WIN­TER SPORTS

Switzer­land's best ski re­sorts have a host of ac­tiv­i­ties to of­fer both thrill seek­ers and those look­ing to re­lax

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - NEHA GUP TA KAPOOR

Switzer­land's ski re­sorts of­fer both chill­ing thrills and a chance to chill

Just be­cause we’re in the Alps, doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that ski­ing is the only ac­tiv­ity avail­able. In fact, you needn’t par­tic­i­pate in any stren­u­ous sports at all if you don’t want to. There are plenty of other ways to en­joy Switzer­land’s ski re­sorts rang­ing from par­ty­ing to tak­ing a dip in a hot tub. Here is a look at five bet­ter known ski re­sorts and what each of­fers.

ZER­MATT

This Swiss ski re­sort is at the foot of iconic Mat­ter­horn. There is no “open” sea­son here be­cause it is pretty much snow cov­ered all year round, and there’s al­ways ar­ti­fi­cial snow mak­ing, should nat­u­ral sup­ply run low. Hav­ing said that, for snow-sure slopes, visit be­tween De­cem­ber and April.

It doesn’t mat­ter if you’re adept at ski­ing, still up­grad­ing your skills one ski trip at a time or don’t know how to ski at all, the glitzy, car-free town is teem­ing with tourists of all kinds, es­pe­cially dur­ing peak sea­sons. Here’s why: It has some of the best res­tau­rants in the coun­try, sports en­thu­si­asts not into ski­ing still find a chal­lenge here, and those with no in­cli­na­tion to­ward phys­i­cal ex­er­tion can idle away time by sim­ply ad­mir­ing the Mat­ter­horn.

This may sound cliché, but at least take a pic­ture of the Mat­ter­horn re­flect­ing off the al­most still sur­face of Lake Rif­felsee. An­other an­gle for a beau­ti­ful shot of the slopes is hov­er­ing over them. Europe’s high­est ca­ble car, Mat­ter­horn Glacier Par­adise, car­ries you 12,000 feet above the peaks for a per­fect aerial view of the moun­tain. If you’re in top phys­i­cal shape, at­tempt a climb up the Mat­ter­horn for panoramic views of the re­sort from the top – be care­ful though, be­cause she is known to be mer­ci­less. A lit­tle less scary would be cy­cling along the lake and past the moun­tain or hik­ing on the Mat­ter­horn Glacier Trail.

There are plenty of more mun­dane things to do here too, such as a tour of the Zer­matt vil­lage from a cen­tury ago or gas­tron­omy tours that take you to the kitchen where you can dine with the chef. Home-made cheese and choco­late shops are found in plenty here and are the best sou­venirs to take home.

VER­BIER

This ski re­sort is sit­u­ated in the can­ton of the Valais in the south­west­ern part of Switzer­land. The vil­lage is bor­dered by France to the left and Italy to the south. Sit­u­ated at an al­ti­tude of 5,000 feet, it has am­ple snow through­out the year. How­ever, tourist sea­son here is from mid-De­cem­ber un­til the end of April. If you want to steer clear of crowds, don’t book around Christ­mas and New Year, and the weeks in Fe­bru­ary and March.

For a typ­i­cal snow and ski ex­pe­ri­ence, ride the chair­lift at La Chaux-Ex­press snow park, sim­ply be­cause it is teem­ing with ac­tiv­ity and the jour­ney is pic­turesque to say the least. Lifts will close due to high winds, so check Live Lift Sta­tus for info.

There is a sports cen­ter in the vil­lage here where you can go for a swim or book a squash court. It also has ice hockey and ice-skat­ing and the lo­cal golf club with an 18-hole course is nearby, but it is open only dur­ing the sum­mer.

Ver­bier has a young and sporty vibe and is pop­u­lar amongst the ath­letic crowds. Aprés-ski par­ties are all the rage, and it isn’t un­com­mon for peo­ple to make a stop at this re­sort just to tour the half-mile stretch in main Ver­bier from Place Cen­trale to Mé­dran with its clus­ter of res­tau­rants, shops and cafes. That’s all there is to Ver­bier – yet, it’s a beau­ti­ful des­ti­na­tion to sim­ply be.

SAAS-FEE

Part of the Visp dis­trict, Saas-Fee is the main vil­lage of Saastal. It and the sur­round­ing moun­tains and glacier en­joys sun­shine 300 days a year, and most of its slopes are snow cov­ered all 365 days of the year with light pow­der. This is per­haps why sum­mer ski­ing is a joy here. Like other ski re­sorts in the coun­try, this one too is busiest be­tween Jan­uary and April. Avoid vis­it­ing around July-Au­gust for these are Saas-Fee’s hottest months, while De­cem­ber-Jan­uary brings bit­ing cold winds.

The vil­lage is a re­cent devel­op­ment, which up un­til around 1951 was only ac­ces­si­ble via a don­key-pass. Even to­day, the only way to reach the car-free re­sort is by road. The tiny set­tle­ment is beau­ti­ful, with the jux­ta­po­si­tion of old build­ings and mod­ern chalets, all un­der the shadow of 13 tow­er­ing snow peaks.

The lift sys­tem fer­ries pas­sen­gers in large gon­do­las to ski sta­tions. One of the gon­do­las takes you to Han­nig where you’ll find ac­tiv­i­ties other than ski­ing, such as

snow­shoe­ing, to­bog­gan­ing and paraski­ing to name a few. In ad­di­tion, the vil­lage fea­tures skat­ing and roller-coaster rides. For some­thing more re­laxed, choose from swim­ming in a heated pool, tak­ing a dip in a hot tub or un­wind­ing in the steam and sauna rooms in and around the vil­lage, at dif­fer­ent al­ti­tudes.

While you’re here, make time for Al­lalin. Don’t drop in on the first day though be­cause at an al­ti­tude of 11,400 feet, you will need time to ac­cli­mate be­fore you go. It has the world’s high­est re­volv­ing restau­rant and an ice pavil­ion where you can learn the his­tory of ice from 2,000 years ago.

LAAX

Its base over­laps with an­other ski re­sort — Flims. The old part of this rus­tic vil­lage is known as Laax Dorf, while the new part is sim­ply known as Laax. The mod­ern half is where the lift base, park­ing and mod­ern ho­tels are sit­u­ated. De­cem­ber to April is when tourists over­run the vil­lage.

While it is pop­u­lar amongst skiers, Laax has a host of other at­trac­tions. The strong, al­most con­stant sun­light has proved to be a li­a­bil­ity for the snow qual­ity here, which is why the re­gion is ap­peal­ing to a dif­fer­ent clien­tele – freestylers. One can en­roll for fun freestyle work­shops that can be prac­ticed on the slopes – and if you dare, at the world’s big­gest half­pipe lo­cated here. Adren­a­line seek­ers will find thrill in snow-bik­ing too.

Al­ter­na­tively, there are a good num­ber of spa ho­tels where one can wind down with a well­ness treat­ment or re­fresh with a steam and sauna. Af­ter this, spend­ing the evening at Switzer­land’s largest pub­lic tele­scope isn’t a bad idea. Al­ter­nately, Laax of­fers a di­verse culi­nary scene too — ev­ery­thing from tra­di­tional Swiss cui­sine, Ital­ian pasta and Mex­i­can tacos to juicy burg­ers, mulled wine and cold beer. Lo­cal apps al­low you to have the food de­liv­ered and tours can take you on a gas­tron­omy trail.

DAVOS

Most are fa­mil­iar with Davos as the host for the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum held in Jan­uary. Most oth­ers know it as a ski re­sort from Fe­bru­ary to April. Few may know that Switzer­land’s ski­ing tourism started in Davos, thanks to Sir Arthur Co­nan Doyle.

In Vic­to­rian times Davos was bet­ter known for its clean, crisp air that was be­lieved to be ideal for tu­ber­cu­lo­sis pa­tients. One of them was Doyle’s wife. While he tended her here, he also took a fancy to his lat­est win­ter dis­cov­ery – ski­ing. He spoke about it to The Strand mag­a­zine and ever since there has been no look­ing back for Davos whose des­tiny was bright­ened.

There are two parts to Davos – Platz, a clus­ter where most of Davos’ ho­tels, shops and eater­ies are lo­cated, and Dorf, with ac­cess to the ski slopes. Its six main ski ar­eas cover a to­tal of 200 miles of snow-cov­ered slopes. Be­sides ski­ing, Davos’ rep­u­ta­tion has grown be­cause of its ice hockey team. The re­sort also has the largest nat­u­ral ice-skat­ing rink in Europe and of course to­bog­gan­ing, snow­board­ing and sled­ding. Ice climb­ing, fat bik­ing and paraglid­ing are other ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able here. Dur­ing sum­mer, the re­gion opens up for golf, wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties and ten­nis to name but a few.

This may sound like a cliché, but at least take a pic­ture of the Mat­ter­horn re­flect­ing off the al­most still sur­face of Lake Rif­felsee

PRE­VI­OUS PAGE: Ski­ing and snow­board­ing sta­tion at Saas-FeeABOVE AND RIGHT: Mat­ter­horn's re­flec­tion on the Rif­fel lake, Zer­matt; and a freerider in Ver­bier

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.