New for the 2016/17 Swiss Ski Season

Another ski season is not far away, and many Swiss resorts have been busy upgrading their facilities ready for season 2016/17.

In Zermatt the ancient gondola below the Rothorn from Gant to Blauherd is being replaced by a six-seat chairlift.
Saas-Fee in Saastal
In Saas-Fee the equally ancient gondola in the Spielboden sector is being replaced by a faster 10-seater gondola.

Andermatt continues its aggressive program of expansion. This season two T-bars will be replaced by six-seater chairlifts. In the following two seasons an additional two six-seater chairlifts and an eight-seater gondola will link the Nätschen area of Andermatt to Sedrun and open up 26km of new piste. Sedrun itself replaces a t-bar with a chairlift, a trend across many Alpine resorts.

Most people know Klosters for the Parsenn area, but the seperate Madrisa area is popular with families. Here an innovative six-seater chairlift, “Schaffürggli”, is being installed, the first of its kind in Switzerland. It features a laser scanner that uses hydraulics to adjust the height of the seat, making it much easier for children to get on and off. The chairlift will also have heated seats and can take wheelchair users up the mountain.

New lifts and replacement lifts are planned for a number of other resorts including Flumserberg, The Four Valleys, Corvatsch, Crans-Montana, Pizol, Les Diablerets, Villars-Gryon, Grüsch-Danusa and Val Müstair.

I’ve often thought it would be fun to have a drone film my descent. It would also be useful to give visitors to swisswintersports.co.uk an idea of what to expect. Well Verbier got there first and is offering Europe’s first self-tracking drones. The drones follow you on the slopes using Bluetooth and a GPS-enabled Smartphone App and Téléverbier rents them out the Hexo+ drones for CHF400 per day or CHF250 for a half day, providing assistance and a video at the end of the day.

All of the major airports in Switzerland lie just outside the Alps, but Swiss International Airlines now plan to provide a scheduled service between Sion and London, subject to a number of test flights. Sion Airport is in the heart of the Swiss Alps, and so close to the slopes you can actually see planes take off and landing from the pistes of several nearby resorts, including Verbier and Nendaz. Sion has been used for civilian flights for some time, but the last scheduled service from the UK was withdrawn a few years ago and the military will be withdrawing from using it from next year. The director of Sion airport, Aline Bovier-Gantzer says that “The initiative for the new flight is due to a collaboration with the Swiss tourism industry: Valais is already a favourite destination of British tourists during the winter months thanks to its proximity to some of Switzerland’s most popular ski resorts.”

Of course, if you fly to Switzerland, independent travellers can easily get to their resorts using the fabulous transport infrastructure available without having to resort to lengthy, uncomfortable coach transfers. You can also make the entire trip from many European cities directly by train, including London with the Eurostar ski train, booking for which is now open.
Snowboarders in the Alps
Just outside Switzerland’s borders but very popular with Swiss skiers is the Arlberg area in Austria. I remember that once you could get round the circuit that includes St Anton, Lech and Zürs, but for some years this has not been the case. Now a new gondola is scheduled to open that will link Zürs and Stuben to create the largest ski area in Austria, one of four new lifts that will be built in Ski Alberg over the summer. For the 2016/17 season this means Ski Arlberg will total 305km piste served by 87 lifts, fully linking St Anton, Stuben, St Christoph, Lech, Zürs, Schröcken and Warth.

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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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News for the 2014-15 Ski Season in Switzerland

New Wellness hostel in Saas-FeeThe family love ski resorts where we can combine winter sports with a spa. We also find the hostels in Switerland truly awesome, and inexpensive despite Switzerland’s reputation for high prices. So we are excited to hear that new from 5th September is the wellnessHostel4000 with 168 beds, right next to the Postauto bus stop in Saas-Fee. It claims to have a unique architectural design and has direct access to the new spa and gym facilities in the Aqua Allain leisure centre. As well as the usual wellness features, the centre also boasts a 25-metre indoor pool, a children’s pool, waterslide and fitness centre. Typical room rates in a six-bed dorm start from around 40 francs (35 euros, less than thirty pounds) per person per night.

New lifts in Portes du Soleil
After what the resorts call “a period full of uncertainties and intense negotiations” collaboration between Nendaz, Veysonnaz, Verbier and Thyon that comprise the 4 Vallées ski domain has been renewed for the winter season 2014-2015, and for the following 18 years.

The Portes du Soleil is very large, and features a pleasant circuit that takes you round the resorts in the circuit and across the French/Swiss border. You can generally do it all on skis, but at Châtel you needed to catch a bus if you are coming from the slopes near Avoriaz. However two new chairlifts make getting around much easier (Vonnes-Super Châtel and Linga-Vonnes) and for the 2015-16 season there will be a new piste at Super Châtel.

New lifts are also planned to open this season in Parpan (Lenzerheide) and Val Müstair in the Minschuns area, and numerous lifts have been replaced or upgraded throughout Switzerland.

The flak continues to fallout over the Swiss decision to extend the minimum wage to chalet workers, with most chalet operators working out of the UK pulling out. Andy Perrin, CEO of the Hotelplan group, which incudes Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit Ski, opined: “There are no winners here. We tour operators lose, our guests who love Switzerland lose, and all the myriad Swiss suppliers in resorts who have relied on this business for decades also lose.”

Those choosing to buy in the Swiss Alps may also experience difficulties, with a curb on construction of second homes since 2012 and a 50% rule that ensures Swiss citizens get half of any new builds leading to ongoing uncertainty. The result has been rising prices for real estate in a country which has largely enjoyed stable, albeit significant, prices for second homes.

Crystal, who alongside Thomson, Inghams and Neilson provide most of the winter sports holidays sold in Britain, has added Arosa to the resorts it services. An excellent choice,in my opinion. Now linked to Lenzerheide, Arosa is one of the best resorts in the Alps. The train journey to the resort is a delight, and there is plenty for people who don’t ski to do – as well as a fabulous range of piste and off-piste.
Ski Zinal and the fabulous Val D'Anniviers
Finally, news on an attractive deal for early-season escapes in one of my very favourite ski areas, Val d’Anniviers. The newly renamed combined resort of GrimentzZinal for the weekends of 15-16 November, 22-23 November, 29-30 November and 6-8 December offers
1 night in a double room in a hotel, with breakfast + 2 days’ skiing from CHF 175 per person. See here for details.

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