Switzerland works like the proverbial cuckoo clock, but amongst the organised sensibleness of the country lies some amazing resorts with a refreshing attitude on snowboarding and freeriding.
The Swiss have gained their riches by shrewdness and getting in on the act early. So it's no wonder their resorts have been welcoming snowboarders for some time and providing them with a huge variety of services. It's never been a big deal for Swiss areas to build halfpipes and fun parks.
What you find in Switzerland is a decent mixture of the old and new. Many resorts are made up of old chalets that look the part, while others are sprawling modern affairs. Verbier is a huge and very impressive place, spoilt only by the fact that it’s damn expensive and that it attracts Royalty and idiots on Big Foot skis.
Flying options are excellent in Switzerland, with most resorts reachable within a 3 hour transfer from the main gateway airports.
For such a small country with so many high mountainous areas, it's amazing how good and how many direct train routes there are to resorts. Trains wind their way up to some of the smallest places, travelling up such steep inclines that you're left wondering just how good the brakes are! Few resorts don't have their own train station, or one more than 15 km from away. Visit SBB for the Swiss train timetable.
Bus services are also good, especially from airports, but although they're cheaper than the trains, the buses are slower and less frequent.
Driving around the country is made easy with a good road network that links up well with the rest of Europe. To drive on Swiss motorways you need to buy a road tax called the Vignette, which costs around Sfr 30 and can be purchased from Automobile Associations or at border crossings. The tax disc must be shown in the window and fines are payable if you are caught without it.
If you have a good idea of your travel plans and you are looking at using public transport, then it is very worthwhile booking your tickets in advace through the Switzerland Travel Centre. You can save up to 50% in some cases compared to the turn-up price and order multiple-day, discounted and a very useful transfer ticket which gets you a return from the airport to the resort. You pay a fixed price for these products so compare against the prices on the SBB website to see if you'll save money.
SBB offer a special Snow & Rail ticket which combines your rail journey with your rail ticket funnily enough. This works out very good value and you can buy it either from the ticket desks or machines in the train station. Not only do you get a discounted rail fair but also money off for all the days you buy a lift pass for. You get a coupon for the lift pass that you exchange at the lift station.
Visa requirements & Working
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, so all foreign nationals need a passport. However, visas are not required for many nationals, but you must obtain proper permits if you want to work, even as a kitchen porter. You can get cash in hand work with no questions asked, so long as you don't draw attention to yourself.
When it comes to money, Switzerland is costly - budget riders be warned nothing is cheap, and this is not a country where you can scam your way around easily, although thankfully a lot of resorts have bunk houses and youth hostels that help to keep costs down.
Swiss Snowboard Association Webereistrasse 47, Postfach 8134 Adliswil 1 Switzerland Tel: +41 1 711 82 82 Web: www.swisssnowboard.ch Email: [email protected]