I am a great fan of the winter sports resorts in Graubünden, and will be spending the Christmas period in the canton. It is probably the most complete ski and snowboard destination in the world, but it caters well for ever type of visitor – including the budget conscious.
This season Graubünden once again has a range of excellent deals. The season starts on 18th October 2014 on the Diavolezza in the Engadine, which celebrates 150 years of winter tourism. On 22nd November, Corvatsch and Corviglia in St Moritz open. Progressively other resorts open, with Arosa, Samnaun, Flims Laax Falera and Davos Klosters opening in November.
A great deal for getting there is the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) offer, “Railhit 2 for 1” in which two people travelling together from Monday to Thursday only pay for one if they are hotel guests or in self-catering accommodation. The offer lasts from 8th December 2014 to 10th April 2014. RailHit is not valid on a handful of special services, including the pass associated with using the Preda-Bergün sledging slope.
For 35 SFr per person per day for visits of at least two nights, a ski pass is included with accommodation at participating hotels in and around St Moritz.
Arosa once again features the “Ski School Included” for youngsters staying in the resort, whereby lessons are available at no charge.
Now linked to Arosa, Lenzerheide gives you a free lift pass if you book a stay at any time between 28th of November to the 20th December.
Up until 21st December 2014 you also get a complimentary ski pass for slopes in Davos Klosters for every overnight stay in a partner hotel in the area. From 20th December until 6th April the resorts are also offering a local insider to accompany you and show you the best of the mountains. Remember also that Ski Club of Great Britain members still can ski or snowboard for free with a Ski Club representative.
More details on these and other offers are posted at the Graubünden Tourism website.
There are also the usual range of budget options if you are going to Graubunden, with some excellent hostels and budget hotels. Check out the Winter Sports Accommodation Guide.
In the autumn of 1864, reputedly, Johannes Badrutt wagered some English summer guests the cost of their stay at the Hotel Kulm in St Moritz if they did not enjoy wintering there as much as they had enjoyed staying there over the summer. They arrived in time for Christmas and stayed through until Easter. In contrast to the gloomy, short, damp days of an English winter cooped up indoors, they were able to sit outside in the almost endless sunshine. Badrutt had won his bet, and with that the winter tourism industry was born.
That famous wager was made 150 years ago, and St Moritz will be celebrating it in style.
Winter tourism now vies with summer tourism in the Alps for the numbers of visitors and overnight stays. Badrutt and his son, Casper, went on to be responsible for a series of innovations, including coining the term Palace to describe a grand hotel and creating the world’s first bobsleigh course. And, of course, Badrutt’s Palace to this day remains one of the most iconic hotels in the world, and St Moritz the epitome of winter holiday resorts.
Two of my favourite resorts are now linked together to create one of the most significant Alpine resorts – the largest in Graubünden, and one of the ten largest in Switzerland.
In some ways it is a con, much like Davos–Klosters or any number of resorts which simply have a lift joining separate areas. But it is a convincing con. A double cablecar now stretches between the Hörnli summit in Arosa and Urdenfürggli above Parpan, gateway to the varied Lenzerheide circuit. Lenzerheide is a fabulous resort, reputedly a favourite of Margaret Thatcher, and had initially opposed the link to gay-friendly and family-friendly Arosa. There are many goods reasons why, but the simple fact of the matter is that the larger resorts are doing better at the expense of smaller resorts, and Arosa felt the pinch sometime before Lenzerheide. However the strong Franc probably pushed the Gemeinde of Lenzerheide to go for the link.
Interestingly enough the valley between the two resorts is very skiable and part of a famous off-piste itinerary. There may be environmental objections to making it part of the extended resort, but I reckon it is only a matter of time before lifts serve pistes under the new cable car.
I visited the area last weekend, and I was impressed. The snow conditions were fabulous and Spring snow conditions only really affected the lower and South-facing runs. It has not been a vintage season, and generally I have gone high to find good snow conditions, but I was impressed with the quality of the pistes for April – and the fabulous bowl below Hörnli still had some great off-piste, particularly on extreme skiers right.
Both resorts offer a lot more than skiing and both have been favourites of people who simply like being in the mountains in winter. Neither has featured strongly on the ski package circuit, but with lifts up to 2865m, resorts above 1500m, great parks, fabulous scenery, a variety of activities, good apres-ski and a variety of North-facing runs, this is a ski and snowboard area everyone should put on their must-visit winter sports destinations.
As was the case last season, Graubünden is offering skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts some of the best winter sports deals in the entire Alps. We are not talking obscure resorts with minor discounts, but really outstanding offers at top destinations.
I am salivating at being able to take advantage of the new lift connecting Arosa and Lenzerheide, but there are also some great deals there too. When you stay in Arosa for 2 nights or more in selected hotels and holiday homes, kids get free ski–school group training all season. Lenzerheide, not to be out-done is offering a free lift pass if you book a stay for before Christmas.
Davos and Klosters offered a similar deal last year and I guess it was successful, because again you get your lift pass for free if you stay in one of the participating hotels or holiday homes before Christmas too.
Scuol is one of my favourite small resorts with its pleasant, scenic slopes and its spa, and this resort too is providing free lift passes if you stay in the participating hotels, but this time it is throughout the whole season.
Incidentally, the participating partners in my experience include pretty much every hotel, even the youth hostels and B&Bs.
Meanwhile St Moritz is offering lift passes for CHF25 (that’s £18) for the duration of your stay throughout the season if you book two nights or more in participating hotels in the Engadine. This makes the Youth Hostel in St Moritz a really attractive option for budget skiing and snowboarding in one of the world’s swankiest towns (with some of the world’s best slopes too).
Finally Flims/Laax, surely one of the best resorts for snowboarders, is offering one-day lift passes at CHF39 if you book in advance, and a range of combined bed and breakfast with lift pass deals from as little as CHF545 (GBP370) per adult per week. Incidentally the resort now has a shuttle bus service from Zurich airport.
Full details on the deals and offers are here.