steg even boasts the longest ski lift in the canton of Zürich. These ski areas are great if you’re a beginner or 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.
The towns are the perfect places to get in touch with locals since you won’t see many tourists around; there’s usually a kiosk or a restaurant at the station at the bottom of the ski lift. 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.
5. Hoch-Ybrig, the young and hip destination
Hoch-Ybrig is the place to go if you fancy some cool, urban snowboard vibes without wanting to head all the way to Laax, Davos or Verbier. The ski area in the small canton Schwyz is just an hour's drive away from Zürich. Here the young and hip of Zürich gather on the weekends to trade the grey skies of the city for some sunbathing, skiing and 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 phenomenal, and the crowd is welcoming and fun. And if you are looking for an extra kick, paragliding is also among the activities on offer.
6. Wildhaus, where the more approachable slopes welcome all
Remember the Churfirsten, the ragged mountain peaks you can see when skiing in Flumserberg? It turns out you can swoosh down their much less steep and intimidating backside from the charming valley of Toggenburg. Wildhaus is Switzerland’s most north-easterly skiing area and part of the impressive Alpstein mountain massif. Due to its proximity to Zürich, it gets a bit crowded on the weekends, but the slopes are wide and plentiful.
Make sure to stop by the Summit 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 aficionados.