Winter Ski Deals in Graubünden

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.
Arosa ski resort
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.
Skiers in Davos on the Parsenn
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.

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Ski by Train

I have just launched a new web site – really an extension of my existing ski site www.swisswintersports.co.uk – that specifically focuses on Alpine resorts you can get to by train. The site is at www.snowandrail.com, and is based largely on my own experiences. The focus is still mainly Switzerland, just because the rail network is so much more extensive and efficient in Switzerland, but there are a number of Austrian resorts included and even three French resorts.
Snow and rail
The scope currently is only resorts with a railway station in the resort – or a cable car link from a railway station to the resort. In time I might extend or repackage the site to include places where there are scheduled bus services from a nearby railway station, or even (as is often the case in France) the need to take a taxi for the last leg.

If any readers of this blog have some experience of resorts that they got to be railway that are not covered in the site, or know of good accommodation near the station, please let me know.

In the meantime, I need to do more research! Where are those skis…

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Feldberg in the Black Forest

Although some of the best skiing in the world is only a couple of hours away from Basel it is possible to ski and snowboard much closer. In the Jura, in Basel-land, there is a small ski area called Langenbruck, with a couple of surface lifts and some short, gentle runs. It is accessible by public transport, but is easier to reach by car. However it is low and currently closed because of the unseasonably warm winter. The nearest resort of any size still open is Feldberg in the Black Forest.

Feldberg )resort website is here) is comparable to many of the smaller Alpine resorts in scale, although with pistes between 1448 and 945m it is quite low. Despite the altitude, however, the pistes have held up better than many higher resorts this season. There are fourteen runs – 3 black, 7 red and 4 blue – comprising around 25km of piste spread over two sides of a valley. The runs on the North-facing side of the valley, off the Grafenmatt, are mostly through the trees and are largely suitable for intermediate skiers. The runs on the South-facing side of the valley, on Seebuck, only loosely connect to the runs across the road via a ski bridge, but the area is better for beginners with a wide, gentle blue run and red runs that really should be graded blue and a good funpark all accessible by an excellent six person chair lift. On Grafenmatt it is almost impossible to escape using surface lifts, of which there are nine in the resort, although there is a modern four-seater chairlift with over 400m vertical ascent providing access to some fine red and black runs, a free ride area and a 3km-long, very challenging blue run. The combined lift capacity of the resort is 24,000 people an hour, so queues are generally short even at busy periods. Around 5km of the pistes have snow cannon cover.

Needless to say, Feldberg is popular with weekend skiers and parking can be challenging unless you arrive early. Interestingly enough Feldberg is also popular with many skiers and snowboarders from Belgium, Holland and North Germany, for whom it is an easier trip than the Alps.

The run from Basel by car is just over an hour, driving north on the B317 from Lörrach up through the delightful Wiesental, and from Freiburg it is three-quarters of an hour (via Titisee). By public transport the trip is under 2 hours from Basel (via Freiburg) and around an hour from Freiburg with regular buses on routes 9007 and 7300 from the nearby railway station at Feldberg-Bärental.

Although small, low, busy and with too many surface lifts, Feldberg is actually a delightful little resort, and highly affordable. A day pass is a reasonable 27 Euros and prices for kit hire, lessons, meals and refreshments are very competitive and there is plenty of choice. There are also number of smaller resorts in the area, including a pleasant area served by a surface lift at Altglashütten, and one served by a gondola at Belchen. All of the resort runs, public transport and a range of other amenities are available free with the “Hochschwarzwald-Card”, which is itself provided gratis for guests in local hotels (depending on length of stay). The area is good for walking and there are a number of cross-country ski circuits, an outstanding all-season water park at Titisee and various other off-piste diversions throughout the “Hochschwarzwald” area.

The standard of accommodation in the hotels and guesthouses in the Black Forest is consistently high. For families the Feldberger Hof  is supremely convenient for the slopes and has superb childcare facilities.  For the more budget-conscious I recommend the excellent family-run Landhotel Sonneck in nearby Altglashütten, a delightful village with rail connections to Titisee and a bus service to Feldberg, as well as having a small ski area in the village.

A full resort report is located at the Swiss Winter Sports web site, with a version in Dutch here.

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Where to Stay

Switzerland provides some of the best accommodation in the world, from the swankiest hotels through to outstanding hostels. Although there is everything you would expect of a country with over 150 years of Winter tourism experience, one uniquely Swiss option, thanks to the wonderful transport infrastructure and the countries compact size, is the opportunity to stay in a metropolis and “commute” to the slopes, visiting different resorts each day. Lausanne, Interlaken, Bern and Luzern all make good bases.

The Switzerland Tourism web site is, as always, a fount of useful information for the independent traveller. For general accommodation, information is available at  My Switzerland. Switzerland Tourism also produce brochures which can be ordered at the web site or perused online for  (Swiss Luxury Hotels),  (Luxury Chalets),  (Wellness Hotels), (Design & Lifestyle Hotels), (Typically Swiss Hotels), and (winter huts), amongst others.

For the budget traveller, the quality of Swiss hostels will come as a pleasant surprise. They are clean, efficient, inexpensive, convenient and offer a range of accommodation options from dormitories to en suite bedrooms from as little as around CHF30 per night. The two main networks are the (Swiss Youth Hostels) and (Swiss Backpackers). Not only are many of the youth hostels conveniently situated in ski resorts, there are several located close to the stations in bustling cities like Bern and Lausanne which make great centres to ski multiple locations. The youth hostel in the Cantonal capital of Valais, Sion, opens late in the season, but makes a great base for snowboarding and skiing in the canton.

Mostly inexpensive Bed and Breakfast (http://www.bnb.ch/) often offer rustic settings and fare, while igloos are a more unconventional option to get close to the mountains (http://www.iglu-dorf.com/).

The travel agents that operate package holidays to Switzerland are listed elsewhere, but the following provide accommodation only services:

There are many specialist chalet companies, such as:

Additionally there are a number of independent chalet owners who advertise everywhere from Craigslist to expatriate bulletin boards.

In 2008, the most popular locations for visitors in Switzerland to stay were:

Location Beds
Zurich 11675
Geneva 10333
Zermatt 5881
Lucerne 5499
Basel 5208
Davos 5261
St. Moritz 4288
Lausanne 3753
Bern 3379
Interlaken 3030
Lugano 3036
Arosa 2838
Grindelwald 2923
Lauterbrunnen 2974

Source: Swiss Tourist Federation

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