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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Winter Ski Deals in Graubünden

I am a great fan of the winter sports resorts in Graubünden, and will be spending the Christmas period in the canton. It is probably the most complete ski and snowboard destination in the world, but it caters well for ever type of visitor – including the budget conscious.
Arosa ski resort
This season Graubünden once again has a range of excellent deals. The season starts on 18th October 2014 on the Diavolezza in the Engadine, which celebrates 150 years of winter tourism. On 22nd November, Corvatsch and Corviglia in St Moritz open. Progressively other resorts open, with Arosa, Samnaun, Flims Laax Falera and Davos Klosters opening in November.

A great deal for getting there is the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) offer, “Railhit 2 for 1” in which two people travelling together from Monday to Thursday only pay for one if they are hotel guests or in self-catering accommodation. The offer lasts from 8th December 2014 to 10th April 2014. RailHit is not valid on a handful of special services, including the pass associated with using the Preda-Bergün sledging slope.
Skiers in Davos on the Parsenn
For 35 SFr per person per day for visits of at least two nights, a ski pass is included with accommodation at participating hotels in and around St Moritz.

Arosa once again features the “Ski School Included” for youngsters staying in the resort, whereby lessons are available at no charge.

Now linked to Arosa, Lenzerheide gives you a free lift pass if you book a stay at any time between 28th of November to the 20th December.

Up until 21st December 2014 you also get a complimentary ski pass for slopes in Davos Klosters for every overnight stay in a partner hotel in the area. From 20th December until 6th April the resorts are also offering a local insider to accompany you and show you the best of the mountains. Remember also that Ski Club of Great Britain members still can ski or snowboard for free with a Ski Club representative.

More details on these and other offers are posted at the Graubünden Tourism website.

There are also the usual range of budget options if you are going to Graubunden, with some excellent hostels and budget hotels. Check out the Winter Sports Accommodation Guide.

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Where to Stay

Switzerland provides some of the best accommodation in the world, from the swankiest hotels through to outstanding hostels. Although there is everything you would expect of a country with over 150 years of Winter tourism experience, one uniquely Swiss option, thanks to the wonderful transport infrastructure and the countries compact size, is the opportunity to stay in a metropolis and “commute” to the slopes, visiting different resorts each day. Lausanne, Interlaken, Bern and Luzern all make good bases.

The Switzerland Tourism web site is, as always, a fount of useful information for the independent traveller. For general accommodation, information is available at  My Switzerland. Switzerland Tourism also produce brochures which can be ordered at the web site or perused online for  (Swiss Luxury Hotels),  (Luxury Chalets),  (Wellness Hotels), (Design & Lifestyle Hotels), (Typically Swiss Hotels), and (winter huts), amongst others.

For the budget traveller, the quality of Swiss hostels will come as a pleasant surprise. They are clean, efficient, inexpensive, convenient and offer a range of accommodation options from dormitories to en suite bedrooms from as little as around CHF30 per night. The two main networks are the (Swiss Youth Hostels) and (Swiss Backpackers). Not only are many of the youth hostels conveniently situated in ski resorts, there are several located close to the stations in bustling cities like Bern and Lausanne which make great centres to ski multiple locations. The youth hostel in the Cantonal capital of Valais, Sion, opens late in the season, but makes a great base for snowboarding and skiing in the canton.

Mostly inexpensive Bed and Breakfast (http://www.bnb.ch/) often offer rustic settings and fare, while igloos are a more unconventional option to get close to the mountains (http://www.iglu-dorf.com/).

The travel agents that operate package holidays to Switzerland are listed elsewhere, but the following provide accommodation only services:

There are many specialist chalet companies, such as:

Additionally there are a number of independent chalet owners who advertise everywhere from Craigslist to expatriate bulletin boards.

In 2008, the most popular locations for visitors in Switzerland to stay were:

Location Beds
Zurich 11675
Geneva 10333
Zermatt 5881
Lucerne 5499
Basel 5208
Davos 5261
St. Moritz 4288
Lausanne 3753
Bern 3379
Interlaken 3030
Lugano 3036
Arosa 2838
Grindelwald 2923
Lauterbrunnen 2974

Source: Swiss Tourist Federation

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