Tips on Traveling to Switzerland

Tips on Traveling to Switzerland
Some of the world's best skiing is in Switzerland, which is serviced by a highly efficient European train system. The season begins in early December and ends in late April. Boasting more than 120 ski resorts, Switzerland's favorite national pastime is skiing. While Zermatt, St. Moritz, Interlaken and Davos are the most famous Swiss ski areas, some people prefer the smaller, family-oriented resorts such as Arosa. Aside from the superb ski conditions, there are many reasons to ski in Switzerland. A Swiss ski trip is an exploration of a different culture. It can be combined with a visit to a major European city, thus integrating a ski vacation with a sightseeing experience.

Swiss Currency

Switzerland still uses its own currency, which is the Swiss Franc. If you have been traveling through other European countries and have some Euros, you can use them in Switzerland. However, the exchange rate will be in the vendor's favor. Check the exchange rates prior to leaving. This will help you determine whether you should exchange money at a US bank before you go, or wait till you are overseas. Keep in mind that many businesses will not accept traveler's checks, so plan to use your ATM card, cash or credit card.

Getting to Switzerland

Delta, United and Continental all offer flights to Zurich and Geneva. Additionally, many international carriers travel to various locations in Switzerland from a variety of U.S. cities. Fortunately, rail stations located at the Geneva and Zurich airports allow easy travel to the ski areas, although you'll probably change trains at some point. The Swiss trains are extremely efficient. Connections may be tight, and the train you want may be located at the opposite end of the platform. If you are running from platform to platform with your gear and bags, you might have a problem.

However, the Swiss Fly/Rail baggage system provides a viable solution. Arrange to use this system to have your bags brought directly to the train. This means that you don't have to worry about waiting for your bags and dragging them to the train.

If you would prefer bus travel, consider using Skibus Switzerland. They offer bus service to most resorts from Basle, Zurich and Bern. Book your reservation online at www.skibus-switzerland.ch.

When to Go

While the Swiss ski season begins in December, conditions at this time of the year are historically meager. Although prices may be slightly lower, most resorts have only one or two runs open. In view of the cost of getting to Switzerland, as well as the price of lodging and food, it might not be worth it. Consider visiting in January, after the holidays. The resorts are less crowded, and the conditions are better. However, the World Economic Forum takes place in January in Davos. Lodging may be hard to find during that period.

Swiss Trail Rating System

The U.S. rating consists of green, which is easiest, blue trails, which are intermediate and black trails which are advanced. Some resorts have a double black designation. The Swiss add a red trail rating, which is slightly harder than blue, but a bit easier than black.

The Swiss Skiing Style

Skiing and ski racing are extremely popular in Switzerland. Many people are trained to ski from the time they are two or three years old. Expect to see many fast skiers, but don't be intimidated. For the most part, they are in control. If you hear someone coming up behind you, keep a steady line. They will know how to pass you. Abrupt changes in direction may confuse the skier behind you. Switzerland is also a popular skiing destination for people from France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Cheap Ski Lodging

There is an abundance of upscale ski area lodging in Switzerland. Budget lodging is another story. Best Western has a few hotels near ski areas, such as Davos, Zermatt and Interlaken. Best Westerns are usually cheaper than other hotels. Additionally, they offer enormous buffet breakfasts, which keep you satisfied for a good portion of the day. If you plan to ski or snowboard at Savognin, the Cube Savognin was voted as one the world's ten best ski hostels by "Times Online UK."

Swiss Language

German is the predominant language in northeastern Switzerland. French is spoken in the southeast, and Italian in the southwest. However, many Swiss residents speak fluent English. If you venture into the Swiss countryside, you might hear Romansh, which is the official language of the Graubuenden area.

Exploring Swiss Ski Towns

Although some Swiss resort towns may be quaint and charming, others are upscale and ultra modern. For example, Davos is filled with high-end stores, chocolate shops and boutiques, many of which you would expect to find in a major city. If you are visiting with children, consider renting a pull-along sled, which will allow you to walk through town without worrying about carrying your kids. Sleds can be rented at some hotels and ski shops.

Article Written By Lisa Mercer

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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