Best wheelchair-friendly experiences to try in cold weather – skiing, thermal spas, Christmas markets and much more

Temperatures are dropping, and the leaves have fallen off the trees. Winter is coming, but don’t let it keep you bored! Delighting in the snow-covered Alps, relishing delicious treats at charming Christmas markets, or having a blast in world-class ski resorts – in magical Switzerland, everyone can find entertainment to their liking. Take advantage of winter vibes with the activities from our bucket list.

1. Discover top-notch skiing

Switzerland is famed for its top-rated ski resorts, and everyone is welcomed on the marvellous mountain pistes! The most popular sit-ski courses for wheelchair users are offered by Wheelchair Sport Switzerland at the Sörenberg resort (LU), by Handiconcept in the Vaud Alps, and by ActiveMotion all over Switzerland. You can also take a look at the Summit school in Zermatt (VS), Saas-Fee (VS) or other centres from this list. Here you can read more about seated skiing, equipment rental and accessible hotels in winter sport areas.

A young man in a monoski and a ski instructor from Wheelchair Sport Switzerland stand above a ski slope.

Sit-skiing is a classic adapted winter sport activity. However, it takes some practice to control the monoski properly, so a course is recommended.

Heights scare you more than inspire? Then cross-country skiing is a better idea! You can rent adapted sledges from ActiveMotion or Handiconcept, or order individually adjusted equipment from Orthotec. Next, choose a trail you’re familiar with, ideally the one with a parking slot in the beginning, so that you can leave your car and set off right from there. If you want to first try cross-country skiing with instruction, Swiss Paraplegics Association (SPA) offers various courses this winter – even with biathlon!

A ski instructor and a man behind him ride their cross-country sleds through a snow-covered mountain landscape.

Cross-country skiing is strenuous and beautiful. Here, again, a first-time instructor is not a wrong choice.

A man in a cross-country sled rests his rifle on a wooden box to aim at the biathlon targets.

In biathlon, cross-country skiing is supplemented by shooting.

2. Try adaptive ice skating

Wheelchair-users can enjoy ice-skating with no doubt thanks to an ice glider device – with an assistant, or independently by using a pair of sticks. More than 80 artificial ice rinks in Switzerland offer ice gliders, with more to come. You can find the nearest on this interactive map.

Leeroy tried to navigate on an ice rink with and without an ice glider – look at his pirouettes! (in German)

3. Hit & roll the curling stone

Curling is great: playing in a team brings the fun of socialising, while also building upper body strength and boosting your coordination. It is particularly well-suited for wheelchair users, and doesn’t require a lot of specialised equipment except a delivery stick. Switzerland is actually the birthplace of wheelchair curling, and this is another reason to try it here! You can do it in one of the Swiss curling clubs listed here.

A laughing young man in a wheelchair on a curling track, next to him two pedestrians and in the background other people in wheelchairs.

Wheelchair curling combines physical training with fun and sociability.

4. Go on a dog sledge ride

Dogs will be happy to run with you on a sled that glides through snow-covered wilderness! You’ll only have to snuggle up in warm clothes and enjoy the ride. Of course, you’ll have the possibility to stop along the route to enjoy the panorama and to cuddle with cute huskies! A tour designed with disability in mind is offered at the mountain resort in Verbier (VS).

Eleven dogs pull a sledge with three people along a cross-country ski trail.

Riding through the winter landscape in a dog sled – how much more nature can you have?

Taina from Finland got paralyzed after an accident when training her sled dogs – but this doesn't stop her from getting on snow with them again.

5. Go on a Ziesel tour

If you prefer to drive through the snow at full speed on your own, you might like the Ziesel. The tracked vehicle is very quiet and has an eco-friendly electric drive. It is controlled via joystick and after a short introduction you have the vehicle well under control.

Tours are offered on the Hoch-Ybrig (SZ) and in the German Black Forest. The SPA also organises two tours again this winter: one on January 28 and one on February 25, 2023. Read the enthusiastic experience report (in German) by our community user Raffi – with important tips for quadriplegics and this video.

Several people in their Ziesel vehicles drive out of a forest down a ski slope.

The Ziesel can drive up to 30 km/h and slopes of 60 %.

6. Enjoy the atmosphere of Christmas markets

The charm of winter fairs is what we miss during warmer times. The magic is now just around the corner! Raclette, tiny wooden chalets and the smell of fresh pine – the Basel Christmas market is considered to be one of the prettiest and the largest in Switzerland. This year it will open the doors from 24 November to 23 December; don’t miss the vibe of mulled wine and cinnamon cookies!

Another fairy-tale Christmas market in Montreux (VD) is famous for hosting Santa Claus flying in his sleigh over Lake Geneva. This winter fair will be welcoming guests from 18 November to 24 December.

View over the Basel Christmas Market at Barfüsserplatz at night.

The Basel Christmas Market at Barfüsserplatz.

7. Relax in thermal baths

Nothing can beat an experience of relaxation in hot water outdoors while snowflakes fall on your face. This can be enjoyed at the Mineralbad & Spa Rigi Kaltbad (LU), which overlooks Lake Lucerne from the mountain Rigi. The resort is adapted to wheelchair users' needs.

You can also dive into mineral water at the wheelchair-friendly Bogn Engiadina at Scuol (GR) wellness complex in the midst of the picturesque Lower Engadin mountains. To warm you up, they offer an accessible sauna experience.

If you want to feel the Mediterranean vibes, take a look at Termali Salini & Spa (TI) on Lake Locarno. Their natural saltwater baths with the stunning lake views and mountain panorama are also barrier-free.

The short promotional video shows how accessibility is ensured at the Bogn Engiadina wellness resort.

8. Swiss scenic trains

Panoramic trains are the best to explore the natural sights of Switzerland without freezing outside! The Bernina Express offers breathtaking views as it passes by glaciers in icy Switzerland on the way to palm trees in sunny Italy. The route from Chur to Tirano (Italy) or vice versa takes 4 to 4.5 hours to complete. The train has space for wheelchairs, as well as disability-friendly bathrooms, and you would need to contact customer support to book the ticket in advance.

The Glacier Express running between Zermatt and St. Moritz also competes for the title of the most scenic Alpine train. The full route through a snowy wonderland takes 7.5 hours. This train also has a wheelchair compartment and an accessible toilet in the 1st class. Tickets are best booked by contacting their call centre directly. Overnight stay in either Zermatt or St. Moritz is highly recommended, so you can look for a perfect wheelchair-friendly hotel here.

Glacier Express entering a tunnel in a stunning winter landscape.

The Glacier Express is one of the most spectacular experiences in Switzerland.

9. Enjoy fondue high above the mountains

Fondue is a Swiss must-eat during winter, so why not having it onboard in a cosy cable car? Imagine floating over mountain Pilatus while dipping bread into melting cheese – unbeatable experience! Gondola ride from Kriens to Fräkmüntegg and back with a 45-minute cheese feast can be booked here. The staff will store your wheelchair in Kriens and help you to get on board. You need to mention that you’re a wheelchair user while buying a ticket online.

Gondolas and fondue: two Swiss classics brought together.

10. Get inside a glacier

A magical glacier cave in the heart of Titlis mountain of the Uri Alps takes its visitors back to the Ice Age. Gaze at 5,000-years-old ice shimmering with blue light as you pass through the tunnel. All Titlis stations and cable cars are wheelchair-accessible; if you wish to visit the glacier cave, you would need to inform the ticket office to assist you with the entrance.

What will you add to your bucket list? What was your most interesting accessible winter experience? Share with us!

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