Arosa-Lenzerheide

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.
Arosa piste
In some ways it is a con, much like DavosKlosters 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.
Lenzerheide ski area
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.

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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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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. All you have to do is get on the best site for sports gear on the internet, get the appurtenances, and start right away. 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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