The snow is falling on the Swiss Alps, in abundance in many areas. The view from the valleys to the summits is glorious, and dreams of beautiful curves carved through this new powder take form. For those lucky enough to have the time to exploit this beauty there is the Magic Pass, a season pass to 52 ski areas in five Swiss cantons and an edge of France.
Want to ski with a Magic Pass? The application date for this season is December 12, so action needs to be taken quickly. Here are seven reasons to invest in a Magic Pass now.
Note: The Magic Pass is an annual pass, giving access to lifts summer and winter. It starts the first day of May and ends on the last day of April.
1. Big Savings
The Magic Pass costs €729 for an adult and €329 for a child, which means that even if you only use it for skiing this winter, you’ll break even at just over 10 days of skiing — easy for an avid skier.
If used for the year it opens up tremendous possibilities for hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, and climbing/mountaineering.
Pro Tip: The following focuses primarily on skiing possibilities, but for those interested in a visit to the Alps next year, be attentive to the website for the annual pass opening in Spring.
2. Tremendous Diversity
The diversity offered by the pass is tremendous, and the area involved is great enough that some thought of organization is helpful. In the following sections I will provide advice on target areas to use as central hubs to exploit this diversity. I will give advice on best areas for families who may be looking for friendly smaller areas, expert skiers looking for significant challenges, and everything between.
3. Your Choice Of The Perfect Ski Hub
The choice of a hub can be made depending on whether you prefer staying in a particular ski area or choosing a more urban center for possible exploration of multiple ski areas. The choice of a specific resort may depend upon the following sections, so here I will give some advice for setting up in central, more urban, areas, with possibilities that go beyond skiing, but allow links to multiple areas as described by canton here.
The main Swiss cantons (Swiss equivalent of states) concerned are
Each of these has beautiful central cities that may be of interest. For the Valais, there is Sion; for Vaud, Lausanne; for Fribourg, the city of Fribourg; for Bern the Swiss capital city of Bern; and for Neuchatel, the city of Neuchatel. Any and all of these cities are very worth your visits and your time and will be relatively close to the respective ski areas of their canton.
Pro Tip: The public transport in Switzerland is excellent. The trains will take you everywhere on time. For information in English about specific train links look here. Car rental is, of course, very possible, but for less frequent use of a car, it may be worth looking into the Swiss Mobility plan.
4. Small, Family-Friendly Areas
All of the areas listed in the canton of Bern are small, friendly, family-style ski areas in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. They will have tremendous views and a wonderful atmosphere. These small areas promise an excellent and authentic Swiss experience, especially for families. They are not far from areas such as Grindelwald, Wengen, and Murren, which are very big and famous but that are not a part of the Magic Pass.
A good hub for the ski areas in the canton of Bern could be the city of Bern, or the cities of Thun or Interlaken. It is be interesting to know that the city of Thun is directly linked to the canton of Vaud, and its ski areas, with connection in the city of Montreux via the fantastic MOB Panoramic Express train.
The included areas in the canton of Fribourg and Neuchatel are also small, friendly, and family-style. A good hub for them could be the cities of Fribourg, Bulle, or Neuchatel.
The one resort in France linked to this pass is Métabief, in the French Jura, just over the border from Switzerland. It is a friendly and authentic resort, and not far from the Swiss resorts around Neuchatel.
5. Slopes For Experts
The canton of Valais in Switzerland includes most of the country’s biggest mountains. The descents can be long and it is not difficult to find steep terrain. All of these resorts are worth exploring. The views will be exceptional. See the Matterhorn and other majestic mountains, with valley after valley of very steep slopes, culminating above Saas-Fee, in the highest revolving restaurant in the world, the Mittelalallin Restaurant, at 3500 meters (just under 11,500 feet).
The canton of Vaud has interesting challenges for expert skiers as well. Glacier 3000, which links to Diablerets and Villars, provides excellent possibilities for the steep and deep. Leysin is facing the Diablerets complex, and is close and connected by a cog railway link. In these resorts, you can enjoy magnificent views of Lake Geneva on the west, Mont Blanc to the south, and the long chain of the Alps to the east while testing your skiing skills on a wide variety of slopes.
It is important to note that none of these resorts will have exclusively expert terrain. There is always a broad choice for all levels, and there are lots of activities that do not involve skiing, as well. The beauty of the region is worth seeing and enjoying for everyone.
Pro Tip: Remember that much of this skiing will be at relatively high altitude. Do not be surprised that it requires more of an effort, and more time for rest is required.
6. A Choice For Variety
Switzerland, and particularly the area covered by the Magic Pass, is relatively small. An ambitious skier could try to hit all, or nearly all, of these areas in a season. A good hub for that could be the city of Lausanne, or some smaller villages such as Aigle, Bulle, Monthey, or Martigny.
Some of the smaller resort towns in the canton of Vaud, such as Leysin and Villars, will have skiing possibilities for all levels — and also relatively quick train access in all directions to the other areas.
Pro Tip: Off Piste, out-of-bounds skiing may be permitted in many of the areas mentioned, but must be done with up-to-date snow information, proper equipment, and great care and is best done with a local mountain guide.
7. Year-Round Enjoyment
Plan ahead for a year in the Alps. Keep an eye on the website for 2023-24 dates and pay attention to the options that go beyond the basic Magic Pass. This is a wonderful way to make the most of slow, authentic, travel in the Alps.