The wheels are standing still: 10 car-free winter sports resorts

10/27/2017 - Brandi Gulick

Here, you put on your skis, but your car stays where it is. We’ve picked out 10 winter sports resorts that guarantee a holiday completely free of engine noise and exhaust gases.

Car-free ski resorts have found ways for their guests to arrive and move about in the resort without polluting the environment. Particularly in Switzerland, there are several destinations that count on gentle mobility. 9 of them teamed up for the association of car-free tourist resorts in Switzerland (Gemeinschaft autofreier Schweizer Tourismusorte, short: “GaST”) – Braunwald, Rigi-Kaltbad, Stoos, Wengen, Mürren, Bettmeralp, Riederalp, Saas-Fee, und Zermatt. However, there are also mountain villages in France and Austria without any cars on the streets.

Zermatt (Switzerland)

Located right at the foot of Matterhorn is Zermatt. The resort has always been a meeting point for Alpinists, whether in summer or winter, when the ski area attracts winter sports fans with 360 km of piste. Mountaineers, skiers and tourists wanting to experience the fascination of the pyramid-shaped peak stroll about the streets. However, you’ll be looking for cars in vain. Zermatt has been car-free since 1961. Only electromobiles without a combustion engine, electric buses and horse-drawn carriages run here. The Zermatt electromobile is fabricated uniquely in resort. Holidaymakers can only drive up to Täsch and then leave their car in the local car park. From here, Zermatt can only be reached by Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn shuttle trains.

Saas-Fee (Switzerland)

Saas-Fee has been car-free since 1951. Situated at the foot of Dom mountain (4,545 m) and surrounded by the Mischabel mountain range with 13 4,000-m-peaks, the resort is also called “The Pearl of the Alps“. The pearl’s beauty is worth preserving, which is why a lot of effort is made when it comes to sustainability. This is not only managed by banning cars. The village derives 100% clean “Natural Energy” from Valais waterpower and wants to become the first fine particle-free municipality in the European Alps. Winter sports fans who want to let off steam on the 100 km of piste in Saas-Fee are picked up at the parking space below the village, and taken to their accommodation in electrotaxis.

The “Allalino,“ the electric tram of Saas-Fee.

Serfaus (Austria)

In 1970, Serfaus decided that the road through the valley had to be blocked for individual transport so that ski busses and private cars on their way to the mountain railway would not have to wind through the village. The solution to the traffic problems followed in 1985: a hovertrain that runs through a tunnel below the village’s main street. To this day, this hovertrain is the highest located in the world.  With two stations in the valley, it connects the parking space at the valley-side edge of the village and the valley station of the mountain railway that takes winter sports fans to the Kompardell ski area (212 km of piste). Tourists can only drive up to the hotel with their cars.

Wengen (Switzerland)

The location is a dream for alpinists: At the foot of the big three – Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau – lies Wengen, a traditional mountain village and ideal starting point for winter sports fans ready to explore the “Jungfrau” ski region with its 214 km of piste. Wengen is well-known mostly because of the renowned Lauberhorn World Cup race. However, Wengen cannot be reached by car, as those have to be parked in the car park in Lauterbrunnen. From here, the Wengernalpbahn lift – the longest, end-to-end cog railway in Switzerland – takes you up to Wengen. The railway also connects Wengen with Kleine Scheidegg and Grindelwald.

Oberlech (Austria)

The hotel village Oberlech is located on the so called sun terrace of Arlberg, in the heart of the Lech Zürs ski area with 190 km of piste. In winter, when the private street to the village is blocked, Oberlech is only accessible via the piste of with the mountain railway from Lech. Supply of the hotels is guaranteed by a tunnel system which is unique in its construction. The mountain railway operates from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., which means that you do not have to worry about how to get back to your accommodation after checking out the exclusive bars in Lech in the evening. Valmorel (France)

Valmorel (France)

With its chalets of wood and stone, Valmorel is modelled after original mountain villages. The apartment residences are arranged around the heart of the resort, which is car-free. Like this, the centre with its picturesquely painted houses, winding alleys and archways has its very own, homely charm. In France, Valmorel also goes by the nickname “la Belle” (the beautiful one). Holidaymakers have direct access to the “Grand Domain” ski area (153 km of piste) from most accommodations.

Mürren (Switzerland)

Two car-free mountain villages can be found one above the other at the foot of Schilthorn. Located directly at the highest ski area (53 km of pistes) in Bernese Oberland is Mürren, a traditional Walser mountain village and the highest, constantly habited village settlement in the canton of Bern. Mürren cannot be reached by car. Alternatively, travellers can choose between two different options: the mountain railway starting in Lauterbrunnen, or the Schilthornbahn lift from Stechelberg. Those taking the Schilthornbahn lift can take a break halfway to Mürren and visit Grimmelwald, another small mountain village that’s also car-free.

Dreamy view of into the village of Mürren.

Bettmeralp, Rieseralp and Fiescheralp (Switzerland)

1 ski area, 3 villages, 3 car bans: In the heart of Aletsch Arena with 104 km of piste are the villages Bettmeralp, Riederalp and Fiescheralp. Holidaymakers will look in vain for cars out on the villages’ streets. Instead, motorised sledges and snowcats are the only vehicles driving here. The resorts can be accessed via mountain railways: From Betten, you can get to Bettmeralp, from Morel to Riederalp, and from Fiesch to Fiescheralp. The ski area is known to be especially attractive. After all, from Bettmerhorn, Eggishorn and Moosfluh winter sports fans can enjoy a wonderful view of the longest glacier in the Alps.

Braunwald (Switzerland)

In Braunwald, you spend your holidays “high above daily routine”, as the resort’s slogan advertises. Holidaymakers are accommodated on a high plateau above Linthal, and leave not only their everyday life behind, but also their car. The resort can be reached from Linthal with the Braunwald funicular railway in a 7 minute journey. A parking space can be found at the valley station. The family-friendly ski area in Glarnerland offers 32 km of piste.

Werfenweng (Austria)

Gentle mobility (“Sanfte Mobilität”, short: SAMO) is a concept that Werfenweng in Salzburger Land has been invested in since 1997. Since then, the village models for the pilot project concerning eco-friendly travelling. Its goal: motivating holidaymakers to leave their car behind for a while – or maybe even leave it at home altogether. There is no driving ban in Werfenweng, but a lot of incentives to move about without driving voluntarily: a free shuttle from and to the train station in Bischofshofen, a free resort taxi called “ELOIS”, a night mobile, a free journey to Salzburg and the use of the local “grasshoppers” (biogas-fuelled cars) or “Smile-E’s” (electric cars). And during the day, no car is needed anyways, as you spend your time on skis in the Ski-Board-Arena Werfenweng with 25 km of piste.

  • Friday, 27. October 2017
  • author: Brandi Gulick
  • category: Top 10
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