Skiing is Switzerland's national sport. Imbued with alpine symbolism, skiing is an intrinsic part of the country's national identity.
Switzerland is the fifth most popular ski destination in the world. As well as being a favourite leisure pursuit for many Swiss people, skiing makes a major contribution to the economy of certain regions like Valais and Graubünden. Zermatt, Verbier, Davos, Laax and St. Moritz are Switzerland's most popular ski resorts.
The first ski clubs were founded in Glarus (1893), Bern (1900) and Zurich (1901). In the early part of the 20th century, skiers started to flock to places like Davos and St. Moritz. With the advent of ski lifts in the 1950s, skiing became a truly national sport, attracting visitors from home and abroad. The relatively recent winter sport of snowboarding is particularly popular among young people.
Swiss sportswomen and men excel in downhill skiing competitions, as well as in other winter sport disciplines such as ski jumping and snowboarding. To date, Swiss athletes have won a total of 59 Olympic medals in the downhill event, 12 in snowboarding and five in ski jumping. Switzerland has also won the Alpine Ski World Championships many times over. Carlo Janka, Lara Gut, Didier Cuche, Erika Hess, Vreni Schneider, Pirmin Zurbriggen and Bernhard Russi are among the best-known Swiss skiers of recent times.