What Are Some Facts About the Alps?

The Alps stretch from the Atlas Mountains of North Africa to beyond the Himalayas, bisecting the southern parts of Europe and Asia. This unconnected mountain chain covers more than 80,000 square miles, forms part of 12 countries and is most associated with Switzerland.

The Swiss Alps feature valleys and jagged peaks, including the Matterhorn, the most jagged peak in the Alps. The snow line in the Alps begins between 8,200 and 9,186 feet. Forty-eight mountains in the Swiss Alps are at least 13,120 feet. At 15,203 feet, the Dufourspitze in Canton Valais is the highest mountain in Switzerland. About 1,800 glaciers make up part of the Alps, and the Rhone, Upper Rhine, Reuss and Ticino River valleys divide it into ranges.

The western Alps form part of France, Italy and Switzerland, and the eastern Alps form part of Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and Albania. Temperatures in the Alps vary. The climate is warmer and drier in the valleys, and during the winter, snow cover lasts from mid-November through the end of May at about the 6,600-foot level. Temperatures in January can range between 23 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit and between 59 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit in July.

The Alps cover nearly two-thirds of Switzerland's total surface area. The country saw a tourism boom in the Alps after World War II. More than 60 percent of tourists in Switzerland come for the Alps. While tourism provides employment opportunities in the region, it causes ecological problems that threaten the mountain system.