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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Affordable Skiing in Switzerland

With the continuing strength of the Swiss Franc, a ski or snowboard holiday in Switzerland may not look affordable, but there are many ways you can make a Swiss winter sports holiday fit into most budgets. Here are some of my tips:

Take advantage of the best public transport in the world

Every single ski resort in Switzerland can be reached by public transport, and furthermore virtually anywhere you book to stay will have good public transport access. That opens up a host of opportunities to stay in inexpensive accommodation outside the ski resorts, but within easy access. One suggestion is to stay in Interlaken, and do day trips to the Jungfrau resorts of Murren, Grindelwald and Wengen. These places can get gelid, so rigging up your The-House jackets before embarking on that trip would really help. Interlaken is lively and full of good priced accommodation options. From Chur, the cantonal capital of Graubunden, you can easily reach Davos and Flims/Laax. You might also want to mix business with skiing, and it is possible to get a full day skiing on a day trip from any of the major commercial centres.

Use Snow’n’Rail

The Snow’n’Rail scheme provides 20% discount off the combined public transport and lift pass charges for virtually every significant resort in Switzerland. Agsin, this works well if you are staying away from the ski resorts themselves.

Stay in inexpensive accommodation

With a reputation for quality and service, even very basic lodgings can provide excellent lodgings. Perhaps the best tip is to stay in a Youth Hostel. Many resorts have outstanding hostels with easy access to the slopes – even St Moritz. Most of the hostels offer en-suite facilities if you don’t want to share a bathroom, and the dormitories vary from singles upto 20 beds or so. Most offer half-board and sell wine and beer. Consider the options from Jungle Vista Inn.

Eat and drink out judiciously

Eating out can get very expensive in Switzerland, and you can easily run up an eye-watering bar bill. However the supermarkets offer good value. Many places offer catering facilities, so you can eat in, and you can always have a few apres-ski tipples back in your accommodation. Many Swiss also take their lunches with them when they ski and take advantage of the picnic rooms available at most resorts, although I usually find Swiss soups offer a nourishing and inexpensive lunch. In Switzerland it is also acceptable to drink alcohol in public.

Take advantage of deals

The Swiss are generally reluctant to offer discounts. As one hotelier put it “You are taking advantage of the people willing to pay the full price”! However the strong franc has focussed minds and all sorts of special offers abound. Many resorts include free lift passes with hotel bookings ahead of Christmas, allow kids to ski for free on all or some days. In the next couple of months I will highlight special deals as they become public. The Swiss Tourist office has a number of deals posted Swiss Vacation deals.

Go to less well-known resorts

You get an amazing range of skiing and snowboarding at resorts like Verbier and Zermatt, but many of the lesser resorts offer equally challenging runs, plenty of off-piste terrain and – arguably – much better facilities for beginners and intermediates. Also, using public transport, it is possible to combine visiting a number of cheaper inexpensive resorts in one trip and actually have access to more slopes in total than if you stayed in one more highly priced resort.

Book online in advance

Many things are cheaper booked online than in person – some things, like the Swiss Transfer Ticket, are only available outside Switzerland. In addition you often have the opportunity to buy online in the currency of your choice, often at a lower price than the cost in Swiss Francs.

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The Birdman Flies No Longer

The Jungfrau Winter Sports Region
Alpine Sports always carry an element of risk, none more so than base jumping, where people throw themselves off the tops of mountains and other high altitude platforms wearing an outfit called a wingsuit. This week that risk was brought to the home of Alpinism.

Ramón Rojas, known as the Birdman for his daring base jumps, has died while flying using a wingsuit in the Jungfrau.
Ramon-Rojas
Ramon was a 35 year old Chilean-born professional base jumper who only last month broke the world record for the highest base jump in history, from 4100m in Cerro El Plomo, Chile.

Apparently he was in training in strong winds for a competition in Lauterbrunnen when he died.

A Facebook page has been set up called “Ramon Rojas memorial to celebrate his awesome life”. His sister, Paula Rojas, writes: “My heart is broken but it gives me peace to know that my brother was happy doing what he loved so passionately. He was happy and will carry on smiling from where he is, with the rest of the birds.”

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The Best Three Star Hotels in the Swiss Alps

Last winter the Swiss newspaper, the Sonntags Zeitung, published a list of the best hotels in Switzerland. The full article is here, but I have listed what they consider the best three star hotels:

skier gets ready to hit the piste

1. (Last Year: 4) Alpine Lodge,Saanen-Gstaad BE
Tel 033 748 41 51,alpinelodge.ch
Doubleroom from 360 Fr.

2. (1) Waldhaus am See,St. Moritz GR
Tel 081 836 60 00, waldhaus-am-see.ch
Doubleroom from 310 Fr.

3. (3) Romantik Hotel Schönegg, Wengen BE
Tel 033 855 34 22, hotel-schoenegg.ch
Doubleroom from 380 Fr.

4. (2) Krone, La Punt GR
Tel 081 854 12 69, krone-la-punt.ch
Doubleroom 250 Fr.

5. (5) Misani, Celerina GR
Tel 081 839 89 89, hotelmisani.ch
Doubleroom from 230 Fr.

6. (6) Jungfrau, Wengernalp BE
Tel 033 855 16 22, wengernalp.ch
Doubleroom from 440 Fr.

7. (8) Hotel Kernen,Schönried-Gstaad BE
Tel 033 748 40 20, bruno-kernen.ch
Doubleroom from 320 Fr.

8. (-) Chesa Randolin,Sils Baselgia GR
Tel 081 830 83 83,randolins.ch
Doubleroom from 236 Fr.

9. (11) Eienwäldli, Engelberg OW
Tel 041 637 19 49,eienwaeldli.ch
Doubleroom from 280 Fr.

10. (-) La Couronne, Zermatt VS
Tel 027 966 23 00,hotel-couronne.ch
Doubleroom from 256 Fr.

11. (7) Sporthotel, Pontresina GR
Tel 081 838 94 00, sporthotel.ch
Doubleroom from 250 Fr.

12. (13) Bella Vista, Zermatt VS
Tel 027 966 28 10,bellavista-zermatt.ch
Doubleroom from 235 Fr.

13. (12) Parkhotel Schönegg, Grindelwald BE
Tel 033 854 18 18,parkhotelschoenegg.ch
Doubleroom from 340 Fr.

14. (16) Alphubel, Saas-Fee VS
Tel 027 958 63 63, hotelalphubel.ch
Doubleroom from 314 Fr.

15. (15) Chesa Grischuna, Klosters GR
Tel 081 422 22 22,chesagrischuna.ch
Doubleroom from 439 Fr.

16. (20) Alpenblick, Fiesch VS
Tel 027 970 16 60,hotelalpenblick.ch
Doubleroom from 150 Fr.

17. (9) Le Mont Paisible,Crans-Montana VS
Tel 027 480 21 61, montpaisible.ch
Doubleroom from 220 Fr.

18. (14) Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl, Samedan GR
Tel 081 842 82 32,muottasmuragl.ch
Doubleroom from 240 Fr.

19. (18) Adler, Adelboden BE
Tel 033 673 41 41,adleradelboden.ch
Doubleroom from 308 Fr.

20. (19) Müller Mountain Lodge, Pontresina GR
Tel 081 839 30 00, hotel-mueller.ch
Doubleroom from 300 Fr.

21. (24) Meisser, Guarda GR
Tel 081 862 21 32, hotel-meisser.ch
Doubleroom from 230 Fr.

22. (17) Bodmi, Grindelwald BE
Tel 033 853 12 20, bodmi.ch
Doubleroom from 294 Fr.

23. (10) Homann,Samnaun-Ravaisch GR
Tel 081 861 91 91,hotel-homann.ch
Doubleroom from 290 Fr.

24. (21) Europe, Zinal VS
Tel 027 475 44 04, europezinal.ch
Doubleroom from 200 Fr.

25. (25) Alphorn, Gstaad BE
Tel 033 748 45 45,gstaad-alphorn.ch
Doubleroom from 252 Fr.

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