Although English is widely spoken in most major ski resorts, often the more rustic restaurants, family-run hire shops and even front-of-office ski school staff do not speak it. And isn’t it appropriate to at least make an attempt to speak in the language of your hosts? And what if you want to fraternise with the locals?
Summer is a good time to decide both your target winter sports destination and also to brush up on the local lingo in good time. If you want to learn a language, I’m a great fan of the Michel Thomas system. You can do it in the car or on the train, in fact just about anywhere you can listen to it and without the need to read a book or follow the text in a book.
For those who don’t want to learn the language, but could do with some useful phrases, I will provide some in French, German and Italian in the next few weeks.
The winter sports season is approaching its peak period, and the prospects for snow conditions are promising. Temperatures have dropped, new snow is forecast throughout the Alps and conditions are generally good. However the outlook is still for the weather to be warmer than the seasonal average and not particularly sunny, with the northern Alps possibly experiencing the dreaded Föhn, with its potentially dramatic increase in temperatures. Meanwhile the southern Alps has a considerable risk of avalanches, possibly rising to a high risk.
Looking around the resorts, all but a few of the low-lying resorts are fully or near-fully open. Across over 150 open resorts in Switzerland, the average snow depth at the valley stations is 50cm, with many reporting over a metre. The top stations average 105cm and Andermatt has a massive 4 metre base at the top. There seem to be no resorts covered by the Snow’n’Rail scheme that have anything less than good snow conditions.
With it being peak period, the deals and discounts around are not so plentiful. Swiss Railways has some interesting discounts in February for tobogganists, though, with a 30% discount on combined travel ticket, lift pass and toboggan hire at Fräkmüntegg (Pilatus) and Preda/Bergün. Futhermore there is massive 50% discount on the same offer for Klewenalp.
Bergün is probably the best place in the world to toboggan, amidst the dramatic scenery of the Rhaetian Railways UNESCO-recognised section. Klewenalp is probably the best place to toboggan in central Switzerland with a 9 km run from Klewenalp to Stockhütte-Emmetten and a tough 4km airboard and toboggan run near the Chälen chairlift.
There is also a 30% discount on travel and a return lift journey at Engelberg-Brunni, the sunny side of the valley, during February – mainly aimed at people wanting a walk and a meal in the mountains. Both the Klewenalp and Engelberg offers may be sufficiently attractive for some people to use in combination or even instead of Snow’n’Rail – for example for a mixed group of skiers and non-skiers.
Further details on the February Swiss Railway discounts at their web site.
I have just launched a new web site – really an extension of my existing ski site www.swisswintersports.co.uk – that specifically focuses on Alpine resorts you can get to by train. The site is at www.snowandrail.com, and is based largely on my own experiences. The focus is still mainly Switzerland, just because the rail network is so much more extensive and efficient in Switzerland, but there are a number of Austrian resorts included and even three French resorts.
The scope currently is only resorts with a railway station in the resort – or a cable car link from a railway station to the resort. In time I might extend or repackage the site to include places where there are scheduled bus services from a nearby railway station, or even (as is often the case in France) the need to take a taxi for the last leg.
If any readers of this blog have some experience of resorts that they got to be railway that are not covered in the site, or know of good accommodation near the station, please let me know.
In the meantime, I need to do more research! Where are those skis…