Winter Driving in Switzerland: Our Car Got Stuck

If you follow this blog regularly you probably know that the only trip I have taken in 2020 was a weekend trip to Switzerland back at the end of January before COVID-19 started dominating our lives. I have been wanting to finish writing about it for quite some time, but haven’t because well life happened. While we were in Switzerland for a matter of 48 hours in total, we certainly crisscrossed the eastern half quite a bit in search of snowy landscape compositions.

I have already posted the vlog edition of this so if you would just like to watch that, you may do so here (subscribe if you can!)

Our day began super early with us setting off for an area known as Silersee (a frozen alpine lake) in order to catch sunrise. We had things planned out the night before and we arrived on location at least 30 minutes before sunrise. To our utter dismay, a fork in the road led us to a patch of snow and ice that was way too deep for our AWD Renault Koleos (it turns out that the road is not for cars in the winter). What seemed like a shortcut to the lake ended up getting us stuck for the greater part of the morning. Go figure, the one time we aren’t running to capture sunrise in a frenzy, we get stuck in the snow.

We spent nearly 20 minutes trying to scrape away the ice under the tires and even tried placing our floor mats under the tires for traction. I wish I wasn’t so busy trying to get us out of the ice because I didn’t get very many images. We we were probably a sight to see, trying to beat at the ice with our tripods. Anyway, it was all pretty to much to no avail. We were about to call the police or roadside assistance for help before a local farmer drove up to help.

The tires on this guy’s pickup truck were dare I say legendary. He drove over the snow and ice easily and pulled our car out within a manner of minutes. We thanked him and made a run for what was left of the light and managed to grab a few images of the morning light on the mountains next to the semi-frozen lake:

After spending the morning stuck in the snow, we began driving toward our final destination of the day Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland. Oh yeah as I mentioned before we had to take the long, somewhat less scenic way around because the higher elevation roads were completely blocked off so that Americans wouldn’t decide to take exciting detours in their less than sturdy rental cars.

Along the way we anticipated some more scenes from the winter wonderland we had experienced the day before. However, little did we know that for the most part Switzerland was fairly dry and devoid of snow this particular season, especially along the main roads. The actual areas where there would be snow (the high alpine passes) were for the most part closed due to icy road conditions.

Dismayed by the lack of snow throughout our drive we made a detour to the town of Andermatt, a high altitude alpine ski resort. We were desperate to see some of those legendary wintry slopes. What we found was a quaint and quiet town with very few roads open to the outside.

After driving around Andermatt for a bit, we thought maybe we could find some better images closer to our destination of Interlaken and inside the Grindelwald Valley. And to be honest there wasn’t much to do in Andermatt if you weren’t taking part in any winter sports or activities.

After leaving our bags at the Airbnb in Interlaken (a tour of it can be found in the vlog), my cousin and I drove down to Grindelwald where the transformation from absolutely no snow to snow everywhere was dramatic to say the least.

One moment it was just dried up grass and wooden chalets, and the next moment, it was an absolutely snow covered wonderland. It’s not an overstatement when I say Grindelwald is absolutely stunning in the snow.

Grindelwald at night simply looks like Santa Claus’s village up in the North Pole or at least how I always imagined it to be. Just as the light was fading I got my best shot of the day with the town’s lights turning on just after the sun went down.

 

After a very short outing in Grindelwald, my cousin and I returned to our Airbnb to start preparing our cameras and equipment for an early morning hike up to Wengen. The image we got the following day was the whole point of the trip so no use expending too much more energy on this particular day, especially after the long drive.

Takeaway

About the route: I wouldn’t recommend anyone do this drive unless they had to get from Point A to Point B or if they knew that there would be some good snowy conditions along the way.

About driving: it may seem cheaper in Switzerland, but it has its hassles, chief among them being getting stuck on random roads in the Alps. Things do get a bit dicey driving in the mountains in the winter so be aware of the risks and if it’s your first time, I would highly recommend just using the insanely efficient and timely Swiss public transport network.Thank goodness we only got stuck adjacent to a small village with great visibility.

If you are interested in seeing more of my work consider following me on Instagram and perhaps subscribing to my YouTube channel.

 

TRIP REPORT INDEX

Introduction: 48 hours in Switzerland

Winter in Switzerland: Our Stunning Drive from Zurich to St. Moritz (almost)

Driving from St. Moritz to Grindelwald via Andermatt

48 Hours in SUI for One Image

My Favorite Air Show in the World

 

2 Comments

  1. Rich

    Back around 2005 I had an hectic trip in Switzerland and Germany. We spent a wonderful night in Grindelwald at the Hotel Cabana. Scenary was amazing in December. Went up Jungfroch and it was a clear day. I love mountains and snow.

    1. Switzerland is stunning in any season, but I was surprised to see so many green patch of grass areas in the middle of winter. For some reason I thought the area would be covered in snow throughout. But I have to say it never disappoints. Thanks for sharing your story!

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