With over 60 per cent of the country dominated by the beautiful Swiss Alps and featuring the glacial conditions that come with such an impressive mountain range, it is little wonder that Switzerland is a natural home for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering.
However, while Switzerland is one of the most popular skiing destinations in the world, with its archetypal ski lodges and exclusive hotels, it is claimed that skiing was first popularised in Switzerland thanks to the efforts of a very unlikely individual – Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the same man responsible for fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Doyle regularly brought his family to Davos. Not only did he claim the mountain air kept his wife, who was suffering from tuberculosis, in better health, he was one of the first people to practise skiing outside of Scandinavia.
Today, Switzerland continues to offer spectacular scenery and a traditional atmosphere, as well as some of the most varied ski resorts you can find.
What resorts can you visit?
Although not an exhaustive list of every resort in Switzerland, here are some of the most popular:
Verbier – Built in a traditional style and offering expansive views across the surrounding mountains, Verbier is one of the country's most famous resorts, popular with cosmopolitan holidaymakers with a taste for luxury. Verbier offers over 400km of ski area, which stretches across the Four Valleys, and includes the 3300m high Mont Fort, catering to skiers of all experience. Verbier has an equally legendary reputation for its nightlife, which can be as sophisticated or lively as your tastes demand!
Zermatt – Skiing in Zermatt is unlike anywhere else in the world. Not only does its position on the Klein Matterhorn make it the highest ski resort in Europe (the ski lifts will take you 3,883m up the mountain), snow is guaranteed 365 days a year and the resort is vast; you can even ski over international borders into Italy! Although Zermatt has nursery slopes, needless to say there are plenty of challenging off-piste sections for experts.
Wengen – If you prefer your skiing holiday to be more peaceful and smaller in scale, Wengen could be for you. This tiny alpine village was once a farming community but even now it is almost completely traffic free. With lots of long, gentle runs and a relaxed atmosphere, Wengen is a good resort for families and non-skiers. Consequently, this isn't the place if you are looking for challenging ski terrain and a hedonistic nightlife.
St Moritz – The resort at St Moritz is more than 150 years old and has maintained a status as the go-to location for the fabulously wealthy. This sumptuous resort boasts 50 ski lifts, 350km of pistes and as well as an impressive collection of 5-star hotels, high-class shops and exclusive night clubs. St Moritz does offer more than just glitz, though, and is considered one of the best all-round resorts for winter sports in the world. Along with the exceptional ski area (with guaranteed snow) is the opportunity for skating, curling, horse racing, sledging, tennis, ski bob and much more.
Davos-Klosters – Davos is one of Switzerland's largest ski resorts and claims to be a pioneer of winter tourism, with British ski tourists having chosen Davos as a destination since the 1890s. Davos-Klosters has 6 snow sport resorts (Jakobshorn, Parsenn/Gotschna, Pischa, Madrisa and Rhinehorn). Between them, the resorts cover 320km of guaranteed snow-covered pistes and can offer everything from a party atmosphere, popular with snowboarders and free-skiers, to traditional mountain skiing on one of Europe's longest ski runs and family-friendly fun. Nearby, you'll also find the picturesque resort in Arosa, described by many as an "Alpine fairy-tale".