There are, to our knowledge, just two winter sports areas directly linked by scheduled train services from the plateau: the S-2 from Zurich to Unterterzen for the Flumserberg area; and the the Lötschberg train from Bern to Zweisimmen, gateway to the White Highland of the Gstaad Mountain Rides. The latter is an hourly service running seven days a week in both directions, the first one offering carefree access on weekends only (morning up, afternoon and early evening back). The lower stations of both gondolas are within three minutes' walk and at Zweisimmen, so you can almost ski (or toboggan) back to the station platform.
There's a good service to Engelberg, linked from Lucerne by the Zentralbahn. Here a free shuttle bus whisks passengers to the bottom station of the Mount Titlis area. The same applies to clients alighting at Airolo in the upper Ticino at the southern entrance to the Gotthard rail tunnel (served directly from Basel, Olten, Lucerne and Zug/Zurich, as well as from Locarno and Bellinzona) to the little known but excellent Pesclüm skiing area (from 1200 to 2240m).
For single changes of types of transport and no walking to the lifts go to the Lauchernalp in the Lötschen Valley area, peaking at 3111m on Hockenhorngrat (change from the hourly Lötschberger service from Bern and Brig at Goppenstein and continue by yellow post bus to Wiler). Another area is Belalp high above Brig (top lift 3112m), with regular Intercity and Inter Regio trains from the Bassin Lémanique, as well as Bern to Brig and then on by post bus directly to the new 8-seater gondola opening just before this Christmas.
In Graubünden, the Klosters-Gotschnagrat cable car leaves just opposite the Rhätische Bahn station involving only one change at Landquart, gateway from both the Zurich and St. Gallen areas to the eastern parts of this mountainous canton.
A more original idea is to take a Lake Lucerne boat for Vitznau at 09:12 or 10:12 and then the rack-and-pinion railway to Mount Rigi, where there is easy skiing and many other kinds of snow sports activities with lots of sunshine and breathtaking views. However you will have to take the train down from Kaltbad to Vitznau as there is no slope. Klewenalp-Stockhütte high up above Lake Lucerne can also be reached by travelling over water and avoiding traffic jams. Just step off the boat at Beckenried and take a short walk to the cable car.
All these suggestions are detailed on the Railaway Website. Railaway offers 20% discounts on public transport (in addition to your half-fare card), to and back from the bottom stations of the winter sports resorts and a reduced day pass (in some cases also two and six day ones). There is a handy brochure available at all manned railway stations throughout the country. In addition, when buying a Railaway package you receive a 15% discount off renting winter sports equipment at all 120 Intersport Shops throughout Switzerland, making outings into the Alps as carefree and affordable as possible.
Photo: © swiss-image.ch/Peter Fuchs