For the second ski resort I visited while staying at Lucerne, I decided to try out skiing at Stoos. Not many people would know of this ski area because its size would mean that it escapes the radar of most skiers. Stoos itself is the name of the car-free village that forms the base of the ski area and located at 1,300m above sea level. Access for most visitors is via the Stoosbahn not far from Schwyz the cantonal capital of the province with the same name. If you notice the pronounciation is similar to Swiss, it is because the country’s name is actually derived from Schwyz, since the canton is one of the founding cantons of Switzerland.
There are 2 main ways for visitors to get to the village of Stoos, which is located at the top of the mountain. The most common method is by the world’s steepest funicular, the Stoosbahn which runs from 7:05am until 7:40 pm on weekdays and until 11:40pm on Friday and Saturday. There is also the Luftseilbahn gondola from Morschach that operates from 7:05am until 10:10pm on weekdays and until 11:10pm on Friday and Saturday.
To get to either of the base of the funicular or the gondola, skiers can take the public bus from Schwyz which is the largest town near the ski area with its own train station. The bus station is located just next to the train station and the timing of the bus is set to depart around 5-10 minutes after the arrival of the train.
As a car-free village and ski resort, visitors get around the village by walking, on electric caddy carts or by horse carriage rides. Though the latter is only available in the day since by the time I ended skiing, there was none of them to be seen around the funicular station.
CHAIRLIFTS & GONDOLAS
With just 2 main ascents, one to Klingenstock and another to Fronalpstock, this is one of the smallest ski area I have been to in Europe. To get to Fronalpstock which has the iconic view of Lake Lucerne, skiers have to take 2 quad chairlift systems with a transfer at Mettlen.
Over on the other side, there is a 6-seater chairlift that goes direct to the top of Klingenstock with a restaurant and mountain lodge at the base of the chairlift having the same name.
Another major lift system is the Sternegg T-bar connecting Restaurant Sternegg to the Stoos Hüttä which is necessary for skiers to get to the 6-seater chairlift serving Klingenstock. The T-bar provides easy access to the easy blue runs around it as well.
Other than these, the rest of the lift system are centered around the village with a mix of T-bars, magic carpets and connecting cable systems to aid in short distance traverse to get to the chairlifts. The last system is basically a moving rope that aids skiers and snowboarders in ascending a mild slope to get to the chairlift base. This means the lift infrastructure is very basic, but for some reason it was adequate.
COST & VALUE
Similar to the skiing at Engelberg Titlis, I had purchased the Snow’n’Rail package from SBB and the cost came down to CHF86 (~$85) for a day pass with the rail ticket. A day pass here costs CHF52 and this is without any train tickets included. Visitors who are just keen to visit the village without skiing pay a return rate of CHF22 for the Stoosbahn funicular railway.
Considering the ski resort has limited number of chairlifts and piste, the cost might sound a little expensive. However with the new investments in the new funicular, it does make it feel this is a reasonable cost, if part of the cost goes to a novelty factor.
Easy runs for beginners and children learning how to ski are all around the village. Stoos has a Kinderskiland which translates to a Childrens’ ski land that skiers will pass by en route to the chairlifts serving Fronalpstock. This is closest to the Alpstubli Hotel and Restaurant so maybe families should consider staying here if planning to ski in Stoos with their children.
Other blue marked runs suitable for beginners are served by T-bars, with the Skilift Maggiweid located beside the funicular and visible on arrival at Stoos. The Skilift Sternegg serves the blue piste between Stoos Hüttä and Sternegg in the village.
With learning areas served by multiple magic carpets and a nice mellow area for beginners to hone their skills all around the village, it makes for a very convenient place to learn with plenty of dining facilities when one gets tired.
Intermediate runs form the backbone of most ski resorts and this one is no different. Both Klingenstock and Fronalpstock area has red pistes from the top to the base of their respective chairlifts. In the Fronalpstock area, the Sonnenpiste (no. 1) on the right side after disembarking the chairlift has the wider pistes with consistent grading and some milder terrain for skiers to rest in between. This makes the Sonnenpiste the easiest of the red runs.
Over on the left side after disembarking at Fronalpstock, the Panoramapiste provides a wonderful view of the town of Schwyz at the upper portion making the name of the piste very apt indeed. This piste sees less crowd as it winds out of the chairlift area and opens out to some nice off-piste area for easily accessibly powder runs after a snow day.
In the lower part of Sonnenpiste after the Restaurant Welesch near Mettlen, there are some tree runs that skiers can access for some fun. Here there is plenty of space to go out of the main piste for some powder trails as well.
At the other side of the resort in Klingenstock, skiers need to go through a narrow traverse to get to the red intermediate runs which are the Chruterenpiste (11) and Mauri’s Carvingpiste (10).
The lower parts of Klingenstock are mainly red pistes that are the continuation of Chruterenpiste and Mauri’s Carvingpiste and the wide open areas here makes it great for intermediate skiers to get a feel of free-riding when there is good powder accumulation.
As a small resort, there are some really good black rated runs for advanced and expert skiers. These are mainly in Klingenstock with Franz Heinzer-Piste and Gätterlipiste being the marked black runs leading from the top of Klingenstock to nearly the bottom of the chairlift.
Gätterlipiste is the longer run that can be attempted by good intermediate skiers as this run goes further to the top of the Skilift Holibrig. This run would also merge with the wide expanse of slopes that leads back to the village.
The black runs in Stoos are actually suitable for strong intermediate skiers who have the technique and skill, and this made it a conducive area for advanced skiers to progress here.
BACKCOUNTRY & TERRAIN PARK
Due to having so much fun on the pistes after a snow day, I did not try out the snow park by the Holibrig T-bar. However I did try some of the off-piste runs around Fronalpstock. The fresh snow and sparse crowds skiing here makes it easy to get nice powder patches in the off-piste area.
Aside from the off-piste areas, Stoos has a designated free-ride route from the top of Klingenstock that goes to join Gätterlipiste. There are ski touring piste as well to Huserstock which is located between both Fronalpstock and Klingenstock. Thus for a resort with only 3 chairlift systems, Stoos does have extensive terrain for some backcountry and off-piste adventures.
Due to the ski resort being a livable village as well, some of the ski lodges doubles as a hotel. Gipfelrestaurant located at the peak of Fronalpstock also houses a hotel and skiers should always come up here to enjoy the view if it is clear in the valley.
Along the pistes in Fronalpstock, there is the Pisten Restaurant Welesch which highly visible from the chairlift. The small lodge serves self-service cafeteria style food with plenty of seating, and more on the outdoor deck.
Over on the Klingenstock side, there is a restaurant at the base of the 6-seater chairlift. This makes it convenient for skiers having fun on Klingenstock. Aside from Restaurant Klingenstock, there is the Skihaus Ibach and Stoos Hüttä, both of which are smaller restaurants with lodging options. In a sense, many of the mountain lodges here function in the most traditional way by providing shelter and food for skiers.
FOOD & BEVERAGES
When skiing in Switzerland, the food tends to be good and pricey. However the prices here in Stoos is actually cheaper that in some Swiss cities. Perhaps it is attributed to being a less famous ski village or less crowds, but the food here is priced at a reasonable cost.
Choices might not be the most extensive but I did not really visit all the restaurants but skiers could always count on soups and salads for appetizers and light lunches. Meanwhile classic dishes like pasta should not be hard to find along with Swiss/Austrian dishes like Schnitzel or Rosti are also common.
For a more intimate dining area with nicer ambience, Stoos Hüttä is a recommended lodge to dine in. Due to the limited seating inside, skiers should come earlier to dine here. The space also opens till the late afternoon for desserts and coffee after your skiing.
As a village, there are plenty of hotels back at the base of the chairlifts. With some of the mountain lodges having rooms for skiers to stay overnight, there are actually plenty of choices for skiers to find accommodation. However some of these hotels might not be found on the online travel agents. Amongst the hotels, the one that stood out seems to be Hotel Klingenstock for its proximity to the funicular station and that means visitors need not trek very far with their luggage on the snow or make prior arrangements for pick-up.
The other hotel with a good location is Hotel Alpstubli right in the middle of the Kinderskiland and close to the chairlift to Fronalpstock. This makes it very convenient for families who have ski lessons for their kids.
As a small village, expect the after ski scene to be limited. And here most skiers head to the Restaurant Sternegg for a drink or two to wrap up the day of skiing.
Being close to the station, this also means it is where skiers head to at the end of the day to get any groceries or do any tuning to their skis or boards. For those into the snow parks, the Parkhüttli lodge by the Holibrig T-bar would be the easiest to get to.
While Klingenstock might have the higher lift accessed altitude, Fronalpstock gets the best views here. This is actually one ski resort where the best views are not of the snow mountains but instead it is of Lake Lucerne at the back of Fronalpstock.
The view from Panoramapiste looking towards the town of Schwyz is another great photo opportunity while heading downhill.
A photo from the Snow’N’Rail brochure brought me here and this opportunity to ski a local mountain reminds me of the day I spent at Alpine Meadows in the Olympic Valley near Lake Tahoe in California. Similar to that experience, it shows size is not everything to have a great time skiing and what matters more are the snow conditions. In this case the snowfall accumulation, a bit of sunshine in the day and little crowds make Stoos a joy to ski in.
As I look back on the day I spent here, I am left thinking it might just be one of the nicest days I have spent in Switzerland skiing. From the great mountain lodges that feels like a place one could spend the night in to the simple opportunities to go off-piste and still end up back in the village makes Stoos a great place to spend a couple of days skiing in. For sure it is not the place for a week long stay, but just the funicular ride alone does give it an incentive for visitors to Switzerland to come and experience how the locals live.