One of the great things about skiing in Switzerland is that it offers both the glitz and glamour of major, internationally recognized resorts such as Davos-Klosters, Zermatt and St Moritz and the simple serenity of small, traditional lesser-known resorts like Andermatt, Les Diablerets and Grimentz/Zinal. This enables skiers to find resorts that meet a diverse range of needs, safe in the knowledge that they all provide exceptional accommodation and services. Many skiers who have tired of 'factory skiing' on crowded French slopes with purpose-built towns are turning to authentic Swiss resorts, which are relatively uncrowded in comparison. They're often surprised to find that many of the resorts are virtually as large as their French counterparts and that the freeriding rates among some of the best in Europe. Party animals might find some of the smaller Swiss resorts disappointing for après-ski, but if they head for Engelberg, Verbier, Zermatt, St Moritz or Saas Fee they're sure to find enough going on there.

conditions

Switzerland is dotted with resorts, most of them curving along an imaginary meridian that links the east, south and southwest of the country. Two main weather fronts bring snow to the area, from either the north or the west. North fronts tend to predominate in the earlier part of the season, while west fronts, largely affecting the southern part of the Swiss Alps, begin to take precedence from February onwards.

when to go

In common with their French and Austrian neighbours, the Swiss usually have their resorts in full swing by early December. It's a good time to visit if you're prepared to gamble on the depth of the snow base and don't mind sacrificing old skis to potential rocks. January and February are snow-sure yet cold, so if you want powder and a goggle tan March is probably the best month to visit – even if it is correspondingly expensive and more crowded. If you're keen on a trip out at the beginning of April, check conditions and book last minute. Most Swiss resorts close by mid-April, although some resorts (Andermatt, Engelberg, Zermatt) with higher slopes remain open later, with the glaciers staying open well into the summer (Saas Fee, Les Diablerets).

off piste policy

Along with their central European cousins, Switzerland has a pretty laid-back approach to bypassing the resort boundaries. That said, some resorts (Engelberg is one example) enforce nature areas in the resort – ride here and you might get your pass pulled or a fine issued. Check the status with lift operators if in doubt. Check slf.ch for details of any avalanche danger and meteoschweiz.ch for weather info.

Where to Ski and Snowboard 2016

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