Lake Geneva region, winter sports guide – Sports (2)
This is the second in a series of guides to winter sports in the region. See the first guide for general information about sports in Switzerland in the winter.
If you’re looking for chat about resorts, or you’re interested in rides, or you want to join others on the slopes, check out the forums on GenevaOnline.
Not everyone can aspire to be Stephane Lambiel, the 2006 Olympic silver medallist and two-time world champion figure skater who lives in Lausanne, but there are plenty of opportunities to go freestyle at the many rinks in the area.
There are several indoor and outdoor rinks to choose from in Geneva, some of which are open until mid- or end of March. You can download lists of indoor and outdoor rinks from Lake Geneva Region tourism.
Some rinks run courses, some rent out skates but others don’t. Call to check first. Entry fees are usually somewhere between SFr3 and SFr8 per person. Opening times vary and, for outdoor rinks, can also depend on the weather. There is usually at least a snack bar, and some rinks have restaurants – but what’s on offer varies considerably. Skate rental also varies, but can be around SFr5. Some rinks have the option to play ice hockey.
Ice skating (indoor)
- Caux 021 961 2717
- Les Diablerets 024 492 3988
- Leysin 024 493 2270
- Geneva Vernets 022 418 4000; Sous-Moulin 022 305 0000
- Morges 021 801 3240
- Vallée de Joux 021 845 1776
- Villars 024 495 1212
Yverdon-les-Bains 024 425 3149
Ice skating (outdoor)
Most towns in the mountains have a rink, so check with the local tourism office. Close to Lake Geneva you will find some outdoor rinks:
- Château d’Oex 021 961 2717
- Geneva Meyrin 022 782 1300; l’Europe 022 418 4000; La Praille 022 304 8000; Lignon
- Lac de Joux
Wonderful … if frozen! This is the largest lake in the Jura region and easy to get to from Lausanne (50 minutes) or Geneva (one hour) 021 843 2583
- Les Diablerets 024 492 3988
- Les Mosses 024 491 1466
- Lausanne Montchoisi and Pontaise 021 315 4960; Flon 021 341 1212)
- Le Sentier 021 845 4242
- Morges 024 491 1466
- Prilly 021 620 6500
Vallorbe 021 843 2583
Too cold, tired or short of time to get your skates on? There’s always Wikipedia’s comprehensive history of ice skating to keep you entertained.
Sledging and toboggan runs
- Château d’Oex
- La Dôle Check first to see if there is enough snow: 022 360 1314
- La Givrine
- Les Avants Check first to see if there is enough snow: 021 962 8484
- Les Diablerets
- Rochers de Naye 021 989 8353
- Vallée de Joux
- Long mountain worth noting: Aminona
- Night sledding on two runs (11 and 200 m) in Zinal
- Tubing in Zinal
Snowparks and funparks
Snowshoe trekking (racquettes in French) is suitable for a family outing and is growing in popularity. Trails are graded and the easy routes don’t require any particular training. Most resorts have marked trails and organized excursions.
Stick to marked paths and always check conditions locally before you leave in case there is danger of an avalanche.
Almost anyone can snowshoe so give it a try.
Here are the writer’s picks – but please send us your favourites!
Crans Montana (Valais) Take a nightime snowshoe trek to the Colombire Alpine Museum which focuses on alpine life in the 1930s (every Wednesday night). The excursion includes a local aperitif, a sled ride down again and dinner in Aminona.
St Bernard (Valais)
The area boasts not only the famous dog but also of having the biggest showshoe network in Switzerland. You can trek up to the Cornet rock, which offers a magnificent view of the Great St Bernard Pass, crossing the Alps from Martigny to Aosta in Italy.
has five marked snowshoe trails, ranging from about an hour’s walking time to almost four. On March 17 and 18 Les Diablerets is staging a snowshoe-and-family-fondue day (cost Sfr20). On the Saturday from 5pm to 9pm there will be a snowshoe walk on five to ten km. of marked trails, with mulled wine and hot tea offered en route. Afterwards, there will be a fondue (included in the price). On the Sunday from 10am to 4pm there will be a snowshoe promenade for all for Sfr5 per person. Information and booking, tel: 024 492 3358. Children under nine go free.
The Lake Geneva Region search engine is a great way to find snowshoe tours in the region. Search results include a rating (easy, medium, difficult), a locator map, GPS coordinates, directions, the duration, length, season (eg, November to March), places to eat and drink, difference in elevation and highest point. There are also links to further information.
Check out the Swiss Snowshoe Federation (in French, German and Italian)
What to wear
You can wear any kind of winter gear, such as padded trousers and jackets. Dress in layers, depending on how cold it is. Unlike in skiing, you don’t wear special boots but normal mountaineering boots. Take gloves and a hat.
All you need are snowshoes and poles. The snowshoes are actually large pieces of plastic that look rather like duck’s feet. They were originally worn by foresters, hunters, trappers and woodcutters, made of woven twigs or softened wood.
Now, they are lightweight plastic. You strap them over your boots, take your poles and set off! Regardless of the depth of the snow, the snowshoes allow you to tread lightly and safely.
You can rent both snowshoes and poles at many sports shops. The price varies, but expect to pay around Sfr19 for one day, to Sfr80 for six days, or Sfr260 for the entire season. In some cases you can book online.
How to do it
You don’t need lessons and the basic technique doesn’t take long to seem natural. If you look back and your tracks resemble a zipper, you’re on a roll. But be careful about looking behind you … trees, animals and even out-of-control snowshoers have been known to pose a sudden hazard.
Thermal baths, salt water baths and outdoor swimming
- Crans-Montana: the town’s thermal waters are not exploited but one great option is the 33 degree C salt water baths complex with massage jets and more at the Hotel Valaisia. 2 hours from Geneva by car.
- Loeche-les-bains/Leukebad: some of the most famous Swiss thermal baths, with 10 pools in the public baths alone (the warm and cold foot bath is a shocker) and there are several private baths, mainly in hotels. If you’re feeling like a splurge and don’t mind a bit of nudity (aaaah, those mud baths are worth it!), the Roman-Irish baths at the Lindner are great for unwinding. Children under 9 free in most baths and prices in the public baths start at SFr11.
30 minutes past the end of the A9 autoroute in Sierre. 2.5 hours from Geneva by car.
- Ovronnaz, between Martigny and Sion, easy to reach from the autoroute, with three baths and a family atmosphere. Prices start at SFr10 for children, 18 for adults, with family rates.
- Saas Fee: not thermal baths, but a public indoor pool 25 metre with jacuzzi and more and this is one of the places where you can find snow. If you’re not up for it this weekend, try the swimming/full moon/champagne combo 2 February. 2.5+ hours from Geneva by car.
- Saillon: at Saxon, near Martigny, very close to autoroute 1h30 from Geneva by car. Slightly more medically oriented and smaller than some of the others, but easy to reach, pleasant baths. Prices from SFr12 for children, 18 for adults.
Yverdon-les-Bains (Fre) is not in the mountains, but its warm waters and nearness to Lausanne – 30 minutes on the autoroute – have long made it a winter favourite with Lake Geneva region residents.