9 top ideas for ski-shy folks Depart from the mainstream

They say it's a rare breed of locals in the Romandie who eschew ‘the ski'. So just what can you do here in winter if you don't ski or snowboard? Writer P.K. Read investigates the options.

If you're not strapping on a pair of skis, then there are countless fun and exciting winter activities that won't involve you being stranded at a café at the bottom of the ski run and stuck behind a book as you sip on hot chocolate all day. (Not that there's anything wrong with that anyway!)

1. Go on a winter hike with snowshoes

One of the very best ways to get outdoors in winter is also one of the easiest to do: Snowshoeing. Most ski resorts have marked trails, and snowshoes can be rented at local ski shops. Some excellent guided tours, for example of the UNESCO heritage site Aletsch Glacier in canton Valais, can be found at Mont Blanc Experience. Guided tours are also offered in the Toggenburg valley near Zurich and many other destinations.


2. Savour the view

The Salève plateau, known as the Balcony of Geneva, offers extraordinary panoramic views of the area in winter. There's a cable car on the weekends, but why not hike up instead? Free guided hikes on the Salève are offered all year round every Sunday by the Association Genevoise des Amis du Salève (AGAS).


3. Learn curling

What could be more Swiss than curling, one of the newest Olympic sports? The Geneva Curling Center in Thônex offers introductory classes beginning in September, Thursday to Saturday evenings.


4. Relax in an outdoor thermal spa

Spas with outdoor thermal pools are one of the best ways to enjoy panoramic views. Family and friends who've been skiing can join you there when they get off the slopes. For example, there's Leukerbad, in Valais, with 30 different thermal baths from which to choose.


5. Go eskimo and sleep in an igloo

Make an igloo. Feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with building your own house in a single day, and learn a few snow survival skills in the process. Group classes are available in Geneva.
You can also spend an exciting night in the mountains in one of Switzerland's igloo-villages (some of them even have a whirlpool!).


6. Drive a dog pulled sled

If building an igloo seems too tame, why not learn to drive a dog sled? The Vallée Verte area also boasts lessons in dog sledding.


7. Brr…a winter swim!!!

A genuine local winter activity that is not for the faint of heart is training for winter swimming in Lake Geneva. Starting in October, intrepid swimmers meet on Sundays at 10 am at the Rotonde des Bains-des-Pâquis to prepare for the Coupe de Noël in December. Warm up afterwards in the saunas at the Bain-des-Pâquis, which are open all winter.


8. Visit a glacier

Visit a glacier and experience these beautiful and disappearing wonders. Make your own list and see how many you can view this season. For a list of many of Switzerland's 122 glaciers and guided tours, have a look here.


9. Learn animal tracking

Find out what all those prints in the snow mean, and about the animals that share the mountains and forests with us. Learn animal tracking in the snow! Courses available at La Libellule in Geneva.

And, when all else fails, put on your mittens, grab a few friends, head to the nearest park and start an epic snowball fight!


Photos: 1st and 2nd: © swiss-image.ch/Christian Perret; 3rd: © swiss-image.ch/Leuerkbad Tourismus, 4th: © swiss-image.ch/Christian Perret; 5th: © swiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger

Author: P.K. Read

P.K. Read is a French-American writer. She lives in eastern France, writing short stories, novels and non-fiction. Visit her blog at champagnewhisky.com.

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