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Sport and Fitness

Switzerland - Sport and Fitness

Switzerland is a paradise for lovers of outdoor sports. If you like high altitude activities, Switzerland has more peaks over 4,000m than any other country in Europe, attracting snow sports enthusiasts from around the world. There are an estimated 48,300km of marked hiking and walking trails in Switzerland to suit all levels of fitness, as well as challenging mountain climbing opportunities for experienced climbers. Paragliding is another popular summer mountain activity.

Even away from the playground of the Alps, the Swiss enjoy an outdoors lifestyle. Nordic walking is popular in this part of Europe and involves a specific walking style using poles, to increase fitness. Runners can participate in various marathons, half-marathons and fun runs. Tennis is another popular recreational and competitive sport. Additionally, fencing and cycling are two sports in which the Swiss have had notable success. There are a number of martial arts clubs for children and adults in most parts of Switzerland. Motorsport was banned for a number of decades in Switzerland but is once again permitted and is likely to evolve into a more widespread activity the future.

'Wellness' is a word you will hear a lot in Switzerland and involves a range of fitness and pampering activities, frequently at a spa or leisure complex, all designed to enhance physical and mental wellbeing. You will have no trouble finding gyms that offer a variety of equipment and classes, including yoga, pilates, kickboxing, zumba, and spinning. If you don't speak the local language you should still be able to follow along with most types of workout but do let the instructor know. Costs can vary considerably and in some cases your health insurance may entitle you to discounted membership at certain gyms. Some employers will also subsidise gym membership. Subscriptions are normally annual with a joining fee and cancellation is difficult. Selected gyms offer a creche (daycare) but this is not universal. Popular gyms can be overcrowded at peak hours (e.g. 5-7pm).

Golf is not as popular with the Swiss as it is in countries such as the US and UK, and where it is played it is taken very seriously. You cannot in most cases play on a Swiss golf course without a handicap certificate, also referred to as a green card (Platzreife). You can obtain a Swiss handicap certificate by undertaking a theoretical and a practical test. You may first need to pay for golf training in order to reach the necessary standard of control over the ball, in addition to an understanding of golf rules and etiquette. Note that there can be a waiting list for courses. You normally have to pay membership to join a club but can play on Migros golf courses without needing to join.

The best courses in Switzerland are considered to be Domaine Impérial which is 20km from Geneva and was designed by Peter Dye, and the Golf Club de Genève course designed by Robert Trent Jones. Switzerland's longest golf course, as well as one of its best, is found at Golf Club Wylihof, to the north of Bern. Zurich-Zumikon is described as one of Switzerland's top private clubs.

Swiss mountain resorts are famous for the skiing and snowboarding possibilities they offer and you can even find glacier skiing in summer on the Matterhorn glacier. Snowboarders have a choice of slopes for downhill and parks for freestyle riding. With resorts throughout the Swiss Alps practically all skill levels are catered for. Different resorts also attract different types of people, although few are budget-friendly. With a few exceptions, resorts are grouped into areas and even when staying at one resort you will be able to buy a lift pass that covers the area as a whole.

Zermatt and Saas Fee, both in the south near the Italian border, offer the highest altitude skiing but are somewhat cut off. Both have incredible views and offer year-round glacier skiing and Zermatt in particular has an extensive network of pistes. Klosters has become famous for being the resort of choice for royalty and, along with nearby Davos, offers excellent skiing opportunities as well as having lively nightlife. For traditional charm and a huge skiing area, head for Champéry with its impressive number and variety of green, blue, red and black runs. Nendaz is recommended for families, although is also excellent for intermediate and expert skiers, and is part of the Four Valleys skiing area which is the largest in Switzerland. Also in this area, Verbier is ideal for experts but has plenty of less challenging runs too.

Snowboarders have their pick of word-class ski resorts for freeriding but for parks and halfpipes head to the Laax, Davos and St Moritz area in the south-east, or Saas Fee in the south-west.

Living in Switzerland will give you the advantage of being able to buy annual or season passes, offering a much more affordable way to access the slopes on a regular basis.

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