Planning your first ski trip to the Alps is exciting and loaded with ski travel
do's and don'ts. Do consider using the train system - it is incredibly efficient.
Don't over pack as you will be lugging your ski gear and luggage from plain to
train to gondola and tram. Here are some transportation and travel trips for
your ski trip to The Alps:
Traveling to Europe for your Ski Trip
Depending upon where in Switzerland,
Italy or Germany, you plan
to ski, your gateway cities will likely be Geneva, Zurich*, Munich, or Milan.
Our recent experiences traveling to Austria and Switzerland have proven public
transportation (trains and buses) to be so efficient that you do not need to
rent a car. In fact, we have really enjoyed using our Swiss Pass, no stress of
driving, and traveling in first class train car. Many ski villages are car-free as well, so once you arrive, everyone
uses ski lifts and buses exclusively. Additionally, car rentals in Europe are
considerably more expensive than the US, and driving directions and signage are
challenging at best. Tip: if you do decide to rent a car for you ski trip, be
sure to bring or rent a GPS and download appropriate European maps in advance
as they will prove invaluable.
We recommend the overnight flights from the US, you arrive early in the morning
to Zurich or Geneva and can be skiing by noon in the Alps.
*Zurich Airport Tip: Flying into Zurich, after you get your luggage, walk across
the airport and go down two sets of escalators to catch the 10 minute metro
train to Zurich Train Station - Zurich Bahn (they run about every 10 minutes).
From here you can catch all major train connections to outlying ski destination
across Switzerland and into Austria.
We have enjoyed the direct flight aboard Swiss Air to Zurich the
past two years. Its the only airline we could find that offers a direct flight
and we were able to use our United frequent flyer card to acquire mileage points
from these flights as they are allied partners.
Our our recent ski trips to Switzerland, we
purchase a Swiss Pass for unlimited train and bus service. While 1st
class is not necessary since all the trains are clean and prompt, the 1st class
upgrade is a nice luxury, these compartments are less crowded, with more room
for your luggage and to stretch out and enjoy the scenery. We found ski resorts
with direct train access, like St Anton,
Gstaad, Engelberg, and Jungfrau ski region
connections right into the ski village to be most convenient. Other ski resorts
are connected by train followed by bus service. We found this
Swiss Train Schedule
site immensely helpful in planning our ski trip using Swiss trains and
buses. Your Swiss Pass entitles you to free admission to 470 museums.
Money for your Ski Trip to the Alps
There is no need or benefit to exchange your money in advance or at the airport
(you will pay huge fees both at your local bank, your departing or arrival
airport). Once you are in your first town, train station or city, use an ATM in
Europe for the best exchange (do notify your US bank and credit card companies
of your travel in advance). Credit cards (MasterCard and Visa) are widely
accepted, although some amazing remote mountain chalets only take cash so be
sure to check and have some Swiss Francs. When your bill arrives and the server asks if you wish to pay in US
or Swiss Francs (or the Euro), opt to pay in the local currency for the best
Languages spoken in the Alps
Skiing in the Alps you will be exposed to several cultures and languages -
primarily French and German speaking,
however most people in tourist areas speak English and welcome Americans and
The English. The Swiss Alps for example are almost quadri lingual, some ski resorts
are German-Swiss like Zermatt, while Verbier is predominately French speaking.
Skiing in Zermatt, you can ski to
Cervinia Italy, order lunch in Italian and
return to speaking German at dinner back on the Swiss side. Gstaad is French on
the west side and German to the East. Make an effort to learn a few common
phrases, It's polite and
appreciated to use the basics - Bitte, Danke, Merci, Grazie!
Packing for a Ski Trip in the Alps
When traveling to the Alps for skiing, we highly recommend you travel as light
as possible, since you will be transporting your ski gear and luggage from
planes to trains to buses, and even taking trams to alpine villages that are
completely car free. See our ski packing
tips on the necessities. We always bring our own ski boots, for comfort and
performance reasons. You can rent skis or bring your own - depends on how much
you love your gear and how many ski
resorts you plan to visit. We recommend boot and ski bags with wheels, rolling
luggage through airports, train and bus stations takes some of the weight off
your shoulders - and allows you to make quick connections between trains that
are timed efficiently often within 5-15 minutes for swift travel.
Adaptors and Converters
You will need adaptors/converters (110-220v) for any US electronics, shavers,
blower dryers, boot dryers, etc., that you bring to Europe. Most laptops have
built in converters. Check with your ski hotel to see if they provide a ski boot
drying room (most do) and hair dryers to save having to pack these oversees,
then you don't have worry about blowing a fuse or appliance (says the ski writer
who melted her boot dryer sticks - but fortunately her ski boots were not
Glossary of Ski Terms in The Alps Piste - Ski Trail that is groomed| Off-Piste- Skiing out of bounds, side-country or backcountry
terrain that is not groomed or monitored Prepared - groomed slopes Cable Car - any ski lift that runs on cables, gondola, tram,
chairlift, even tbar Snow Cannon- Snowmaking guns Ski Sticks- ski poles Schnee, Neige - Snow in German an French Schuss - to ski Blue, Red, Black - Trail designation progression, like US
Green, Blue and Black Diamond rating Orange - extremely difficult off piste terrain, designated with
a dotted line