The Lake Luzern region of the Central Swiss Alps is one of the most scenic four-season locales anywhere. But when the snow starts flying above the Vierwaldstättersee`s Eastern shoreline, one small Swiss ski area — Stoos — compliments the idyllic beauty of the region in a big way.
Although extremely small by European ski resort standards, Stoos — also referred to as Morschach-Stoos because of proximity to the pre-named wellness & recreation area in the valley below the ski area — provides an excellent venue for skiers & snowboarders of all ages, abilities and riding styles. The setting above the cantonal capital of Schwyz and near-by picturesque lake-front town of Brünnen is visually magnificent, offering inspiring views over Lake Luzern. The relaxed, familial vibe of the ski station is also refreshing compared to the often frenetic pace at larger, more crowded ski areas in Switzerland.
This isn`t to say Stoos is an empty, unknown secret. Crowds and lift-lines on weekends are common as it`s a main draw for local residents, as well as an increasing number of visitors from abroad looking to escape the often claustrophobic cable-cars of world-class Engelberg on the opposite side of the Lake.
Main lifts accessing the Fronalpstock & Klingenstock, each on separate sides of the ski area, funnel widely downward from 1900m providing very good conditions from December into April. Yearly snow totals can`t compare with glacial terrain above 3000m on Titlis (Engelberg) or Andermatt`s Gemsstock, but snow quality and sunshine are plentiful enough at Stoos to satisfy most snow sliders.
It`s difficult to say that Stoos offers enough terrain and off-slope excitement for a lengthy ski holiday or for those accustomed to 100+km European ski arenas, but if you`re looking for a low-key, less hurried Swiss snow experience, a multi-day lift ticket at Stoos might be your ticket to a memorable ski trip in the Central Swiss Alps.
Stoos Off-piste Skiing & Snowboarding
Off-piste skiing-snowboarding at Stoos is very fun with nice steepness, adequate lift-served vertical (1300-1935m), very good snow quality and accessibility from lifts on both sides of the ski area. Off-piste zones directly below lifts get tracked quickly, but short traverse/hike combos are readily available stretched across the entire ski area from the Fronalpstock in the West to beyond the Klingenstock in East. The topography of the area allows you to easily scope lines from the Sesselbahn Stoos-Klingenstock, while full sight-lines from the Sesselbahn Mettlen-Fronalpstock on the opposite side of the ski area are obstructed as the terrain drops away to your left (riders-right). Either way, the span of terrain between the two lifts is easy to reach and maintains nice pitch & vertical for upwards of 600 meters. It`s possible to sample the primary off-piste zones of Stoos in one day, but two days will allow you to comfortably work your way back-and-forth across the ridgeline connecting the Fronalpstock with the Klingenstock, separated by the hulking mass of rock in-between, the Huserstock.
Stoos On-piste Skiing & Snowboarding
Stoos only advertises 35km of pistes, but it feels like more when you`re on the slopes. Trails are wide and deceptively longer than anticipated on both sides of the ski area, bt especially below the Klingenstock. Although quite small in terms of rideable area and other ski area statistics, Stoos delivers some of the most enjoyable intermediate on-piste terrain in the region. All trails are rated Red or Black, making for continuously speedy runs for 500-600 meters on both sides (albeit relatively flat near the bottom). Young learners are well-catered for at the dedicated children`s area near the Stoos Snowsports School close to the Sesselbahn Stoos-Mettlen.There is also a small drag-lift section located just beyond the main village area — connecting the Fronalpstock & Klingenstock sides — that is great for lower level skiers/boarders. At the top of this drag-lift — the Schlepplift Sternegg — you`ll also find a fun public slalom course that videos & times your efforts on the course.
Stoos Freestyle Skiing & Snowboarding
Central Switzerland isn`t really a prime spot for freestyle compared to other places in Europe or North America, but Stoos`s new Snowpark Shredisfaction, has some fun features to keep park rats happy. It`s accessible via drag-lift located in-between the two sides of the ski area below the Huserstock. Plans to expand the park — which already has some well-shaped small/mid-size booters and creative jibs/rails — will make it a bigger draw in the region for years to come.
For a lot of folks, the lift lay-out at Stoos is too minimal. For us, the lay-out is great. There are only 6 total lifts at Stoos — 3 chair-lifts & 3 drag-lifts — keeping the scenery uncluttered with unsightly steel towers, yet providing access to wide, expansive stretches of pisted and off-piste terrain. The main difficulty for skiers/boarders concerning Stoos ski-lifts is that a somewhat physically demanding flat traverse is required to go from one side of the ski area to the other. The high-speed lifts on either side, however, are efficient and drop you in prime spots for downhill fun.
Stoos sits on an elevated plateau and is only accessible via funicular mountain railway from Schwyz or cable car from Morschach. Plans to replace the funicular railway with a cable-car/detachable gondola is in the works but not available currently (2013-14).
Train: Following arrival at Stoos bahnhof (40-50min from Luzern), hop a bus for a short ride to the bottom station of the funicular rail line ascending from 500m to 1300m — Standseilbahn Schwyz-Stoos (1000 per. capacity). You`ll ultimately arrive a short walk from the ski area base lifts.
Bus: There is a new bus service from Brünnen providing free access (only with winter/ski pass) to the origin point for the Standseilbahn Schwyz-Stoos.
Cable car: The small 8 person Luftseilbahn Morschach-Stoos isn`t for the faint of heart or vertigo sufferers. The cabin is very tight with seating space for only a a couple of people, requiring others to stand. Although this option provides a less crowded ascent to the ski area, we advise most travelers to utilize the larger funicular railway from Schwyz. Less capacity, plus weekend crowds can lead to lengthy waits. Likewise, car access to Schwyz is generally more convenient and safer than into Morschach.
*Food & Drink
What would a day at a Swiss ski hill be without great mountain hut restaurants & terraces to enjoy the setting? Two great spots on the Klingenstock side of the ski area are where we regularly enjoy a bratwurst & beer under the sun.
The Bergrestaurant Brunnerboden is one of our favorites. Located directly at the base of the Klingenstock lift, this spot has nice outdoor seating, friendly staff and wonderful sunny aspect. The convenient location make it the perfect spot to stop for lunch while cycling the lift or on your return back to the village to access transport to the valley. Our other recommendation is smaller and more rustic, yet easily accessible from the trail. It`s very easy to accidentally pass the Waldhüttli (Little Forest Hut) near the junction of Red Pistes 10 & 11, but if you find it, you`ll also find welcoming owners and well-positioned outdoor seating with quiet views into the beautiful Muotathal.
*Transport Lakeside to Mountainside
If you`re looking to add an experience into your Central Swiss visit that`s nearly impossible to find elsewhere, we suggest booking a boat ticket from Luzern to Brünnen, then taking the bus to the funicular railway. It isn`t the fastest option, but it`s an incredible way to spend a day playing in the Swiss snow. Total one-way trip time will be around 2-hours, but the scenery and relaxed pace makes for a once-in-a-lifetime ski excursion that adds to the magical charm of Zentralschweiz.