The nearest coast to landlocked Switzerland is 100 miles away on the Gulf of Genoa, Italy, and though the small country may lack direct access to the ocean, it certainly compensates with abundant rivers and lakes. I learned to dive in Lake Constance (Bodensee), Central Europe’s third largest lake after Lake Balaton and Lake Geneva, whose shores touch Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Switzerland features some amazing diving locations, including parts of the Rhine River, deep glacial-valley lakes, small mountain lakes that are cold even in summer months and, yes, icebergs in Lake Sassol.
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Diving in Lake Sassol
The Canton of Ticino is nestled into a corner of the Italian part of Switzerland. Here you’ll find the Maggia Valley, which features a number of small lakes. And one of these, Lake Sassol, features icebergs. Situated 6,900 feet above sea level — well within the realm of altitude diving considerations — the lake is only accessible in the summer months, as the road is closed over winter. In fact the road has no set opening time. Depending on the winter’s severity. road crews must clear the rocks and rubble brought down by the snowmelt away.
The icebergs themselves are formed by the compressed snow and ice pack sliding slowly down the mountainside and into the lake, where they break up into various sizes. The formation of these icebergs is weather dependent and there is only a maximum 4-week window each year to experience this. Arrive too early and the road might be closed and the snow still on the mountains. Arrive too late and the snow is all gone.
However, if you time it just right you’ll be able to dive under icebergs, many thousands of miles from the polar ice. Depending on wind conditions, the icebergs tend to move around the lake, so even though you may gear up right next to them, they may have moved 800 feet down the lake by the time you’re ready and require a short swim to reach them. The lake itself is not deep. Rocks and slabs of mountain that have built up over millennia fill the water, which in itself would not make for a truly memorable dive. Add icebergs, though, and it’s a different story.