I recently revisited my Swiss Winter Resorts web site to update it with what I have learned skiing and talking to people these last two months. I also revamped one of the landing pages, largely because I have come up with a few recommendations framed in terms of the ‘best five’ for various criteria. What do you think?
Yes, less than 14 days to go before the Magic Pass becomes available to buy for 2019-2020. Like me, many of us are still enjoying riding on our 2018-2019 Magic Pass, so why the excitement?
Well, if the first two seasons of the Magic Pass are anything to go by, there will be huge discounts when the offer is first made available. So much so that the pass costs rather less than a weeks pass for one resort. Except the Magic Pass lasts all season, and now includes summer attractions. And it is not for just one resort, but over 30.
That’s not too shabby, and there are some internationally renowned resorts such as Villars-Gryon and Crans-Montana amongst the resorts covered plus some wonderful little-known gems. For residents or frequent visitors to Romande, it is an amazing offer, and not surprisingly has been extremely popular.
One criticism has been the lack of high-altitude resorts. Crans-Montana is high and, despite being South-facing, has a long season and good snow conditions late in the season. This has led the operator of Crans-Montana – always known for brinkmanship – to threaten to pull out of the scheme. St-Luc/Chandolin is also high, but rather difficult to get to (but well worth the effort, one of my favourite ski areas). Glacier3000 is also high, but adds a premium to the Magic Pass price, which I find hard to justify.
However for 2019/20 Saas-Fee will be joining the scheme. It already had a pretty good scheme covering just Saastal if you skiied there a lot. I had it for one season and it paid for itself in four days, but I did not renew as I only ended up using it for four days when I did have it. But it is a fabulous resort with a really good long season.
Also new for 2019/20 is Leukerbad, one of the best resorts around for families or for groups which include non-skiers owing to the extensive thermal baths in the resort and some very family-friendly restaurants. There is also a great area for beginners in the village and the very pleasant Torrent ski area above the village. The Swiss Pass will also apply to many summer activities in the resort.
March is probably my favourite month for skiing, the longer evenings and sunny skies heralding Spring. And, of course, you do tend to get Spring ski conditions – crusty off-piste, whilst the pistes are icy first thing and slushy at the end of the day. So a good tip is to look for resorts where most of the skiing is high.
No schools in Europe have half term during March this year, so there should be some good bargains for accommodation, particularly family-friendly resorts.
Some of the medium-sized resorts are perfect to visit since they have lower lift pass prices and should have the full extent of their ski area still open.
These, then, are my top tips for March skiing, all resorts with plenty of altitude:
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.
In some ways it is a con, much like Davos–Klosters 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.
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.