Swiss Miss

Moooo

Did you know winter tourism originated in Switzerland exactly 150 years ago? Back then, a Swiss hotelier named Badrutt made a bet with his summer guests. He promised them a dry climate, brilliant snow and sunny days if they returned in winter. If they didn’t find themselves tanned and relaxed at the end of their stay, he’d foot their entire trip. Several families took Mr. Badrutt up on his offer and the rest is history. The English flocked to Switzerland in winter, Swiss guides ventured into North America, and they started many of our ski hills in Canada in the US.

Titlis engelberg brunni

So much sunshine you don’t have to wear your ski jacket on the patio.

I just returned from a week in Switzerland experiencing for myself these winter activities that so captivated those early tourists. Here’s a look at what I got up to.

Engelberg: Town of Angels

We began our journey in Engelberg, a sweet mountain town in central Switzerland. Engel means angel in German and you’ll spot several angel monuments and knick knacks around town. (I didn’t make the connection at first and thought the citizens were slackers who hadn’t put away their holiday decorations yet.) You can do so many winter activities here from snowshoeing to electric snowmobiling to sledding, it’s not just about skiing on Titlis. And there’s plenty to do at Mt. Titlis in summer, too. My favourite anytime of year, is the walk across Europe’s highest suspension bridge. Slightly scary, but the views are spectacular.

Suspension bridge in alps

Did I mention I hate suspension bridges?

Carnival in Lucerne

Next, we trained it to Lucerne, to take part in their annual Carnival. Lucerne Carnival kicks off with a bang at 5 a.m. sharp and throngs of locals make their way to the Chapel Square, as do dozens of marching bands. Everyone is dressed up in full costumes and shredded phone books turned into confetti rain down on the crowd of thousands.

Lucerne carnival

All this at 4 a.m.

Here’s a shot of Lucerne before the Carnival madness. This is a city of bridges and it is laced with lovely medieval squares and a historic city center. (There are also a lot of confectionary shops, which is why I came home with 6 pounds of chocolate bars.) Even if you’re in Switzerland for a short time, you’ll want to do a day trip to Lucerne.

covered bridge

Lucerne is one of the prettiest cities in Switzerland.

Hobnobbing in St. Moritz

You know you’re in a surreal landscape when you stop counting those wearing full length furs, because it’s more striking the odd gal who isn’t wearing one. Yes, friends, I made it to St. Moritz. Ever since I watched the mini-series Lace in the 80s, I’d fantasized about mingling with the jet set in the alps.

jet set winter

So much fur!

Our purpose in St. Moritz was to check out the White Turf horse races. The race takes place on this frozen lake, that I just happened to have a great view of from my room at the swish Klum Hotel.

St. Moritz winter

Yep, that’s a race track.

White Turf is one of those events that’s on the circuit, if you’re a gazillionaire. Lots of champagne tents, sponsors and old money swanning about with their non-hat-head hair and gorgeously groomed dogs.

White turf tent

As you can see, important research was conducted in the Laurent Perrier tent.

The bob run in St. Moritz

Surprisingly, bobsledding is full on in St. Moritz. Visitors can go on the real course complete with G-forces and all. I thought I would die! My heart was in my throat the whole time – especially when I was introduced to our pilot. This guy looked like your quintessential European playboy: good looking, incredibly charming, impeccable manners. You can see how thrilled I am when we met. You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.

Bob sled St. Moritz

What a rush!

And I made sure we got a cute couple shot at the end of the ride.

Bobsledding run

Who needs Botox when you can gather G forces down the bob run?

Naturally, I ate my weight in cheese (and chocolate) the entire trip. Besides dunking cubes of bread and boiled potatoes into the cheese fondue, we also speared apple and pineapple. Gotta say pineapple and melted cheese is not a pairing I’d recommend, but the apple was a refreshing alternative to all the carbs. Not that I cared what I ate this trip.

 Fondue ghluwein

Pro tip: Don’t come here if you’re on a cleanse.

I returned home jeans much tighter, heart a little lighter. Europeans really know how to enjoy life. The week was a true tonic and covered such a wide range of activities, I didn’t for once wish I was at tropical resort. Because Switzerland is actually a sun destination, just without the beaches. Still if you’re headed there in winter, you’ll want to make sure you pack the right gear. For that, check out this packing list for Europe in winter

Do you go for winter holidays (in snowy destinations)? What’s your favourite spot or activity?

Thank you to Switzerland Tourism for inviting me to explore this winter wonderland. It was one of those magical, unforgettable trips.