Frozen lakes and fondues
could ever wish for, and then some, under one roof: swimming pool, putting green, indoor and outdoor tennis, plus massages, saunas, steams and treatments, plus, in the winter, around 70km of medium grade pistes on the doorstep, ice-skating rinks, curling and a fabulously scary toboggan run from Tschuggen down to the village. There are also 200 kilometres of marked trails for hiking in summer or for Nordic Walking in winter.
Nordic Walking is a recent phenomenon. Basically, it is just walking with poles, but it is quite staggeringly popular; enough for thousands of hardy souls of all ages to converge on Arosa from all across Europe, line up at the start-line in a fever of excitement, and commence to race each other by shlepping, it seems to me, as slowly as possible, which, you will excuse me, seems a little perverse.
There is, my Nordic Walking coach told me, an intricate method to all of this, which involves “wielding the Nordic Walking poles in harmony with the body in order to enhance upper body musculature and cardiovascular efficiency.” Some people do it competitively. Most, however, use it as an excuse for a jolly good walk and a nice way to burn off a generous 400 calo- ries per hour, as compared with 280 calories with “normal” walking, which makes it a good antidote to all that fondue and kirschwasser.
But even if it has little more than pretentions to being a sport, if it gives good reason to take to the hills and valleys and frozen lakes and incredibly clean air of this beautiful part of the country in the company of your fellow thrill seekers, with cable cars and chair lifts skimming the bobbly bit on the top of your woolly hat, then I am all for it.
Another thing about Arosa: they have donkey rides slap bang in the middle of town (though everywhere in Arosa is slap bang in the middle of town; it is a small place). This is not something I would normally cite as a resort’s selling point, but I think it is the donkeys that helped me grow so fond so quickly of Arosa — the sheer old-fashionedness of the place. There is nothing of the St Moritz, or the Davos, or the Klosters about Arosa. It is determinedly un-glitzy, un-pretentious, undesigner, and even more effortlessly family-friendly.
Row boats and pedalos on the little lake, weekly firework displays, children’s playgrounds aplenty (my personal favourite is the Alpen Club Mickey Maus), an open-air cinema, vintage racing car rallies that turn Arosa into some sort of superannuated Le Mans, and a clutch of oldworld mountain huts that serve cold beer and cheese-and-pineapple-ona-stick.
Arosa is very low-key and warmly welcoming. If you ever spy Harry or Wills in Arosa, chances are they are lost.
I have already decided to head back to Arosa later this winter. This is when the renowned Tschuggen Grand Hotel re-opens, complete with its own right-to-the-hotel-door ski station and the hotel’s spanking new and utterly
stunning Bergoase spa facility, linked to the hotel by a glass bridge, which is set into the side of the mountain and looks like some sort of incredibly hitech Unitarian church.
Me being me, I wandered on site and sniffed around on my way back down the Weisshorn. I stood in the spa’s meditation room, where ecclesiastically pitched windows filter skinny shafts of sunlight and bathe the inner space in a heavenly glow in a way strikingly reminiscent of Berlin’s Jewish Museum. Indeed, it is a building that would not disgrace the great Daniel Libeskind himself.
It may be attached to a hotel, but this is a building people will flock to just to gawp at. I went straight home and booked myself in for December. Any day now, I will be getting out the walking poles and woolly hat.
Arosa’s town centre with its horse-drawn buggies
Picture postcard Switzerland: un-glitzy, un-pretentious Arosa