Switzerland has thousands of lakes and many of them freeze over in winter. But only a few have the ice tested for safety by local authorities and prepared for public use. So it can be tricky to know when and where to go walking and skating on frozen lakes.
After visiting a few frozen lakes and researching several others in Switzerland, here is our list of Swiss lakes that occasionally freeze over and are suitable for families. Monitor these carefully, especially in late December and early January, when temperatures are usually the coldest.
>>> See also my post Ice Skating in Zurich for more traditional rinks that are open all winter.
Which Swiss lakes freeze
Some lakes have official natural ice rinks that regularly open in winter, typically charging an entry fee. These often look more like a commercial rink even though they are made from natural ice.
Other lakes have temporary ad-hoc lake skating when unusually cold temperatures, usually free to use, sometimes with temporary food stands and skate rentals on weekends. We prefer these because the beautiful natural settings and that’s mostly what I’ve listed below. Scroll down for pics, description, and links for lakes in this list.
|Lake||Region||Distance from Zurich|
|Türlersee||Zurich||25 mins by car|
|Sihlsee||Central Switzerland||40 mins by car|
|Melchsee Frutt||Central Switzerland||1hr15 by car|
|Partnunsee||Graubünden||1hr51 by car|
|Skateline Albula||Graubünden||1hr45 by car|
|Oeschinensee||Bernese Alps||2hr10 by car|
The Zurich Kanton police publish an Eisbulletin that indicates which lakes in Zurich canton are open for skating. The link changes every year, so I can only like to their home page, where you will need to search for “Eisbulletin”. These are the lakes that they monitor:
- Zürichsee, Greifensee, Pfäffikersee, Türlersee, Mettmenhaslisee, Horgner Bergweiher, Katzensee, Hüttnersee, Lützelsee, Thalwiler Waldweiher
Other lakes that freeze over once in a blue moon if the temperatures are particularly cold: Seealpsee near Appenzell.
If you are doing your own research, here are some German terms you might find helpful.
- All these refer to ice skating areas: Eisfeld, Eislaufbahn, Natureisfeld
- gefrorenen-Seen = frozen lake,
- “gesperrt” means closed and “begehbar” means open.
Frozen Lakes 101
Cold and short. It has to be unusually cold for a couple weeks before the lakes freeze thick enough for walking and skating. When they do freeze over, it’s news, but often only locally. When temperatures drop, start checking the websites for the lakes below to see if and when they are open for skating. The skating window is often very short, maybe a week or only a weekend. Even if the ice is thick enough, frozen lakes will also close if there is too much snowfall.
Lumpy ice. Natural ice rinks are not smoothed over by Zamboni machines. Typically, they simply use small tractors with front shovels to clear paths in the snow. So the ice is usually not smooth and can be very lumpy and difficult to navigate. Our kids were very surprised the first time, expecting smooth ice. So it’s even more important to wear safety gear, like helmets and pads, in case you run into a big ice chunk and fall over. Also, you have to work much harder to glide over the ice, so we lasted only about an hour before we were all exhausted.
Safety first. Don’t just walk out on any frozen lake. Local authorities will test the ice and inform the public when the ice is suitable for human weight. Typically, portions of the ice will be cleared for skating and sometimes safety borders established. Read the rules and follow them.
Services. Many of these lakes do not typically have services in winter. But when the ice is open for skating, temporary food stands and skate rentals set up lakeside. But don’t count on these services being available, be prepared for anything.
Türlersee (near Zurich)
We love the Türlersee in any season, but winter is particularly special here. In recent years, this lake froze in 2009 and 2012 and it was such fun to walk and skate all over this lake. When we were there, tractors cleared skating and walking paths on the ice and there were big parties on the ice with refreshments for sale. The Türlersee is at a low elevation, very close to Zurich, so it only freezes over when we have very cold temperatures in Zurich for a few weeks. Check website for status.
Location: Türlen 15, 8915 Hausen am Albis
GPS: 47°16’03.5″N 8°30’42.0″E
Nearest bus stop: Hausen am Albis, Türlersee
>>> See more details in my Frozen Türlersee post.
Sihlsee Natureisfeld (Canton Schwyz near Einsiedeln)
The Sihlsee near Einsiedeln is a very large lake, so it rarely freezes completely. But some sections near the shore often freeze over enough for skating. The natural ice rink is at the north end of the lake, where they test the ice and typically clear a few circular skating paths and fields for curling and hockey. Cost CHF 5/adult, CHF 3/child. Check website for status.
Roblosenweg 1, 8847 Einsiedeln
GPS: 47°09’00.1″N 8°46’19.9″E
Nearest bus stop: Egg SZ, Roblosen
Photo from Sihlsee website.
Partnunsee (Graubunden near Klosters/Davos)
We skated on this lake in late December 2017, during long dry cold spell. The skating season only lasted about a week, then there was too much snow on the lake the rest of the winter. This lake has a gorgeous setting, tucked high up in the mountains, surrounded by gorgeous peaks. Unfortunately, this also means you have a walk a bit to access it. You can drive almost all the way there, then a 2 km walk up the mountain to reach the lake. It was some effort, but very special and the kids loved it. There were lots of families there with little kids, so we weren’t the only crazy ones. The day we were there, there were skate rentals at the nearby mountain restaurant, Berghaus Alpenrösli, before you reach the lake. Cost: Free!
Location: 7246 St. Antönien
Parking GPS: 46°59’34.7″N 9°51’13.0″E
Nearest bus stop: St. Antönien, Platz, but it’s too far from the lake to walk for families
Schwarzsee (southwest of Bern)
This lake is tucked in the foothills, an hour southwest of Bern. In 2015, we did a sleigh ride around this lake, which was very beautiful. Sometimes this lake freezes enough for the sleigh (and two horses!) to ride around on the lake itself, which sounds scary to me! You can often skate over the whole lake. But when we were there, the lake wasn’t open for skating even though the lake was frozen. There were a couple cleared skating fields but signs indicated that the recent warmer weather made the ice not safe for skating. So check conditions before heading out. See Schwarzsee website.
Location: Schwarzseestr. 201, 1716 Schwarzsee
GPS: 46°40’14.0″N 7°17’17.7″E
Nearest bus stop: Schwarzsee, Gypsera
Oeschinensee (Bernese Alps, west of Interlaken)
The Oeschinensee is an hour south of Bern, accessible by cable car from Kandersteg. From the top of the gondola, it’s a 2 km walk (about 30 mins) on an easy path to reach the lake. They clear multiple skating paths on the lake, the longest is 3.5 km. So even with snowfall, you can typically skate. When the lake is open for skating, there are cafes open next to the lake and skate rentals. Check status.
We’ve hiked here many times but haven’t skated there yet. Maybe this is year!
Location: Kandersteg cable car. Oeschistrasse 50, 3718 Kandersteg
GPS: 46°29’50.3″N 7°40’56.5″E
Nearest bus stop: Kandersteg, Talstat. Oeschinen
Photo from www.oeschinensee.ch
Skateline Albula (Graubünden, south of Lenzerheide)
We are excited to try Skateline Albula in Graubünden, which is a 3 km walking path in a forest, which is iced over for skating. I’ve heard that it can be difficult to control your speed since the path is slightly downhill. But it sounds so interesting that I have to try it. They strongly recommend wearing helmets and elbow and knee pads, which are available for rental on-site. This video gives you a good idea of what the trail is like.
In 2017, it is open 22 Dec through end of February. PostAuto is offering a 20% discount including public transport and skating tour.
Cost including shuttle bus: CHF 8/adult, CHF 5/child for one run. Skate and helmet rentals available. See full price list here.
Location: Start in Surava, end in Alvaneu Bad, shuttle bus between
GPS: 46°39’52.8″N 9°36’47.8″E
Nearest bus stop: Surava, Dorf
Photo from PostAuto.