swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

The Alps

Sunset over the Dents de Bertol (in new window)

Sunset over the Dents de Bertol in the Penninne Alps (Valais). The warm southerly wind blows sand in from the Sahara, depositing it in the alpine snow. © Neil Harrison

A Mountain lake near Gstaad, Bernese Oberland (in new window)

Mountain lake overlooking Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland© imagepoint.biz

The Alps span some 200 kilometres (125 miles), at an average altitude of 1700 m (5576 ft), and cover nearly two thirds of Switzerland's total surface area. The snow line begins at 2,500-2,800 meters (8,200-9186 feet). There are 48 mountains which are 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) or higher and about 1,800 glaciers.

The highest mountain in Switzerland is the Dufourspitze in Canton Valais, at 4634 m (15,203 ft).

They provide a continental watershed, determining the climate and vegetation, But while they contribute enormously to the Swiss identity, economic activity is concentrated in the Plateau.

The valleys of several major rivers - the Rhone, Upper Rhine, Reuss and Ticino - divide the mountain ranges.

Tourism in the Alps

The Alps provide recreation and relaxation for the urban population. Mountain railways have been constructed, as well as sports centres, hotels and vacation homes.

60 percent of tourism is concentrated in the Alps and their foothills. This provides employment in the mountain regions, but also causes ecological problems. 75 percent of tourists arrive by private car.

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