What do you imagine when you think of a winter ski season in Switzerland?
Is it... Majestic mountains, BIG ski terrain, partying with the rich and famous, historic and diverse culture, picturesque Swiss alpine villages, never-ending cheese tasting and indulging on the best chocolate in the world?
Well, if that's what you're thinking then, you're not far off...
Renowned for its stunning mountains, world-famous ski resorts (think Verbier and St Moritz to name just a few) there's more than enough to sink your skis, and teeth into (Swiss cheese and chocolate is seriously good).
In this guide to a ski season in Switzerland we’ll answer these questions...
- When is the ski season?
- Where should you go?
- What’s it like living in Switzerland?
- What’s it like working in Switzerland?
- How do you become a ski instructor in Switzerland?
Already know you want to become an instructor in Switzerland? Download our Switzerland Instructors guide and start planning your season.
When Is the Ski Season in Switzerland?
The Swiss Alps are home to some massive ski areas at altitudes of above 2000m. This means that the ski season in Switzerland kicks off from mid to late November in high altitude resorts such as Verbier and Saas Fee, and extends till late April (often opening earlier and closing later depending on conditions).
Regardless of where you go mid-January to mid-March is when you’ll usually get the best snow.
If a 6 month season isn’t quite long enough to work on your goggle tan, you can get your summer snow fix in Switzerland as well! There are a few different options to choose from including Saas-Fee and Zermatt on the Matterhorn glacier which operates over 300 days a year.
Where To Go In Switzerland For Snowy Goodness?
Skiable Area 200kms (+ 160kms Trails on the linked Cervinia)
Village Altitude 1562m
Highest Point 3899m
Vertical Descent 2337m
Terrain Parks Yes
Season Length Year-round (300+ days)
One of the highest and most famous mountains in Europe, Zermatt is the epitome of skiing in the Swiss Alps. It combines outrageously beautiful mountain views with world-class ski & snowboard terrain, and a charming alpine town, with some après options almost as world-renowned as the Matterhorn itself.
Soak up the afternoon sun on Cervo's big sun terrace serving up a ‘sophisticated choice of beverages’ ...watch your purse strings here and maybe bring a cheeky hip flask if you’re on a tight budget.
In the centre of town look out for the ski racks and follow the music and you’ll find one of our favourite aprés spots in Zermatt ideal for some after skiing drinks of a quick pre-night out session.
Spring not only marks the beginning of slushy spring goodness we all love but it also heralds the beginning of Zermatt unplugged festival! Send off your season with an acoustic festival like no other! Zermatt unplugged mixes some of the biggest international artists with up and comers in the wildest locations. If you’re staying till the end of the season this is not to be missed. Some of the artists who have played under the shadow of the Matterhorn include Jessie J, Passenger, James Morrison, Nelly Furtado and Simple Minds.
Skiable Area 410kms
Village Altitude 1500m
Highest Point 3330m
Vertical Descent 2509m
Terrain Parks Yes
Season Length December - April
Verbier is the main resort in Switzerland's largest ski area, Les 4 Vallées. Verbier's world-renowned nightlife has attracted a young crowd looking for the best skiing, the best scenery, the best nightlife and lifestyle all rolled into one.
With over 410km of marked runs Verbier offers an impressive array of terrain catering from beginners to the very best riders in the world. Widely recognised as the world’s greatest backcountry destination, Verbier plays host to the Freeride World Tour Finals every year, so yeah… the mountain is pretty good. The backside of Mont Fort (3,300m) is known as backcountry heaven, and with epic steeps, trees, powder, and terrain parks you’ll be discovering new lines daily!
Check out this video for an awesome overview of what the terrain and lifestyle is like in Verbier.
Pub Mont Fort
Known mostly by the locals as ‘the pub’, it’s located right near the bottom of Medran. The pub regularly has live music and even has happy hour from 4-5pm to get your fix of cheap drinks in!
Party till 4am at the extravagant nightclub L’etoile, for a night of dancing and good music with internationally acclaimed DJs such as Pete Tong and Martin Solveig making seasonal appearances.
Warning: Go easy on the drinks here as it's not cheap and can quickly become a very expensive night out.
Skiable Area 100kms
Village Altitude 1800m
Highest Point 3573m
Vertical Descent 1773m
Terrain Parks Yes
Season Length July - April
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Alps’ Saas-Fee is a year-round ski resort in Europe. It's got as close to guaranteed snow conditions as you can get in winter, and sunny summer skiing on one of the largest glacier ski areas in the Alps.
The glacier village stands tall at 1800m and is surrounded by 13, yes 13 4000m + peaks! You won’t get tired of the views but you may get a sore neck from taking it all in.
Saas-Fee is the cliché picturesque town in the Swiss Alps. It has more of a traditional alpine village feel than the livelier Verbier and Zermatt resorts.
If you aren’t quite as fussed about spending every night in a bar till 2 am, Saas-Fee offers more of a laid-back vibe, although that doesn’t mean the option isn’t there if you do want to party the night away… you just have to do it in the soundproofed bars as there is a noise-limit rule after 10 pm.
Hands down one of our favourite spots for a true après drink. When the sun is shining the terrace is absolutely rammed, pumping music with weirdly frequent conga lines forming - get involved!
If you’re looking to party the night away and dance to your heart's content, Popcorn is the place to be.
What’s it like living in Switzerland?
In the heart of the European Alps, Switzerland is surrounded by some of the worlds most jaw-dropping scenery and most famous mountains including the unmistakable Matterhorn!
Switzerland has long been proud of its alpine environment and as such has kept large scale developments to a minimum meaning the natural beauty of the landscape remains intact even the busiest resort towns are often car-free, with a traditional swiss alpine town vibe.
If you don’t speak French, German or Italian don’t worry - thanks to a large number of English tourists and the Swiss’ attitude towards other cultures and languages you won’t have any problem communicating in English.
On a ski season in Switzerland, you will meet an eclectic mix of mountain veterans, professional ski bums, seasonnaires and everything in between.
Bonds are made stronger in the mountains and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll feel completely at home with your new life, surroundings and mates!
The friendships that you'll make on your season might be the same faces at your wedding ;) These connections will also open the doors to opportunities you could only have dreamed of before.
What’s it like working in Switzerland?
Unfortunately, you can’t spend every single minute riding the mountain (unless you land a job as an instructor - and then that’s what you get paid to do), partying or adventuring, you will have to earn some cash for your beer fund!
Switzerland is not well known for being cheap and the ski resorts are no exception. BUT - many job opportunities do come with great benefits such as staff meals and accommodation that help lighten the strain on your pocket.
Switzerland is more English speaking friendly than other parts of the alps and with the Swiss alps being a hot spot for British tourists there are plenty of English speaking job opportunities available on a Switzerland ski season.
Check out this employment guide for a list of the type of seasonal jobs you can find on a ski season in Switzerland. With jobs ranging from resort reps, chalet hosts, drivers, or hospitality staff there is something for everyone's skillset and experience.
Unlike in Canada or New Zealand, finding jobs on the mountain as a lifty or in hospitality isn’t very accessible unless you speak a second language. So, If you do want to spend every day on the slopes, there is only really one way to do it - become an instructor!
How to become a ski instructor in Switzerland
The 2 most popular routes to becoming a ski or snowboard instructor in Switzerland
- Sign up to an Instructor Training Course with expert training and a guaranteed job offer (like our Ski Instructor Internship Course).
- Sign up for an exam with a recognised body such as BASI and try it on your own.
Sign up with an instructor training organisation such as ourselves for an instructor internship. On the course, you will complete expert-led instructor training to dramatically improve your riding ability and give you the skills to ace the instructors exam.
On completion of the exam you will receive a guaranteed offer of employment from your chosen ski school and begin working as a fully qualified instructor in the Swiss alps!
After your first season, you'll be a certified ski instructor with a season instructing experience under your belt giving you the best platform for success in the snowsports industry.
If you're interested in becoming an instructor on your ski season in Switzerland See If You Qualify for an instructor course here.
Check out some more information on becoming an instructor with one of our partner ski schools in Switzerland Adrenaline Verbier.
Sign up to a ski instructor exam with an organisation such as BASI and hopefully pass! Once you are a fully qualified instructor you can begin applying for jobs. Most instructor jobs look for at least a level 2 qualification and some work experience which is a bit of a catch 22. The level 2 exam is HARD and it's difficult to pass without any formal ski instructor training.
Once you are certified the spray and pray method of job applications is the way to go, apply for as many jobs as you can find and fingers crossed someone will get back to you!
For employment opportunities check out these directories: