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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Skiing out of Sion


Sion - Castle of Valère
I have always liked Sion, but one of its main attractions in the winter is how convenient it is for hitting the slopes – you can even see pistes from the city centre. The city is on the main line between Geneva and Milan and, reputedly, has the largest bus station in Switzerland in terms of destinations served (23 in total). From the bus station you can get direct services to Anzère, Veysonnaz and Nendaz (both in the Four Vallées), the resorts of Val d’Herens, including Arolla and even the lifts serving Vercorin (in the amazing Val D’Anniviers). By train, with just one change, you can get to Zermatt, Verbier, Crans-Montana and a bunch of other resorts. Incidentally, my tip for getting quickly to the best of the pistes is to go to Haut-Nendaz Télécabine and jump on the free shuttle bus to Siviez, where you are right at the heart of 412km of piste.

One other useful thing about Sion is that it has a youth hostel right next to the station, although unfortunately it does not open until late March. However, with so many high altitude resorts in the area it still works well for late season skiing. I recently stayed there and, as a result, got to refresh a lot of content at the Swiss Winter Sports web site. Even though it was April, I found some amazing lift-served powder in Les Marrécottes and a resort run in reasonable condition at Grächen.

There is surprisingly little variety of accommodation along the Rhône valley, with most of the beds in the ski resorts themselves. Sion does have a few hotels, though, and also a good variety of bars and restaurants in the old town.

Perhaps I will get one ski weekend in before the season finally closes, presumably in Valais. It has been a strange winter season. Much heralded as being the 150th anniversary of winter holidays, there was little snow before the New Year and lower resorts will have definitely suffered from lower visitor numbers.

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Late-season Skiing & Snowboarding

Ski Sunday abandons the season in February, the FIS World Cup season climaxes in March (this season at Lenzerheide, on 20th March) and most of the continent stows away skis and snowboards after Easter. So what for those who want to prolong the season? is there decent skiing anywhere through April and May?

The simple answer is yes. For many freeriders this is the best time of the year to tour, and for those who prefer to stick to the pistes or use lifts to get off-piste, there is still fresh snow. Essentially the very best places are high, so resorts with lifts to about 3000m are promising. The Aletsch Arena, Belalp, Val D’Annivers, and Lauchernalp are not well known but passes are relatively cheap, they are rarely crowded and make good destinations for families, beginners and for weekend escapes. Val D’Annivers is a little known gem, with Zinal in that area offering the most challenging off-piste and Chandolin the best pistes. Samnaun gives access to the huge Silvretta Arena which has all but the valley runs over 2000m and consistently has good snow conditions throughout April. The Jungfrau stays open until after Easter with good pistes still available down to Wengen, Mürren, Kleine Scheidegg and Holenstein through until mid-afternoon. Diovolezza in the Engadin, near Pontresina, is the highest valley run in Switzerland, with a bottom station above 2000m and lifts open until late May. Davos and Klosters should offer good skiing on the higher runs on the Parsenn until the lifts close on 1st May. The 4 Vallées (centred on Verbier), Flims/Laax and Les Diablerets have glaciers and stay open until early May this year, and Engelberg will stay open until the end of May – although I doubt the valley run will last quite that long. St Moritz, Saas-Fee and Zermatt offer the very best late season skiing, with Saas-Fee and Zermatt providing some limited glacier skiing right through the year. Once you decide on the place you are going, make sure you capture all the exciting moments. The best way to do that is using a drone. Don’t forget about radio, check this comparison to decide which one is better for you.

There are other things to do in the tail-end of the winter sports season in Switzerland. Over the week ending 20th March are the FIS World Cup at Lenzerheide, the Zinal Freeride contest and the Nissan Freeride World Tour 2010 in Verbier (on the Bec de Rosses). On 19th March the longest torch-lit downhill skiing procession in the world takes place down the 2000m, 12 km descent from Titlis to Engelberg – meeting point is at the Valley Station at 6pm with dinner on Mt Titlis at 9.30 pm.

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Largest Areas of Piste

Region Area      Top (m)  Piste (km)
Valais & Vaud Les Portes du Soleil 2500 650
Graübunden Davos-Klosters 2844 427
Valais & Vaud Verbier – Les quatre vallées 3330 410
Graübunden Engadin-St. Moritz 3303 350
Valais & Vaud Matterhorn ski paradise 3900 313
Graübunden Lenzerheide-Valbella 2865 310
Bernese Oberland Gstaad Mountain Rides 2971 250
Valais & Vaud Skiregion Aletsch 3118 239
Valais & Vaud Sierre-Anniviers 3025 230
Graübunden Alpenarena 3018 220
Bernese Oberland Jungfrauregion 2970 213
Bernese Oberland Adelboden-Lenk 2330 210
Valais & Vaud Crans Montana 3000 200
Graübunden Silvretta Arena 2900 200
Valais & Vaud Saas Fee 3600 145
Graübunden Disentis-Sedrun 2903 110
Valais & Vaud Leysin 2200 100
Central Switzerland Engelberg Titlis 3020 82
Valais & Vaud Les Diablerets 2971 80
Graübunden Engadin-Scuol 2800 80
Graübunden Savognin 2713 80
Graübunden Brigels 2418 75
Valais & Vaud Villars-Gryon 2200 75
Graübunden Arosa 2653 70
Eastern Switzerland Flumserberg 2222 65
Valais & Vaud Leukerbad 2800 60
Bernese Oberland Alpenregion Meiringen-Hasliberg 2433 60
Eastern Switzerland Toggenburg 2262 60
Central Switzerland Andermatt 2963 55
Central Switzerland Sörenberg 2350 50
Central Switzerland Hoch-Ybrig 1938 50
Valais & Vaud Anzère 2500 40
Eastern Switzerland Pizol 2226 40
Valais & Vaud Lötschental 3111 33
Eastern Switzerland Brauwald 1905 32

Source: http://www.myswitzerland.com

It is worth mentioning that some of the best skiing is off-piste, and increasingly the trend is to provide access to off-piste areas that can be reached by the lift systems, and which are generally safe even without a guide.

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