Whether it’s for the breathtaking scenery or the best skiing on the planet, Switzerland deserves its label as the world’s winter wonderland. Olympic medalist Bjørn Daehlie explores the most beautiful Swiss cross-country skiing areas aboard Switzerland’s scenic express train, the Glacier Express.
Connecting the two spectacular mountain resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz, the Glacier Express covers 300km through the stunning Swiss Alps. Although the leisurely journey can be done in just over eight hours, passing through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges, world-champion winter athlete Bjørn Daehlie decided to turn his journey on the Glacier Express into a five-day adventure, stopping at some of his favourite destinations along the way. With 12 Olympic medals and 46 World Championship victories, Daehlie is the most successful cross-country skier of all time. He shares what makes these regions a must-visit for everyone.
Day 1: The Engadin
While St Moritz is well known as the alpine destination for the rich and famous, the Engadin also has a lot to offer cross-country skiers, with its fairytale Stazerwald forest, impressive frozen lakes, and the beautiful trail leading to the Morteratsch Glacier.
Day 2: Davos
The largest resort in the Alps, Davos holds a special significance for Daehlie as it is where he won most of his World Championship races. At 1560m above sea level, it’s also the highest town in the Alps – and with its 58 ski lifts, 300km of slopes, 75km of cross-country ski tracks, and Europe’s largest natural ice rink, it truly is a classic winter wonderland.
Day 3: Andermatt
Before arriving in Andermatt, the train traverses the Oberalp Pass – the highest point of the journey, and where you can see the only lighthouse in the Alps. It’s amazing, but arriving in Andermatt – ‘the pearl on the Gotthard’ – is just as impressive. German writer Goethe once declared Gotthard as “the dearest and most interesting to me”, but Daehlie loves it for its idyllic cross-country ski trails.
Day 4: Goms
Switzerland’s undisputed cross-country mecca, Goms features quiet villages, cultural treasures and the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, with the mighty Aletsch Glacier. Boasting over 90km of Nordic tracks, the region is a cross-country skiier’s paradise.
Day 5: Zermatt
Two hours after passing through the valley of Goms, the Glacier Express arrives in Zermatt, the final stop of the panoramic train journey. On reaching the foot of the photogenic Matterhorn mountain, you can see what makes this Swiss resort so unique. The car-free zone has preserved its original Alpine character, and the charming vacation village is a delight to visitors. With 360km of pistes in three varied ski areas, it offers something for everyone.
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Your first ski trip
Skiing can be a daunting experience if you’ve never been before. But never fear –Switzerland provides the ideal locations for beginners, with its expert instructors, innovative nursery slopes and gentle snow gardens. These resorts are perfect for newbies, and will no doubt have you hooked on the sport before you know it.
Whether you’re trying skiing for the first time, or just want to experience it once while on holiday, the Titlis Snow Experience is hard to beat. Providing skiing lessons, park entry, ski equipment, and even the right clothes, any novice will get hooked right from the get-go!
As one of the most scenic resorts on the planet, and with over 30 per cent of pistes classified as easy, Grindelwald is another ideal resort for beginners. And after a long day on the slopes, the traditional chalet-style village provides the perfect retreat for relaxing and unwinding.
Lying between Lake Geneva and Gstaad, Les Diablerets is the home of winter sports. With three ski regions and 125km of pistes – 40 per cent of which are suitable for beginners – Les Diablerets is ideal for all levels of skiing ability. Off the slopes you are also spoilt for entertainment, with a range of festivals, restaurants and bars.
This ski resort has undergone a major revitalisation, making it one of the best and largest in the region, with over 120km of ski runs. With its central location, Andermatt is easy to reach and offers a fantastic selection of hotels and restaurants.