Zweisimmen / Saanenmöser / Schönried
15 (5 draglifts)
Total lift vert:
This ski resort next to Zweisimmen is actually part of the collection of resorts called "Gstaad Mountain Rides", but it's not connected to Gstaad at all, it has bases at Zweisimmen, Saanenmöser and Schönried. Zweisimmen therefore makes a good base as the base of the Rinderberg gondola is just a few minutes' walk from the town and its train station.
The resort has a friendly atmosphere, on the border between German-speaking and French-speaking areas, but don't come here expecting a lot of nightlife.
It is easy to combine a trip to Zweisimmen with the other "Gstaad" resorts such as Gstaad / Saanen, as they all share a ticket system.
For a zoomable, scrollable map of the areas, see this online map using Openstreetmap or Opencyclemap.
Zweisimmen is a major train junction with lines from Spiez and from Montreux. This is part of the panoramic train journey across the country, so the trains often have extra-large windows to help you enjoy the whole view. There is also a train line down to Lenk, so Zweisimmen's train station is quite out of proportion to the size of the town.
As already mentioned, the resort is named after Gstaad but that is a slow (but very scenic) half-hour train ride away. Beware that the ski tickets cover public transport, but only until 6:00 pm - after that, the enthusiastic ticket collectors will delight in charging you CHF 14 or upwards for any mistake you've made.
From Zürich by train, you probably need to change in Bern and/or Spiez, with a total time of around 2h20m to 2h40. The "Snow and Rail" ticket from Zürich (with a halbtax card) currently costs CHF 96 for a single day or CHF 143 for 2 days.
By car from Zürich, you can drive to Zweisimmen in somewhere between 2 hours and 2h30 (depending on traffic). It's all highway through Bern and Spiez but then becomes a narrow and very twisty valley road through villages. A day ticket for the lifts currently costs CHF 59 or double that for two days.
Rather than being at the end of a narrow, enclosed valley like some resorts, this one is spread out around the corner of a wide valley and offers open views in various directions. Most of the runs are blues and easy reds, with not much at all to challenge experts. But the pistes are wide, varied, and there is plenty of piste-side terrain to explore.
Most of the slopes here are north-facing or northeast-facing, which helps to keep the snow. There is certainly much more snow on this side of the valley than on the opposite side.
The area covered is fairly big, but some of the connections can be awkward - for example, getting from the Sankt Stephan side back to Zweisimmen requires getting up to Parwengesattel, taking the lift C4 from Chaltebrunne up to Saanerslochgrat, and then from Oeschseite making it to the lift B6 to get back up to Bülti. Plan ahead if you need to make it back before the lifts close. Also, getting to the blue run 27 from Hühnerspiel needs not one drag lift but two, from the top of the Hornberg chairlift you need the fairly steep drag C8 and then get across to the next drag C9, cunningly hidden behind the restaurant.
Above all, it's an interestingly-shaped mountain with surprising ridges and changes of scenery. A lot of the runs lend themselves to relaxed cruising with rollers and sweeping corners. There are some half-hearted obstacles in a couple of small fun parks, but they're mostly just plastic slider ramps rather than snow ramps. For those you just have to keep your eyes open on the sides of the pistes.
The home run down to Zweisimmen is looooong if you take the blue from the top of the gondola. It's pretty straight too, so you get great views down to the valley all the way.
On a day with compacted snow, there's almost no scooting necessary anywhere here as long as you keep your speed up. With fresh snow, however, things get a little slower and you may end up scooting on the blues down to Schönried or on sections of blue 13 down to Oeschseite. Also the short run to lift C9 can get sticky.
As far as draglifts go, there are only three main ones and they're all avoidable. You need the T-bar C8 if you want to come round the back of the Hornflüh, but apart from being a little steep it's fine. The T-bar C10 and the button lift C9 are both very straightforward.
6 March 2010 - Beautiful fresh snow on top of an already good base. The sun is out but it remains cold, keeping the snow in good condition. Only a few small patches of ice to avoid. Everything is open except the home run to St Stephan. Blue run number 14 from Eggweid to Oeschseite doesn't seem to exist any more though.
The home page for the whole "Gstaad" resort is at gstaad.ch. To get to the piste map you have to go to "Cable cars", then "Calendar and Tickets", then "Winter prices", and then "view larger map" (why make it easy?) - or you can try your luck with this direct jpeg link which no doubt will change soon. Snow'n'Rail details are at railaway.ch. The resort of Gstaad / Saanen is part of the same collection of resorts and about 30 minutes away by train or car.
For hiking in the nearby area, see the Alpine Pass Route which comes south of here through Adelboden, Lenk and Lauenen.