Davos is a small Swiss town with an international influence which has always extended beyond the slopes. In Victorian times, its worldwide reputation grew from the tuberculosis sanatoria that were built here in the belief that the fresh, clean mountain air could provide a cure or, at least, respite from the ravages of disease. These days, it’s the annual World Economic Forum.
Davos’ own slopes are linked to the much smaller Klosters, and in total its ski area has six separate ski sectors with 300 km of slopes and good terrain parks. The resort is ideal for intermediates, and there are also challenging black runs and off-piste opportunities for experts.
Stay on track with the essential resort facts below and scroll down for our insider’s guide to a day on the slopes, expert reviews and tips. For more inspiration in Davos, check out our guides to the resort’s best accommodation, restaurants and après-ski.
Inside the station
The city of Davos is divided into two parts: Davos Platz and Davos Dorf. Platz is the most convenient for the majority of hotels and shops, while Dorf is the best base for accessing the slopes. There is however an efficient ski bus service so getting from one to the other is no problem during the day and early evening.
Davos wasn’t built as a ski resort and it’s not an architectural beauty, but skiers and snowboarders come here for the slopes, not to admire the solid, uninspiring hotel blocks.
In the 1880s, a local businessman bought a pair of “Norwegian snowshoes”, as skis were called at the time. The sport captivated Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose wife was undergoing treatment in Davos for tuberculosis. He shared his passion with the readers of Strand magazine and a whole new type of winter tourism was born. Conan Doyle described in detail his crossing of the Maienfelder Furgga pass to Arosa, and it is possible to follow in his footsteps with a guide.
The Parsenn is by far the largest of the six sectors of the ski area, but the others are all interesting and particularly interesting to explore during the busy weeks of the high season.
In 1946, the development of the miracle drug Streptomycin heralded the demise of sanatoriums, but by then the Swiss ski industry was already beginning to emerge as a suitable replacement in Davos’ economy. Since 1971, the World Economic Forum has been held there every winter, adding another financial string to the resort’s bow.
Switzerland in general (and Davos in particular) is not a destination for a cheap winter sports holiday. However, the resort offers a program of complementary activities for holders of the free Davos Klosters guest card, available through the tourist office.
After dark you will find a wide choice of bars and nightlife. There is also a wide range of quality leisure facilities including ice rinks and swimming pools.
The Davos ski area is linked to the much smaller Klosters ski area, and together the two resorts offer six distinct ski sectors that are ideal for intermediates – Parsenn, Jakobshorn, Pischa, Madrisa, Rinerhorn and Schatzalp-Strela – with 300 km of slopes and 56 ski lifts.
By far the largest of these is the Parsenn, but the others are all interesting. They can be especially good during high season weeks when the Parsenn tends to get crowded. Pischa is a dedicated freeride area and the outskirts of Rinerhorn are generally quiet, even on the busiest weekends of the season. Jakobshorn is a freestyle paradise, home to the large terrain park and Jatzpark superpipe, served by a fast-access cable car. This station and the hill station are being renovated and refurbished for 2022/23, with easier access for people with disabilities and new solar panels for increased renewable energy.
However, Parsenn is the main dish. The Parsennbahn funicular runs from Davos Dorf to the Weissfluhjoch at 2,662m, followed by a cable car ride to the Weissfluhgipfel at 2,844m, the highest point in the ski area. From there, a network of ski lifts stretches across the mountains towards Klosters. Alternatively, there is a 12 km descent with an elevation gain of 2,000 m to the agricultural hamlets of Küblis or Serneus on connected red runs. There is a train to Davos from Küblis; from Serneus there is a bus to Klosters, then a train to Davos.
Experts will enjoy challenging black runs through the Meierhofer Tälli to the hamlet of Wolfgang as well as more demanding route routes to Klosters, and off-piste opportunities abound, including following in the footsteps of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle crossing the Maienfelder Furgga Proceed to Arosa with a guide.
For beginners, there are better resorts than Davos. The Madrisa sector of Klosters is novice-friendly, but too remote, and the diffuse layout of Davos itself makes it extremely difficult for a group of mixed abilities to spend time together. The best bet for beginners is the nursery trail from Bolgen to the bottom of Jakobshorn and Bünda Davos Dorf. The Bolgen and Bünda magic carpets are recent additions.
Davos is big on terrain parks. Jakobshorn has a superpipe (lighted Friday and Saturday 6-9.30pm) and the Jatzpark with kickers and rails to match. Madrisa and the Parsenn both have boardercross courses. There is a small amusement park in Rinerhorn.
Who should go?
Davos has an extensive network of interconnected intermediate pistes in its six separate piste sectors. The resort is also a great place for freeriders when the snow is good, with long descents from the top of the mountains down to the valley, but its appeal for freestylers looking for terrain parks is just as compelling. Most accommodations in Davos are four- and five-star hotels, and prices here are particularly high, even for Switzerland. But the service and quality is good and with plenty of choice of great places to eat and stay.
Know before you go
British Embassy/Consulate in Bern: +41 (0)31 359 77 00
Ambulance: dial 144
Police: dial 117
Fire: dial 118
VISITOR CENTER: Check davos.ch, the website of the Davos Klosters tourist office, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Get maps, leaflets and other information from the central offices in Davos and Klosters.
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
Telephone code: from abroad, dial 00 41, then leave the zero at the beginning of the 10-digit number.
Time difference: +1 hour