#TBT: Switzerland’s Queer-Friendly Winter Wonderland

SnowGAY.

Switzerland is not necessarily what comes to the mind when you think of a gay-cation destination, but last winter, the conditions were ripe for a queer-girl-Swiss Alps-ski-train-funicular-reunion! I live in Madrid, and two of my best queer friends were visiting Europe from the states. It had been over two years since we had all been together, and for years we had talked about coordinating a ski trip. It was decided, the Swiss Alps — scenery we’d only ever dreamed of seeing — was where we’d spend our International Women’s Day. 

I hopped off the airplane in Zurich with my first-class travel pass and the most elegant clothes I owned; I was ready for a glamorous weekend in this winter wonderland. I met my friend at the Zurich train station and we raced to The Alehouse to have one quick drink before taking the last train to Brig, a small town near Zermatt

We arrived in Brig after midnight, and even though it was dark, we could immediately tell that we were surrounded by massive snow-covered mountains. Despite our 5:45 a.m. wake up time the following day, our delight with Brig’s scenery encouraged us to go out. “Let’s be back home in 30 minutes,” we agreed. I quickly applied more mascara, and we left the hotel for just one drink. 

It seemed like there was only one bar open in the area, The Britannia Pub, but we didn’t mind. When we entered we realized that this was not just a bar, but a two floor club with a DJ playing pop hit after pop hit. Of course, this was not a gay club, but if you’re playing Charli XCX and Backstreet Boys techno remixes, it’s a little queer. We stayed for more than just one drink. In fact, we closed out the club at 2 a.m. We were joyous; everything was falling into place. 

After two and a half hours of sleep, we were up and out to catch the train from Brig to Zermatt, a mountain village resort most known for its proximity to the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn is arguably the most famous mountain in Europe, known for its hooked triangular tip that stands alone in the mountain range. My context for this mystical sight was the Disneyland Ride Matterhorn Bobsleds, where you sled down the mountainside and encounter the Abominable Snowman. Seeing its beauty and mystique in real life, I understood Walk Disney’s impulse to send a postcard of the mountain to his business partner with one note: “Build This.” Zermatt was Disney magic come to life! We headed back to the train station, but the charming storefronts partnered with the backdrop of the Matterhorn assured me that I definitely needed to return.

The Glacier Express, the world’s “slowest express train,” takes passengers through the central Swiss Alps from Zermatt to Saint Moritz. We travelled over 181 miles, cross over 291 bridges and passed through 91 tunnels. Of course, an 8 hour train ride may sound like a drag, but between the beautiful snow-covered mountains and our seven-course meal in Excellence Class, time flew by. 

We marveled at the insanity that the construction of this railway must have been. Imagine looking at these mountains and deciding to build a railway through them! With each glass of wine we toasted to Switzerland and to ourselves. We arrived in Saint Moritz, a stunning ski resort town in the southern slopes of the Albula Alps, just before the sun set over the mountains.

We began the following day with roses from our hotel, the Carlton, to celebrate International Women’s Day. To our delight, we had a south facing room with a panoramic view of the mountains and a frozen lake. We took photos on our balcony and then headed to the spa. That night, we rode a funicular up the mountain to participate in moonlight snowshoeing, an activity that only takes place once a month under the full moon. In other words, being there during the full moon was another sign that Switzerland wanted us to succeed. 

We snowshoed up to the nearest peak with two guides, a cute husband and wife, and their Bernese Mountain dog, Tegan, who was trained to detect avalanches. We joked about Tegan being our lesbian guide and sang Tegan and Sara’s “Closer” at the top of our lungs as we stumbled down the snowy hill and into the mountain’s Panoramic Restaurant. In the warmth of the restaurant and with a glass of wine in hand, we met one other queer girl couple who was visiting Saint Moritz from Germany. The five of us toasted to an incredible queer girls’ International Women’s Day. 

During our final full day in Switzerland, we took a two-hour ski lesson in Corviglia. Dressed in our finest snow gear, we bought our ski passes from the hotel concierge (pro tip: they’ll have better deals!) and headed to the funicular to get up to the mountain. We were all beginners, but under the guidance of our ski instructor Francisco, we picked up the skill in no time. We spent half an hour on the bunny slope with a group of youth snowboarders before graduating onto the first level hills. I had mastered slowing down, and then I started to get a hang of weaving back and forth down the hill. By the end of the two-hour lesson, I had the ski basics down. 

I woke up early the following day to take one last dip in the spa before we had to check out and board a train back to Zurich. When I got back to the room, room service was there with a full breakfast delivery. We were giddy from the weekend’s success! We toasted with our breakfast champagne and danced around in our hotel bathrobes. Switzerland had rolled out the red carpet for a couple of queer girls from the states — we’ll absolutely be back for another snow adventure in this winter wonderland — as soon as quarantine is lifted.  


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