Gstaad is a resort rich in entertainment and sports facilities. Many skiers stay in Gstaad by night and venture to one of the nearby ski resorts during the day. Cable cars take passengers to altitudes of 1,500m and 3,000m (4,920 ft. and 9,840 ft.) -- at the higher altitudes, there's skiing even in the summer. Other facilities include tennis courts, heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and about 320km (200 miles) of hiking trails. Many of these scenic trails are possible to walk or hike year-round (the tourist office will advise). The Gstaad International Tennis Tournament, beginning the first Saturday in July, is the most important tennis event in Switzerland.
Skiers setting off from Gstaad have access to 70 lifts, mountain railroads, and gondolas. The altitude of Gstaad's highest skiable mountain is 1,965m (6,445 ft.), with a vertical drop of 1,066m (3,496 ft.). Most beginner and intermediate runs are east of the village in Eggli, a ski area reached by cable car. Eggli has a sunny, southern exposure. Wispellan-Sanetch is favored for afternoon skiing, with lots of runs down to the village. At its summit is the Glacier des Diablerets, at a height of 2,970m (9,741 ft.). Wasserngrat, reached from the south side of the resort, is yet another skiing area. Advanced skiers prize Wasserngrat for its powder skiing on steep slopes.
Swiss Ski School at Gstaad (tel. 033/744-18-65; www.gstaadsnowsports.ch) has first-class teachers and qualified mountain and touring guides, with special classes available for children. Some 100 private instructors are available. It receives stiff competition from the Schweizer Schi Schule (Swiss Ski School; tel. 033/744-36-65; www.snow-sports.ch) in the nearby satellite resort of Schönried.
Gstaad has several satellite resorts, which many visitors prefer. Saanen and Schönried are both summer and winter resorts, with excellent accommodations. Saanen, at 1,051m (3,447 ft.), is east of Gstaad; some of its wooden chalets date from the 1500s. The Menuhin Festival draws an international music-loving crowd from late July to mid-September. The resort can be reached easily by car or by the Montreux-Oberland railway; there's also a small airfield at Saanen for visitors who fly in. Schönried, some 4km (2 1/2 miles) northeast of Gstaad, is appreciated for its arguably better snowfall and accommodations, notably the Alpenrose Hotel.
Whichever resort you choose -- Gstaad, Saanen, or Schönried -- you'll be surrounded by dramatic glaciers and bucolic alpine pastures. This part of the country, called Saanenland, is one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland.
The funiculars and chairlifts around Gstaad are configured into a system that services the slopes of at least six other resorts scattered over four valleys of the Bernese Oberland. In addition to Gstaad, the region's star, the resorts include Saanen, Saanen-Möser, Schönreid, and Sankt Stephan.
An all-inclusive ski pass -- known locally as the Ski Gstaad Pass (tel. 033/748-81-81; www.gstaad.ch) -- is sold at the departure point of any of the region's funicular stations, and allows access to 250km (155 miles) of downhill slopes and 70 chairlifts and gondolas. The all-inclusive passes may vary depending on what point in the season you buy them, but generally cost 123F for 2 days or 280F for 5 days, with a complicated set of discounts for children, depending on their age and to what degree they're traveling as part of a family unit.
If you're in Gstaad for only 1 day, it's probably smarter to buy a limited pass for access to just a few slopes and chairlifts. The less comprehensive pass (known as a pass for Eggli-La Vide Manette) is sold only in 1-day increments for a price of 62F. Frankly, for anyone planning on 2 or more days of skiing, it's a lot more appealing, and not that much more expensive, to go for the more comprehensive pass.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.