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The Alpine region of Switzerland, conventionally referred to as the Swiss Alps
Alps
(German: Schweizer Alpen, French: Alpes suisses, Italian: Alpi svizzere, Romansh: Alps
Alps
svizras), represents a major natural feature of the country and is, along with the Swiss Plateau
Swiss Plateau
and the Swiss portion of the Jura Mountains, one of its three main physiographic regions. The Swiss Alps
Alps
extend over both the Western Alps
Alps
and the Eastern Alps, encompassing an area sometimes called Central Alps.[1] While the northern ranges from the Bernese Alps
Alps
to the Appenzell Alps
Alps
are entirely in Switzerland, the southern ranges from the Mont Blanc massif
Mont Blanc massif
to the Bernina massif are shared with other countries such as France, Italy, Austria
Austria
and Liechtenstein. The Swiss Alps
Alps
comprise almost all the highest mountains of the Alps, such as Dufourspitze
Dufourspitze
(4,634 m), the Dom (4,545 m), the Liskamm
Liskamm
(4,527 m), the Weisshorn
Weisshorn
(4,506 m) and the Matterhorn
Matterhorn
(4,478 m). The other following major summits can be found in this list of mountains of Switzerland. Since the Middle Ages, transit across the Alps
Alps
played an important role in history. The region north of St Gotthard Pass
St Gotthard Pass
became the nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the early 14th century.

Contents

1 Geography

1.1 Ranges 1.2 Hydrography

1.2.1 Rivers 1.2.2 Lakes

1.3 Land elevation

2 Geology 3 Environment and climate

3.1 Climate zones

4 Travel and tourism

4.1 Summer tourism 4.2 Winter tourism 4.3 Transport

5 Toponymy 6 See also 7 Notes and references 8 Bibliography 9 External links

Geography[edit] See also: Geography of Switzerland

Swiss Alps
Alps
seen from the Swiss Jura in December 2010

The Alps
Alps
cover 65% of Switzerland's total 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 sq mi) surface area, making it one of the most alpine countries. Despite the fact that Switzerland
Switzerland
covers only 14% of the Alps
Alps
total 192,753 square kilometres (74,422 sq mi) area,[2][3] 48 out of 82 alpine four-thousanders are located in the Swiss Alps
Alps
and practically all number(s) needed of the remaining 34 are within 20 kilometres (12 mi) of the country's border. The glaciers of the Swiss Alps
Alps
cover an area of 1,220 square kilometres (470 sq mi) — 3% of the Swiss territory, representing 44% of the total glaciated area in the Alps
Alps
i.e. 2,800 square kilometres (1,100 sq mi). The Swiss Alps
Alps
are situated south of the Swiss Plateau
Swiss Plateau
and north of the national border. The limit between the Alps
Alps
and the plateau runs from Vevey
Vevey
on the shores of Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva
to Rorschach on the shores of Lake Constance, passing close to the cities of Thun
Thun
and Lucerne.[4] The not well defined regions in Switzerland
Switzerland
that lie on the margin of the Alps, especially those on the north side, are called the Swiss Prealps[5] (Préalpes in French, Voralpen in German, Prealpi in Italian). The Swiss Prealps are mainly made of limestone and they generally do not exceed 2,500 metres (8,200 ft).[6] The Alpine cantons (from highest to lowest) are Valais, Bern, Graubünden, Uri, Glarus, Ticino, St. Gallen, Vaud, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Schwyz, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Fribourg, Lucerne
Lucerne
and Zug. The countries with which Switzerland
Switzerland
shares mountain ranges of the Alps
Alps
are (from west to east): France, Italy, Austria
Austria
and Liechtenstein. Ranges[edit] The Alps
Alps
are usually divided into two main parts, the Western Alps
Alps
and Eastern Alps, whose division is along the Rhine
Rhine
from Lake Constance
Lake Constance
to the Splügen Pass. The western ranges occupy the greatest part of Switzerland
Switzerland
while the more numerous eastern ranges are much smaller and are all situated in the canton of Graubünden. The latter are part of the Central Eastern Alps, except the Ortler Alps
Alps
which belong to the Southern Limestone Alps. The Pennine, Bernese and Bernina Range are the highest ranges of the country, they contain respectively 38, 9 and 1 summit over 4000 metres. The lowest range is the Appenzell Alps culminating at 2,500 metres. Western Alps

Map of the western Swiss Alps

Location Range Cantons, Country Notable peaks East limit

From west to east, north of Rhône
Rhône
and Rhine

Bernese Alps Vaud, Fribourg, Bern, Valais Finsteraarhorn, Aletschhorn, Jungfrau, Mönch, Eiger, Lauteraarhorn Grimsel Pass

Uri and Emmental Alps Bern, Lucerne, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Uri (and Valais) Dammastock, Titlis, Brienzer Rothorn, Pilatus, Napf Reuss

Glarus Alps
Alps
and Schwyzer Alps Schwyz, Zug, Uri, Glarus, Graubünden, Lucerne Tödi, Bächistock, Glärnisch, Rigi, Mythen Seeztal

Appenzell Alps Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, St. Gallen (and Zurich) Säntis, Churfirsten Rhine

From west to east, south of Rhône
Rhône
and Rhine

Chablais Alps Valais, France Dents du Midi Arve

Mont Blanc massif Valais, France, Italy Aiguille d'Argentière Col Ferret

Pennine Alps Valais, Italy Monte Rosa, Weisshorn, Matterhorn Simplon Pass

Lepontine Alps Valais, Ticino, Uri, Graubünden, Monte Leone, Rheinwaldhorn Splügen Pass

Eastern Alps

Map of the eastern Swiss Alps

Location Range Notable peaks

From west to east, north of Mera and Inn

Oberhalbstein Piz Platta

Plessur Aroser Weisshorn

Albula Piz Kesch, Piz Lunghin

Rätikon Schesaplana

Silvretta Piz Linard, Piz Buin

Samnaun
Samnaun
Alps Muttler

From west to east, south of Mera and Inn

Bregaglia Cima di Castello, Piz Badile

Bernina Piz Bernina, Piz Roseg

Livigno Piz Paradisin

Ortler Alps Piz Murtaröl

Sesvenna Piz Sesvenna

Hydrography[edit] See also: Valleys of the Alps Rivers[edit] See also: List of rivers in Switzerland

Rhine
Rhine
Gorge in Graubünden

The north side of the Swiss Alps
Alps
is drained by the Rhône, Rhine
Rhine
and Inn (which is part of the Danube basin) while the south side is mainly drained by the Ticino
Ticino
(Po basin). The rivers on the north empty into the Mediterranean, North and Black Sea, on the south the Po empty in the Adriatic Sea. The major triple watersheds in the Alps
Alps
are located within the country, they are: Piz Lunghin, Witenwasserenstock
Witenwasserenstock
and Monte Forcola. Between the Witenwasserenstock
Witenwasserenstock
and Piz Lunghin
Piz Lunghin
runs the European Watershed
European Watershed
separating the basin of the Atlantic
Atlantic
(North Sea) and the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
(Adriatic and Black Sea). The European watershed lies in fact only partially on the main chain. Switzerland possesses 6% of Europe's fresh water, and is sometimes referred to as the "water tower of Europe". Lakes[edit] See also: List of lakes of Switzerland
Switzerland
and List of mountain lakes of Switzerland

The Lac des Dix
Lac des Dix
in Valais

Since the highest dams are located in Alpine regions, many large mountain lakes are artificial and are used as hydroelectric reservoirs.[7] Some large artificial lakes can be found above 2,300 m, but natural lakes larger than 1 km² are generally below 1,000 m (with the exceptions of lakes in the Engadin
Engadin
such as Lake Sils, and Oeschinen in the Bernese Oberland). The melting of low-altitude glaciers can generate new lakes, such as the 0.25 km² large Triftsee
Triftsee
which formed between 2002–2003. Land elevation[edit] See also: Swiss cantons by elevation The following table[8] gives the surface area above 2000 m and 3000 m and the respective percentage on the total area of each canton whose high point is above 2000 metres.

Canton Land above 2000m in km² Land above 2000m in % Land above 3000m in km² Land above 3000m in %

Appenzell Ausserrhoden 1 0.4 0 0

Appenzell Innerrhoden 4 2.3 0 0

Bern 887 15 100 1.7

Fribourg 14 0.8 0 0

Glarus 213 31 4 0.6

Graubünden 4296 60 111 1.6

Lucerne 4 0.3 0 0

Nidwalden 20 7 0 0

Obwalden 66 13 1 0.2

Schwyz 69 8 0 0

St. Gallen 184 9 1 0.05

Ticino 781 28 2 0.07

Uri 562 52 19 1.8

Valais 2595 50 697 13

Vaud 92 3 1 0.03

Switzerland 9788 24 936 2.3

Geology[edit] Main article: Geology of the Alps See also: List of glaciers in Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen
Valley in the Bernese Alps, a deep U-shaped valley that resulted from erosion by glaciers

The composition of the great tectonic units reflects the history of the formation of the Alps. The rocks from the Helvetic zone
Helvetic zone
on the north and the Austroalpine nappes
Austroalpine nappes
– Southern Alps
Alps
on the south come originally from the European and African continent respectively. The rocks of the Penninic nappes
Penninic nappes
belong to the former area of the Briançonnais microcontinent
Briançonnais microcontinent
and the Tethys Ocean. The closure of the latter by subduction under the African plate (Piemont Ocean first and Valais
Valais
Ocean later) preceded the collision between the two plates and the so-called alpine orogeny. The major thrust fault of the Tectonic Arena Sardona in the eastern Glarus Alps
Alps
gives a visible illustration of mountain-building processes and was therefore declared a UNESCO World Heritage. Another fine example gives the Alpstein
Alpstein
area with several visible upfolds of Helvetic zone
Helvetic zone
material. With some exceptions, the Alps
Alps
north of Rhône
Rhône
and Rhine
Rhine
are part of the Helvetic Zone and those on the south side are part of the Penninic nappes. The Austroalpine zone concerns almost only the Eastern Alps, with the notable exception of the Matterhorn. The last glaciations greatly transformed Switzerland’s landscape. Many valleys of the Swiss Alps
Alps
are U-shaped due to glacial erosion. During the maximum extension of the Würm glaciation
Würm glaciation
(18,000 years ago) the glaciers completely covered the Swiss Plateau, before retreating and leaving remnants only in high mountain areas. In modern times the Aletsch Glacier
Aletsch Glacier
in the western Bernese Alps
Alps
is the largest and longest in the Alps, reaching a maximum depth of 900 metres at Konkordiaplatz. Along with the Fiescher and Aar Glaciers the region became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. An effect of the retreat of the Rhine
Rhine
Glacier some 10,000 years ago was the Flims
Flims
Rockslide, the biggest still visible landslide apparently worldwide. Environment and climate[edit] To protect endangered species some sites have been brought under protection. The Swiss National Park
Swiss National Park
in Graubünden
Graubünden
was established in 1914 as the first alpine national park. The Entlebuch area was designated a biosphere reserve in 2001. The largest protected area in the country is the Parc Ela, opened in 2006, which covers an area of 600 square kilometres.[9] The Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area
Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area
is the first World Heritage Site in the Alps. Climate zones[edit] See also: Climate of the Alps As the temperature decreases with altitude (0.56 °C per 100 metres on yearly average), three different altitudinal zones, each having distinct climate, are found in the Swiss Alps:

Subalpine zone

Tree line
Tree line
in the national park

Liskamm
Liskamm
(4,527 m), above the Border Glacier

The Subalpine zone
Subalpine zone
is the region which lies below the tree line. It is the most important region as it is the largest of the three and contains almost all human settlements as well as the productive areas. The forests are mainly composed by conifers above 1,200–1,400 metres, the deciduous tree forest being confined to lower elevations. The upper limit of the Subalpine zone
Subalpine zone
is located at about 1,800 metres on the north side of the Alps
Alps
and at about 2,000 metres on the south side. It can however differ in some regions such as the Appenzell Alps (1,600 metres) or the Engadin
Engadin
valley (2,300 metres).

Alpine zone

The Alpine zone is situated above the tree line and is clear of trees because of low average temperatures. It contains mostly grass and small plants along with mountain flowers. Below the permafrost limit (at about 2,600 metres), the alpine meadows are often used as pastures. Some villages can still be found on the lowest altitudes such as Riederalp
Riederalp
(1,940 m) or Juf
Juf
(2,130 m). The extent of the Alpine zone is limited by the first permanent snow, its altitude greatly varies depending on the location (and orientation), it comprises between 2,800 and 3,200 metres.

Glacial zone

The glacial zone is the area of permanent snow and ice. When the steepness of the slope is not too high it results in an accumulation and compaction of snow, which transforms into ice. The glacier formed then flows down the valley and can reach as far down as 1,500 metres (the Upper Grindelwald
Grindelwald
Glacier). Where the slopes are too steep, the snow accumulates to form overhanging seracs, which periodically fall off due to the downwards movement of the glacier and cause ice avalanches. The Bernese Alps, Pennine Alps
Alps
and Mont Blanc Massif contain most of the glaciated areas in the Alps. Except research stations such as the Sphinx Observatory, no settlements are to be found in those regions.

Travel and tourism[edit]

Glacier 3000

Tourism in the Swiss Alps
Alps
began with the first ascents of the main peaks of the Alps
Alps
( Jungfrau
Jungfrau
in 1811, Piz Bernina
Piz Bernina
in 1850, Monte Rosa in 1855, Matterhorn
Matterhorn
in 1856, Dom in 1858, Weisshorn
Weisshorn
in 1861) mostly by British mountain climbers accompanied by the local guides. The construction of facilities for tourists started in the mid nineteenth century with the building of hotels and mountain huts (creation of the Swiss Alpine Club
Swiss Alpine Club
in 1863) and the opening of mountain train lines on ( Rigi
Rigi
in 1873, Pilatus in 1889, Gornergrat
Gornergrat
in 1898). The Jungfraubahn opened in 1912; it leads to the highest railway station in Europe, the Jungfraujoch. Summer tourism[edit] Switzerland
Switzerland
enjoys a 62,000-km network of well-maintained trails, of which 23,000 are located in mountainous areas. Many mountains attract a large number of alpinists from around the world, especially the 4000-metre summits and the great north faces (Eiger, Matterhorn
Matterhorn
and Piz Badile). The large winter resorts are also popular destinations in summer, as most of aerial tramways operate through the year, enabling hikers and mountaineers to reach high altitudes without much effort. The Klein Matterhorn
Matterhorn
is the highest summit of the European continent to be served by cable car. Winter tourism[edit] Main article: List of ski areas and resorts in Switzerland

Highest ski area in Europe above Zermatt

The major destinations for skiing and other winter sports are located in Valais, Bernese Oberland
Bernese Oberland
and Graubünden. Some villages are car-free and can be accessed only with public transports such as Riederalp
Riederalp
and Bettmeralp.[10] Zermatt
Zermatt
and Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee
have both summer ski areas. The ski season starts from as early as November and runs to as late as May; however, the majority of ski resorts in Switzerland tend to open in December and run through to April. The most visited places are:[11]

Due to strong political will by the citizenry, Zermatt
Zermatt
remains car-free and retains much of its original character

Davos
Davos
Klosters
Klosters
GR Zermatt
Zermatt
VS (car-free village) Engadin
Engadin
St. Moritz
St. Moritz
GR Lenzerheide
Lenzerheide
Arosa
Arosa
GR Jungfrauregion: Grindelwald
Grindelwald
Mürren
Mürren
Wengen
Wengen
BE (car-free villages) Les quatre vallées: Verbier
Verbier
Nendaz
Nendaz
VS LAAX: Flims
Flims
Laax
Laax
GR Aletsch
Aletsch
Arena: Riederalp
Riederalp
Bettmeralp
Bettmeralp
Fiesch
Fiesch
VS (car-free villages) Les Portes du Soleil: Champéry
Champéry
Morgins
Morgins
Les Crosets VS and Avoriaz
Avoriaz
in France Adelboden
Adelboden
Lenk
Lenk
BE Val d'Anniviers: Grimentz
Grimentz
Zinal
Zinal
Vercorin
Vercorin
– St-Luc – Chandolin
Chandolin
VS Gstaad: Gstaad
Gstaad
Saanen
Saanen
Saanenmöser
Saanenmöser
Zweisimmen
Zweisimmen
BE – Rougemont – Chateau-d'Oex
Chateau-d'Oex
VD Silvretta Arena: Samnaun
Samnaun
GR and Ischgl
Ischgl
in Austria Crans Montana
Crans Montana
VS Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee
VS

Other important destinations on the regional level are Engelberg- Titlis
Titlis
(Central Switzerland
Switzerland
/ OW) and Gotthard Oberalp Arena with Andermatt
Andermatt
(Central Switzerland
Switzerland
/ UR) and Sedrun
Sedrun
(GR), Leysin-Les Mosses, Villars-sur-Ollon, Les Diablerets- Glacier 3000
Glacier 3000
(all VD), Leukerbad
Leukerbad
(VS), Savognin, Scuol, Obersaxen, Breil/Brigels
Breil/Brigels
(all GR), Meiringen
Meiringen
Hasliberg
Hasliberg
(BE), Sörenberg
Sörenberg
(LU), Klewenalp
Klewenalp
with Beckenried
Beckenried
and Emmetten, Melchsee-Frutt
Melchsee-Frutt
(all NW), Flumserberg
Flumserberg
and Pizol
Pizol
(both Sarganserland
Sarganserland
in SG), Toggenburg
Toggenburg
with Wildhaus
Wildhaus
Unterwasser Alt St. Johann
Alt St. Johann
(SG), Hoch-Ybrig
Hoch-Ybrig
and Stoos
Stoos
(all SZ), Braunwald and Elm (GL), Airolo
Airolo
and Bosco/Gurin
Bosco/Gurin
(TI) and many more.[12] The first person to ski in Grindelwald, Switzerland
Switzerland
was Englishmen Gerald Fox (who lived at Tone Dale House) who put his skis on in his hotel bedroom in 1881 and walked out through the hotel Bar to the slopes wearing them.[13] Transport[edit] See also: List of mountain passes in Switzerland
Switzerland
and List of mountain railways in Switzerland

The Glacier Express
Glacier Express
on the Landwasser Viaduct, Albula Range

Lötschberg railway line

The Swiss Alps
Alps
and Switzerland
Switzerland
enjoy an extensive transport network. Every mountain village can be reached by public transport, the main companies are:

Federal Railway Rhaetian Railway Matterhorn
Matterhorn
Gotthard Bahn Golden Pass PostBus

Most of mountain regions are within 3 hours travel of Switzerland’s main cities and their respective airport. The Engadin
Engadin
Valley in Graubünden
Graubünden
is between 4 and 6 hours away from the large cities; the train journey itself, with the panoramic Glacier Express
Glacier Express
or Bernina Express, is popular with tourists. The Engadin
Engadin
Airport near St. Moritz
St. Moritz
at an altitude of 1,707 metres is the highest in Europe. The crossing of the Alps
Alps
is a key issue at national and international levels, as the European continent is at places divided by the range. Since the beginning of industrialisation Switzerland
Switzerland
has improved its transalpine network; it began in 1882, by building the Gotthard Rail Tunnel, followed in 1906 by the Simplon Tunnel
Simplon Tunnel
and more recently, in 2007, by the Lötschberg Base Tunnel. The 57-km long Gotthard Base Tunnel is scheduled to open in 2016, and it will finally provide a direct flat rail link through the Alps. Toponymy[edit] The different names of the mountains and other landforms are named in the four national languages. The table below gives the most recurrent names.

English German French Italian Romansh Examples

Mount Berg, Stock Mont Monte Munt, Cuolm Gamsberg, Dammastock, Mont Vélan, Monte Generoso, Munt Pers

Summit Gipfel Cime Cima Tschima Grenzgipfel, Cima di Gana Bianca, Tschima da Flix

Peak Spitze Pointe, Pic Pizzo Piz, Péz Lenzspitze, Pointe de Zinal, Pizzo Campo Tencia, Piz Roseg

Needle Nadel Aiguille Ago Ago, Guila Nadelhorn, Aiguille d'Argentière, Ago di Sciora

Horn Horn Corne Corno Corn Wetterhorn, Corne de Sorebois, Corn da Tinizong

Tower Turm Tour Torre Tuor Tour Sallière, Torrone Alto

Head Kopf Tête Testa Tgau Bürkelkopf, Tête Blanche

Ridge Grat Crêt Cresta Fil, Cresta Gornergrat, Crêt du Midi, Fil de Cassons

Glacier Gletscher, Firn Glacier Ghiacciaio Glatscher, Vadret Unteraargletscher, Hüfifirn, Glacier de Corbassière, Ghiacciaio del Basodino, Vadret da Morteratsch, Glatscher dil Vorab

Valley Tal Val Valle, Val Val Mattertal, Val d'Hérens, Valle Maggia

Pass Pass, Joch Col, Pas Passo Pass Jungfraujoch, Panix Pass, Pas de Cheville, Passo del San Gottardo

Also a large number of peaks outside the Alps
Alps
were named or nicknamed after Swiss mountains, such as the Wetterhorn
Wetterhorn
Peak in Colorado
Colorado
or the Matterhorn
Matterhorn
Peak in California
California
(see the Matterhorn
Matterhorn
article for a list of Matterhorns in the world). The confluence of the Baltoro Glacier
Baltoro Glacier
and the Godwin-Austen Glacier south of K2 in the Karakoram
Karakoram
range was named after the Konkordiaplatz by European explorers. See also[edit]

The Alps
Alps
are featured on the Swiss fifty-franc banknote since 2016.

Tourism

Swiss Alpine Club Swiss Alpine Museum Haute Route Tour du Mont Blanc Monte Rosa
Monte Rosa
tour Alpine Pass Route Trans-Swiss Trail

Sport

La Grande Odyssée Patrouille des Glaciers Lauberhorn
Lauberhorn
Ski Race Trophée des Gastlosen Jungfrau
Jungfrau
Marathon

Other

The Alps
Alps
(film) History of the Alps Transhumance in the Alps NRLA Exploration of the High Alps

Notes and references[edit]

Glaciers of the Alps, USGS Encyclopædia Britannica, Alps

^ Ball, John (1873). The Central Alps. Longmans, Green & Co.  ^ Werner Bätzing, Henri Rougier, Les Alpes: Un foyer de civilisation au coeur de l'Europe, page 21, ISBN 2-606-00294-6 ^ Area defined by the Alpine Convention (website: alpconv.org) ^ According to the limit defined by the Alpine Convention ^ The Swiss Prealps should not be confused with the homonymous region defined by the SOIUSA
SOIUSA
classification of the Alps, with the Schilthorn as main summit. ^ Swiss Alps
Alps
in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland. ^ "Dam Begun in Swiss Alps
Alps
to be Europe's Highest." Popular Science, November 1929, p. 61 ^ Die Kantone nach ihren höchsten Punkten (in German) Various highest and lowest elevation values by canton (village center, road or rail network, etc.) ^ Nature parks swissworld.org ^ There are in total 9 car-free villages members of the GAST (Gemeinschaft Autofreier Tourismusorte): Bettmeralp, Braunwald, Riederalp, Rigi, Saas-Fee, Stoos, Wengen, Mürren
Mürren
and Zermatt. ^ Davos, la station la plus fréquentée de Suisse bilan.ch ^ "Winter Sport Areas". search.ch. Retrieved 2015-11-09.  ^ Skiing
Skiing
the Alps

Bibliography[edit]

(in German)(in French) Heinz Staffelbach, Handbuch Schweizer Alpen. Pflanzen, Tiere, Gesteine und Wetter. Der Naturführer, Haupt Verlag, 2008, 656 pages (ISBN 978-3-258-07638-6). French translation: Heinz Staffelbach, Manuel des Alpes suisses. Plantes, animaux, roches et météo. Le guide nature, éditions Rossolis, 2009, 656 pages (ISBN 978-2-940365-30-2).

External links[edit]

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Coordinates: 46°33′33″N 8°33′41″E / 46.55917°N 8.56139°E /

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