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How to Have Fun in the Alps Without Skis

Swap the high life for high adrenaline in Gstaad, the capital of Switzerland's Berner Oberland.

Winter activities in Gstaad


Hop into the co-pilot seat of a snowcat for an evening’s work on the slopes as an apprentice piste-basher. After a primer from your experienced driver, you’ll set out in one of the hulking PistenBullies, the 10-tonne beasts that keep the Swiss ski resort impeccably groomed. As the pilot shovels and rolls the runs clean keep an eye on the Bully’s dash, where satellite-measured snow depth is displayed on a topographical map. You’ll leave with a diploma and a model PistenBully for your efforts, plus a newfound appreciation for good grooming.

Destination Gstaad AG, 41-33-748-87-37,

Winter biking

Gear up for the Snow Bike Festival (January 19 to 22) with a practice run on a fatbike, whose double-wide tires are designed to stay on top of the snow. Bike access is permitted on most walking trails, but none beat the downhill course from the Sparenmoos moorland. Call ahead to pick up a rental (or organize a private lesson) outside the Berghotel Sparenmoos’ buvette at 1,639 metres; then follow the flags marking the steep runs to Zweisimmen, nearly 700 vertical metres down. Save the fresh powder for skiing and go on a clear day; hardpack is the fatbiker’s best friend.

Berghotel Sparenmoos, 41-79-244-69-41,


Leave the iconic wooden sledges in your wake as you guide an airboard down Gstaad’s toboggan runs: This inflatable Swiss invention can reach speeds of over 100 kilometres an hour. Alpinzentrum’s guided expedition departs from the Rellerli mountain lodge on snowshoe. Once you’ve summited, take in the epic Alpine vistas before diving into a 600-vertical-metre, 3.5-kilometre-long descent to the village below. The whole journey takes about four hours, and by the time you’ve hit the steepest section, you’ll have the hang of steering. But no matter; airboards make excellent air bags too.

Alpinzentrum Gstaad AG, 41-33-744-10-44,



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