February is mid-winter in Switzerland, and places above 5,000 feet (1,500 m) will almost certainly have snow on the ground this month. The thickest snow is in January and February, and conditions are ideal at higher altitudes for snow sports. Föhn winds (warmer southerly winds on the northern slopes of the Alps) occur in winter and can lead to weather that's unpredictable and that changes suddenly.
In lower-altitude towns, cities, and valleys, February weather can be dull, cold, and wet, but heavy snow is rare at lower levels. Winter days are also short, but by February, they are increasing, and nights are shorter than in late December. The average February temperature in lowland cities like Zürich, Geneva, and Lugano is 39°F (4°C). Temperatures at higher elevations in the Alps are generally colder. For example, the average February temperature in Zermatt is 23°F (-5°C).
Crowds & Costs
February is the high season for travel to Switzerland, with visitors from Europe and across the globe coming to the Alps for snow sport-related vacations. The Bernese Oberland, Valais, and St. Moritz areas of the Alps are especially busy. Costs are always high in Switzerland, but they're at a peak in the winter. This applies to mountain resorts as well as the cities because most travelers pass through and spend some time in the cities before heading to the mountains.
Depending on the date of Easter in a given year, Carnival sometimes falls in late February. Basel and Lucerne, in particular, host large, flamboyant Carnival festivities. Book accommodation in advance and travel to these cities early if you want to be there for Carnival.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Where to Go
In Switzerland in February, the mountains are calling. St. Moritz (in the southeast) and Zermatt (in the southwest) offer some of the best skiing and other snow sports in Switzerland and possibly in the whole of Europe. Also, head to the Upper Engadine, Lower Engadine, Upper Rhône, or Matter Valleys to go winter hiking. It's not safe to walk just anywhere in the mountains in winter, but these places have well-prepared trails.
Whether you're passing through a Swiss city on the way to the mountains or are looking for a city break destination, it's worth spending some time in Basel or Lucerne during Carnival. The Carnival in Basel is Switzerland's most significant and is unusual in that it's a Protestant event (Carnival is usually Catholic). Lucerne's Carnival has particularly striking parades.
What to Do
As well as skiing, snowboarding, and winter hiking, visitors to Switzerland in February can have a go at snow-shoeing. Special snow shoes prevent you from sinking far into the snow, making it (somewhat!) easier to walk on snow. Switzerland is famous for its well-marked and prepared hiking trails, and this extends to winter hiking and snowshoeing.
Look out for specially prepared snowshoe trails, which are different from "regular" winter hiking trails. The snow isn't pressed down as much as on other winter hiking trails. It takes a lot longer to hike in snowshoes than in regular shoes on dirt trails, so if you're less experienced, don't try to cover too much distance in one day.
Events in February
White Turf, St. Moritz. Over three days in February, horse racing (as well as music and culinary events) take place on a frozen lake in the shadow of snow-capped mountains.
Carnival, various locations. Depending on the date of Easter, Carnival is sometimes held in late February. Various places around Switzerland put on celebrations, but the parades, costumes, and parties of Basel's and Lucerne's Carnival celebrations are the most famous.