GTSpirit, the web site associated with performance cars, has made a stab at identifying the top ski resorts for 2015. Top of the list is Flims/Laax, and there is no argument there about this being one of the best resorts in the world. Other Swiss resorts in the top 10 include, unsurprisingly, Zermatt and Verbier, but also Crans-Montana and Arosa–Lenzerheide. I have no problem with the latter two, but they have edged out some other top Swiss resorts to make it into the best in the world.
Fleshing out the top ten are one French resort, three Austrian and no North American resorts. Here is the list in full:
- Les Trois Vallees
- St Anton/Lech/Zürs
The top 10 is idiosyncratic, but not especially so. it is probably almost impossible to judge a top 10 unless you apply stringent criteria. My top 10 ski resorts would need to have good rail access (which is probably not a big plus for package tour visitors who are accustomed to long coach transfers), picture postcards views (again, probably of little interest to people with their one week a year ski holiday), runs above 2500m (to provide some confidence in there being snow late in the season) and a reasonable range of non-ski and apres-ski facilities. However neither Ischgl nor Kitzbühel strictly meet all those criteria, but they are in my top 10 too.
Of the GTList list, Verbier, St Anton, Zermatt, Kitzbühel and Arosa can all be accessed by train, although I am not surprised that a website dedicated to luxury cars did not see that as noteworthy.
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.