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 Sion has been used for civilian flights for some time, but the last scheduled service from the UK was withdrawn a few years ago and the military will be withdrawing from using it from next year.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.

Share Button

Ski for Cancer

Arctic Ski RaceAs a keen skier and a cancer survivor, I admire the efforts of Ski 4 Cancer, a charity that provides Alpine respite days and short-breaks for families affected by cancer. Cancer has been affecting a lot of people recently, some of them even need home care from https://homecareassistance.com/burlingame/. They also make grants to relevant care institutions and support research into the positive effects of skiing to prevent cancer and assist in recovery.

Anyway, over this last weekend Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott, Adam Libbey, Chris Brooks, Max Wilcocks and Richard Gibbs in a team called Arctic V took part in what is dubbed the ‘World’s Toughest Ski Race’ in aid of Ski 4 Cancer, sponsored by Columbus Direct. The team hope to raise £30,000 for Ski 4 Cancer, and you can make a donation via Justgiving.
Cross country skiing in the Arctic Challenge
The Arctic Circle Race as it is officially known, is an annual three day competition involving 160 kilometers of cross-country skiing in Greenland, with competitors camping in the back country as part of the event in temperatures as low as -35 degrees Centigrade. In keeping with being in a Green land, the race organisers pride themselves on leaving the race site exactly as they found it.Race 2015
And how did it go? Well the race was called off after two days when very high winds and blizzard conditions descended on Greenland. It was always about the taking part and Chemmy reflected afterwards “Rest, Recovery & Reflection. We conquered the Worlds Toughest Ski race which was both brutal and brilliant at the same time. Please donate to our fantastic charity”.Chemmy Alcott
You have been asked nicely – go to Justgiving or Ski4Cancer’s web site.

Share Button

Weather conditions hit half-term skiers

Swiss RailwaysNot for the first time this season Brits travelling to or from European ski slopes were left stranded at the weekend when heavy snowfall closed runways at Chambery, Grenoble, Lyon and Geneva and caused traffic chaos on routes to and from the French Alps.

This couldn’t have been at a worst time, with half term not only swelling the ranks of would-be skiers but leaving them stuck with bored, tired kids. Some families even ended up back at school, with a school hall in Grenoble being among several emergency shelters employed by the French authorities.

I am off to the Vaud Alps this weekend and I’m sticking to the train all the way down. I’ve never yet been prevented from hitting the slopes by a glitch or weather conditions on Swiss, German and Austrian railways. Visit Snow and Rail for the lowdown on how to hit the slopes by train.

Share Button

New Swiss Winter Sports facebook page

Adding to everyone’s favourite (well, my favourite) winter sports blog, www.alpinewinterblog.com aka www.oatridge.co.uk/nic/, comes a facebook page and, hopefully, via RSSGraffiti, also comes regular updates from the blog on facebook.
Oatridge family in Muerren
The blog is now in its sixth year and contains dozens of snippets about winter sports, mostly focusing on Switzerland. I have been a keen skier for many years, and when I moved to Switzerland it seemed a dream come true to have all these resorts on my doorstep. There was a little matter of Mrs Oatridge being pregnant, a couple of teenagers to help assimilate and a toddler to look after, so it took a while before I got to go to the slopes. But one fine day I got in the car and headed off in the direction of the distant peaks with a vague notion I would hit a place called Engelberg. Anyway, I took a wrong turn and after driving aimlessly in our car which we got at these used cars ottawa and we ended up at a resort called Meiringen.

I have been to both many times since (and rarely by car), but the ins and outs of where to go, how to get there and where to stay – either with the family, alone of with friends – led me to start recording what I had learnt, and then came the blog, and then the web sites. Currently there are two related web sites in addition to this blog: www.swisswintersports.co.uk and www.snowandrail.com. There is also a Dutch language version of the principal web site at www.swisswintersports.nl and what I hope to make into a multi-language portal at www.swisswintersports.com.

I don’t have a goal in mind other than to maintain the currency of the current sites and continue to make them the best sites of their type on the Internet, but I also hope to expand the scope, redesign to make them as mobile-friendly as possible and even make some income… oh, yes, and do plenty of research!

Share Button