Snow’n’Rail 2015-16

Snow'n'Rail 2015-16
The Snow’n’Rail schedule for the Winter Sports season 2015-2016 is now available. This is the wonderful scheme run by Swiss Railways that provides a 20% discount on the combined lift pass and public transport connections for most of the leading resorts in Switzerland. This is a unique offering – the Austrian Railways run a similar scheme, although nowhere near as extensive.

The offers are now available online (in English, French, German and Italian), and in a brochure available free from the booking offices of most Swiss Railway Stations. The brochures are available in German, French and Italian depending on the language of the locality in which the stations are situated, but only the German version comprehensively covers all the resorts in the scheme.

There is not much change from last year. Most prices have stayed the same. For example an adult day trip to Zermatt from Basel if you are in possession of a Half-Tax Card is still SFr 166.40. A comparable offering is SFr 75.40 for Klewenalp, again the same as last season.

The resort coverage has changed slightly – Vals is now included.

However the most glaring omission is the Portes du Soleil. This massive ski area was one of the most impressive destinations under the Snow’n’Rail scheme, but it looks like they couldn’t come to an agreement with Swiss Railways for this season. Hopefully they will be back for the next one.

What looks like a new resort on the list, Chäserrugg, is simply a rebranded name for what has been referred to in previous years as Toggenburg or Obertoggenburg and covers the charming, linked resorts of Alt St. Johann and Underwasser. Included in the lift pass are the slopes around Wildhaus, but it appears that the routing of the offer to Wildhaus via Buchs is no longer available at a discount.

Some resorts can be accessed by train alone, others you need either a scheduled bus service or use of a linked ski bus. Details are all listed at the resort reports at the Swiss Winter Sports web site, and I can vouch for the rourting information as I have used the scheme for every resort myself!

Resorts covered by the scheme are as follows:
In Northern Switzerland: Braunwald, Chäserrugg and Pizol.
In Graubünden: Arosa Lenzerheide, Brigels, Davos Klosters, Disentis 3000, Engadin St. Moritz, Flims Laax Falera, Motta Naluns (Scuol), Splügen and Vals 3000.
In the Bernese Oberland: Adelboden-Lenk, Gstaad Mountain Rides, Jungfrau Ski Region and Meiringen-Hasliberg.
In Ticino only Airolo.
Several resorts are included in the category Alpes Vaudoises, including Villars, Les Diablerets and Leysin.
In Valais: 4 Vallées/Mt-Fort, Aletsch Arena, Blatten-Belalp, Crans-Montana, Grächen, Lauchernalp/Lötschental, Leukerbad, Visp Area, Saas-Fee/Saastal and Zermatt & Cervinia.
In Central Switzerland: Engelberg-Titlis, Klewenalp-Stockhütte, Melchsee-Frutt, Andermatt-Sedrun, Sörenberg, Sattel-Hochstuckli and Stoos.

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Season Opening Dates in Switzerland 2015-16

Some resorts have already opened – Diavolezza, Saas-Fee and Zermatt being perennial early starters. As of Halloween weekend Glacier3000 and ArosaLenzerheide should also be open.
Region Chablis is usually a late starter
Other key opening dates are:

14th November
Andermatt
Engelberg
20th November
Davos
21st November
St. Moritz
26th November
Samnaun
28th November
Disentis
Flims Laax Falera
Flumserberg
Grüsch Danusa
Zweisimmen
Klewenalp
Sedrun
Splügen
Zermatt (Winter Programme)

5th December
Adelboden
Aletsch Arena
Wengen/Grindelwald
Lenk
Pizol
Verbier/4 Vallees
Feldberg
12th December
Château-d’Oex
Saanen/Gstaad
Rougemont
Grindelwald First
Mürren
Lauchernalp
Melchsee-Frutt
Savognin
18th December
Anzère
19th December
Airolo
Beatenberg
Belalp
Brigels
Bürchen
Chur – Brambrüesch
Elm
Feldis
Grächen
Val Müstair
Obersaxen
Ovronnaz
Portes du Soleil
Saas Grund
Sörenberg
Stoos
Leukerbad

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The History of Skiing through Winter Sports Posters

On 22nd January, in London, Christie’s holds its annual “Ski Sale“, an auction featuring a selection of posters depicting winter sports and, through them, the development of skiing in the Alps. The auction features almost 250 posters, and the expected bid prices are generally somewhere in the range $1000 to $20,000 or more.
Christie's ski sale
The prices are eye-watering for what were originally posters intended to entice people to exotic locations, pasted up on hoardings only to be pasted over some weeks or days later. Not surprisingly few survived, and those that did are collectible, even valuable. To an expert, such as those at the famous Galerie 123 in Geneva the difference between an original, or even a reprint from a later run, are easily distinguishable from the cheaper copies that are available now – but those cheaper copies retail for a fraction of price of the original lithographs and are of high, or even higher, reproduction standards. If you want something to adorn a wall, the copies are fine, but the originals not only embody the history of an era and demonstrate painstaking skill, they are generally of appreciating value. Most of the early posters used a laborious craft known as stone lithography, but between the 30s and 50s this mostly gave way to offset lithography and, for some photographs used in posters to a technique known as heliography. Nowadays most high quality posters use screen printing.

One of the most famous early examples of stone lithography was Emil Cardinaux’s classic 1908 lithograph of the Matterhorn, advertising Zermatt. The impact of the design was immense, redefining the style of many posters for distant holidays.

Emil Cardinaux's classic lithograph of Zermatt and the Matterhorn
Many of the posters were commissioned by travel companies, and particularly the energetic and innovative Swiss transport companies such as MOB (Montreux–Oberland Bernois railway). This 1946 offset lithograph by Martin Peikert is a superb example with its vivid design and stylish model.
Montreux- Oberland Bernois
Not in the auction, but illustrating well another source of great winter sports poster art, is this picture provided by Galerie 123 of the Royal Hotel & Winter Palace in Gstaad, attributed to Carlo Pellegrini in 1913 to celebrate the opening of the hotel and to illustrate that skiing wasn’t the only winter sport on offer, with bob-sleighing and curling amongst the many alternative activities.
Gstaad Royal Hotel ski bob curling
A fine example of the use of heliography and phoro montage is this 1943 poster advertising Grindelwald by Adolphe Fluckiger.
Grindelwald heliography photo montage
An interesting poster by Albert Muret from 1910 from the collection of Gallerie 123 shows the monks of Hospice du Grand Saint-Bernard in Valais skiing. The monks had been skiing since the 1870s, but this stone lithograph celebrated the opening of a new railway line. However it illustrates that early downhill skiing only involved a single stick, a feature of many early posters.
Monks skiing from the Hospice du Grand Saint-Bernard in Valais
Finally, one of my favourite posters, from one of my favourite poster artists of the golden age of winter sports posters, Roger Broders. The vivid Art Deco lithograph from around 1930 promotes winter sports in the French Alps, with skiers disembarking from the train running from Paris and Lyon to the Med. The individuals are insouciant and stylish. The enticement is clear – under a blue sky, a train taking you right to the slopes of St Gervais from your dreary winter lives, into the mountains, in the company of cool people with the prospect of a ski run ahead…
Winter Sports in the French Alps

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Celebrities hit the piste

Roman Polanski was seen skiing in Gstaad over the holiday period. The famous film-maker and paedophile is 81 and still skiing, which gives me encouragement of a few more years yet. Madonna was also seen skiing in Gstaad, with one report that she had gone heli-skiing with her kids, presumably looking for virgin snow.Madonna skiing in Gstaad
Olivia Palermo was also photographed in Gstaad, although I am not sure if she was skiing as the pictures of her seem to be of her shopping. Indeed, the skiing over the holiday period has been less than spectacular, and I suspect Gstaad, as a low lying resort apart from the Glacier 3000 section of the Gstaad Mountain Rides, fared less well than most of the big name ski areas.
Prince Andrew and Pixie Lott, meanwhile, are enjoying higher altitude Verbier (not together I hasten to add, although the prince is turning out to be a bit of a dark horse).
The festive period was characterised initially by a shortage of snow below 1800m, then high winds above 1800m and finally snowfall amidst plummeting temperatures – the temperature was -18C on the Jakobshorn at Davos on 30th December when I visited.
Olivia Palermo in the Swiss Alps

In fact I managed to visit several resorts between Christmas and the New Year. Pizol, Savognin, Arosa-Lenzerheide, Sedrun and Davos. In addition I managed to get in some great train journeys, a visit to a spa in Bad Ragaz, a walk around sites famously associated with Heidi, an interesting cocktail made with Aperol I tried for the first time on the Jakobshorn for only 1 franc a glass (who says Switzerland is expensive?) and a bunch of other stuff. Updates to resort pages and video footage, as well as details of what I got up to will follow.Aperol cocktails at 1 franc apiece in the Swiss Alps

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