New Lifts in Switzerland for 2015/6 Ski Season

The new ski season is only a few weeks away, and a lot has been happening over the summer in many winter sports resorts. Despite the strong Swiss Franc, many Swiss resorts are banking on attracting new winter tourists and retaining their existing customer base through improved and extended lift systems. Market research has suggested that continued investment is the only way for Swiss resorts to compete effectively and retain the premium reputation they hold, and many resorts are embarking on medium-term projects to reduce lift queues and introduce faster lifts.

Here are some of the new lifts you can expect in Switzerland for the 2015-2016 Ski Season:

Adelboden

New high-speed 4-man chairlift Höchstbahn replacing two older lifts to connect Chünisbärgli and Silleren. A new run between the two with snow cannon has also been implemented.

Andermatt
A high-speed 6-man lift at Gurschenalp on Gemsstock replaces two old lifts on the mountain. Lifts to Sedrun planned but not yet in construction and are likely a couple of seasons away.

Engelberg
The two-stage Engelberg-Trubsee-Stand gondola has been replaced with a new Titlis Xpress, cutting the journey time by half.

Flims/Laax
A new 10-person gondola will run from Alp Sogn Martin up to La Siala, extending the runs available in the area.

Lenzerheide
There is a new 8-person gondola, designed by Porsche, at Churwalden-Heidbeul replacing the old chairlift. There is also a new 4-man chair between Parpan and Obertor connecting the Rothorn to Piz Danis, a really useful new link.

Riederalp – Aletsch Arena
A new 6/8 seater hybrid lift has been installed at Moosfluh.

Scuol
There is a brand new 6-seater chair at Prui-Clünas.

St-Luc/Chandolin
One of my favourite resorts, in Val d’Annivers, will have a new high-speed 6-seat chairlift at La Foret.

St Moritz
On Corvatsch there is a new Mandra chairlift replacing that tedious but unavoidable drag at Murtel. A really great addition to this fabulous mountain.

Toggenburg
A new 10-seater gondola is under construction ready for the new season at Stöfeli.

Zermatt
There is a new 6-person chairlift at Hirli in the Schwarzee area replacing the veteran T-bar and extending the length of both the lift and the runs.

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The Cutest Village Ski Resorts

Zermatt
The Daily Telegraph has just identified what it thinks are the 15 cutest village ski resorts, and I have to disagree with their choice. For instance, Zermatt “cute”? Hardly. Car-free, rocking, beautiful, busy… but cute? And hardly a village. In my opinion most of the cutest villages have limited pistes and antiquated lifts – which is maybe how they tend to stay cute.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my list of villages in Switzerland that are both cute and have access to plenty of the white stuff, in no particular order (click on the links for more info):

Adelboden
Adelboden
Gstaad
Gstaad
Mürren
Muerren
Wengen
Wengen
Andermatt
Andermatt
Stoos
Stoos
Briel (Brigels)
Brigels
Celerina
Celerina
Klosters
Klosters
Lenzerheide
Lenzerheide
Pontresina
Pontresina
Samnaun
Samnaun
Silvaplana
Silvaplana
Les Diablerets
Les Diablerets
Champéry
Champery
Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee
St Luc/Chandolin
St Luc
Grimentz
Grimentz

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Christmas Skiing and Snowboarding

There has been precious little new snow in the Alps in December. Some resorts have not seen fresh snow since last month, although some precipitation is expected Thursday and Friday. For most resorts that should mean fresh snow, but temperature are unseasonably warm after a chilly start to the season. Indeed Meteo Swiss expect temperatures to remain above average well into the New Year.

The good news, however, is that the Christmas skiing and snowboarding prospects look reasonably good, at least on-piste.  Resorts took advantage of the early season snowfalls and their snow cannons to create a good base, and nearly everywhere has resort runs open. Generally upper slopes have around half a metre of snow but steeper, lower slopes are patchy and, with the temperatures above freezing, get very heavy in the afternoon. If you are considering your first foray of the season, do not join the many skiers and snowboarders I have already seen becoming tired victims of an afternoon run too far. If winter is too cold for you make sure to visit https://phandroid.com/ and learn more about portable Air Conditioners.

Looking around the Swiss resorts, Zermatt is in the rudest health with 240km piste open. Samnaun/Ischgl, with 190km, is virtually fully open now. The Engadine also has over 100km of piste open, and has a reasonable extent of cross-country skiing open also – at last report 30km of classic and 65 km of skating.
Gondolas at Adelboden
Verbier (and the rest of the Four Valleys), the Jungfrau resorts, Davos/Klosters, Adelboden, Saas-Fee, Engelberg and Andermatt all look promising for the holiday period and have good snow on the higher runs with even a little (but mostly tracked-out) off-piste around.

Although many of the smaller resorts have not opened yet, I would be surprised to see the warm weather prevent them having most of their lifts in operation by next weekend. However some of my favourite, more low-lying resorts look distinctly thin, especially the resorts around Gstaad and in Vaud. Flims/Laax has been later than I expected to open up its runs, but should be in full swing come this weekend.

For non-skiers there are a handful of toboggan runs already open, but the best prospect for you is probably the extensive circuit of winter walks found in most resorts, especially in the glorious sunshine we currently seem to be experiencing. The entertainment program in winter resorts is also ramping up, with the Spengler Cup in Davos probably my highlight, where CSKA Moscow and Team Canada amongst the teams vying for this most prestigious of ice hockey tournaments.

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Brig

The main ski and snowboard area near Brig is Belalp, although Rothwald and Rosswald each provide about 25km of additional piste. As well as 60km of piste at Belalp, from the Hohstock at 3112m you go through a 160m long tunnel out to a fabulous area for freeriding. The resorts can all be reached quite quickly by bus from the town. In addition a number of the major resorts in Switzerland are within an hour of Brig by public transport.

Ski Area Brig
Resorts Belalp, Blatten b. Naters, Rosswald, Rothwald
Ski Region Valais
Piste (km) 60
Top run (m) 3100
Bottom (m) 1501
Max Drop 1599
Snow’n’Rail Y
Black (km) 20
Red (km) 34
Blue (km) 20
Lifts (#/hr) 9870
My Rating 4
Alpine 3
SnowPark 3
Nordic 5
Hiking 2
Family 4
Apres Ski 4
Free Ride Y
Snow making Y
Fun park Y
Snow park
Half pipes
Spa

In Brief

Brig Station
Brig Station

Brig is an elegant small town at the start of the Simplon pass, high up in the Rhone Valley. The town has excellent rail and bus links to a number of winter sports destinations including the Aletsch Arena (e.g. via Fiesch), Belalp, Goms, Saas-Fee, Andermatt, Lauchernalp and Zermatt. There is also a thermal spa nearby, but it is only open in summer – however the wonderful spas at Leukerbad are only one hour away.

The nearest significant ski area to Brig is Belalp, reached by cable car from the pretty village of Blatten b. Naters. Blatten (not to be confused with another Valais village in the Lötschental of the same name) has regular buses from Brig station that cover the breathtaking 8km journey in less than half an hour.

Belalp is a small jewel of a ski area, with two bowls under the Hohstock (3226m) and Sparrhorn (3020m) providing acres of  relatively safe and accessible off-piste as well as perfectly groomed pistes to suit all abilities. See the separate post on Belalp for more details.

Useful links:
Aletsch Arena,
Belalp,
Brig,
Rosswald.

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