With the fuel prices being as they are these days, have you ever considered just ditching your car? There’s something extremely relaxing about being in a car-free mountain resort. The sound of birdsong and footfall is infinitely more tranquil and stress free than the sound of revving engines, not to mention the added benefits of not having to find somewhere to park. If you’re in a car-free resort you can pretty much guarantee that nothing is to far on foot and if it is there’s usually solutions to get you from A-B with no hassle. Here are five Swiss villages that might just turn you on to a car-free ski trip.
Mürren is a traditional Walser mountain village in the Bernese Highlands of Switzerland, at an elevation of 1,638. Mürren cannot be reached by public road. It is also one of the more popular tourist spots in Switzerland, Mürren is busy with tourists the year round.
Mürren is situated at the foot of the Schilthorn peak, which is accessible by cable car. Featured in a James Bond film, the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant contains the Bond World 007 exhibit and has views of Mont Blanc. Not far from Mürren is the Lauterbrunnen Valley, with its subterranean, glacial Trümmelbach Falls. Themed trails on the Allmendhubel peak include the Flower Panorama and North Face path. The village features a view of the three towering mountains Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Mürren has a year-round population of 450, but has 2,000 hotel beds.
Mürren has its roots as a farming village. With the beginning of tourism – both winter and summer – it has grown in size and wealth. Winter sports particularly have been an important part of Mürren’s history since the first British winter tourists arrived in 1911. During the First World War wounded prisoners of war stayed here pending repatriation and played a role in developing winter sports. In 1924, the Kandahar Ski Club was set up by Sir Arnold Lunn (whose statue stands outside the rail station) and eight other British skiers. The club takes its name from the Roberts of Kandahar Challenge Cup, first run in 1911. This, the world’s senior challenge cup for downhill ski-racing, was presented by Lord Roberts, who was victorious in the Battle of Kandahar in the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
Picturesque Valais chalets, helpful residents, a vibrant village centre with shops, bars and local grocery stores: anyone who sets foot on car-free Bettmeralp for the first time is immediately blown away by the charm of this picturesque village at an altitude of 1,970 metres. Bettmeralp is a municipality in the district of Raron in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. On 1 January 2014 the former municipalities of Betten and Martisberg merged into the municipality of Bettmeralp. Before the merger, Bettmeralp was the name of a village and ski resort in Betten.
This part of the Aletsch Arena is extremely popular for family holidays in Switzerland. Hardly surprising, really: in winter, the sweeping mountain landscape is ideal for skiing or sledging and much more. In summer, the diverse terrain and breathtaking views attract numerous hikers, bikers and trail-runners. Bettmeralp can only be reached via the large-cabin cable car from Betten valley station or the aerial tramway from Betten valley station via Betten Dorf. But this slight inconvenience means that the holiday resort is car-free. The Great Aletsch Glacier and the local mountain, Bettmerhorn, are further arguments why a holiday here is worthwhile for the whole family and all other nature lovers.
Saas Fee, Valais
Saas-Fee, a resort village in the Swiss Alps near the Italian border, is known for its proximity to mountains that top out at more than 4,000m above sea level. It’s a gateway to more than 100km of pistes for skiing and snowboarding, plus sledding and toboggan runs.
The Mittelallalin Ice Pavilion is a frozen grotto carved into the Fee Glacier. In the summer, the surrounding area draws hikers and rock climbers. Saas-Fee is the main village in the Saastal, or the Saas Valley, and is a municipality in the district of Visp in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. The village is situated on a high mountain plateau at 1,800 meters, surrounded by a total of 13 peaks above 4,000 meters which is the most in the Alps, forming the basis for its nickname the Pearl of the Alps. It is a classic ski resort characterised by well-preserved Swiss wood architecture and a car-free city centre. The villages in its neighborhood are Saas-Almagell, Saas-Grund and Saas-Balen.
The village of Stoos is set in a delightful alpine landscape at the foot of the Fronalpstock mountain, on a sunny alpine plateau of the same name at about 1300 m. Stoos is reached by the steepest funicular railway in the world via Schlattli (from Schwyz on the road to Muotathal) or from Morschach by cable-car. The little village, with its hotels, holiday apartments and group accommodation is an ideal holiday destination for families. Going uphill is rarely this comfortable. The cabins of the steepest funicular in the world adapt to the most extreme inclination. In this way, the passengers are always on a horizontal surface. But there isn’t much time to enjoy the comfortable ride, as it takes just four to seven minutes to go up the 743 metres of altitude.
Fronalpstock (1,922 meters) is the local mountain that can be reached on foot or with one of the cable cars. From this imposing viewpoint, where there is overnight accommodation, there is an impressive panoramic view of ten lakes, down to Brunnen and over to the Rütli, Pilatus, Rigi, Säntis, the high Alps and the central lowlands as far as the Jura.
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The Stoos ridge hike from Klingenstock to Fronalpstock offers spectacular views of more than ten Swiss lakes and countless Alpine peaks in Central Switzerland. Alongside the fascinating panorama, you can see a large number of exquisite Alpine flowers by the wayside.
The winter sport region around the Fronalpstock and Klingenstock mountains offers eight lifts and 35 km of slopes as well as a fun park. The little ones can learn how to ski in the snow sport school. Cross-country skiing enthusiasts will enjoy the 10 km of trails surrounding the village of Stoos. A 2 km long downhill run is available for sledding and air boarding. As a matter of course, there are numerous groomed winter hiking and snowshoe trails.
Summer visitors will find attractive routes for hiking, strolling and climbing among varied alpine flora and fauna. The marshland at 1,300 meters is an ideal excursion destination where visitors can find plenty of excitement and expand their knowledge of moors. On the way you can enjoy tasty specialities from local alpine cheese-makers at the two inns in Laui and Tröligen. There are three marked Nordic Walking Trails of varying degrees of difficulty to encourage followers of this fashionable sport.
You can discover the diversity of Central Switzerland by taking a boat ride on Lake Lucerne, a walk along the “Swiss Path”, an excursion to the Swiss Holiday Park in Morschach or to the zoo at Goldau.
Zermatt, in southern Switzerland’s Valais canton, is a mountain resort renowned for skiing, climbing and hiking. The town, at an elevation of around 1,600m, lies below the iconic, pyramid-shaped Matterhorn peak. Its main street, Bahnhofstrasse is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants, and also has a lively après-ski scene. There are public outdoor rinks for ice-skating and curling.
The first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 marked the beginning of the myth of, and fascination with, alpine climbing – turning the mountain village into a leading destination.
Zermatt is one of the great tourist destinations. There are nearly forty 4000-metre peaks in the immediate vicinity. It offers the finest hotels and gastronomy in the world, its ski resort is the highest in the Alps and offers snow year-round, and the rainfall is the lowest in Switzerland (300 days of sun). Its air is absolutely fresh, clear and healthy: the village is ideal for family holidays with its car-free zone, offering relaxed strolls through the Zermatt shopping district.
Danny Frith is Director at SkiBoutique. SkiBoutique is a luxury ski chalet agency based in Switzerland.