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?
In 1993 World Media And Events Limited launched the World Travel Awards and, buoyed by the success of this, launched the World Ski Awards in 2013. It’s only a bit of fun, although I am sure it brings business not only to the organisers but also the award winners. The approach is straightforward: votes are cast online by professionals working within the ski industry, and by ski tourism consumers, at the World Ski Awards website.
Every year the awards are associated with a three day networking event, culminating in the awards ceremony, this year held in Kitzbühel over 16th-18th November. World’s Best Winners for 2018 included:
Ski Resort – Val Thorens (France)
Freestyle Resort – LAAX (Switzerland)
Ski Hotel – W Verbier (Switzerland)
New Ski Hotel – Fahrenheit Seven Courchevel (France)
Green Ski Hotel – rocksresort, Laax (Switzerland)
Ski Boutique Hotel – Aurelio Lech (Austria)
Ski Chalet – Chalet Les Anges, Zermatt (Switzerland)
New Ski Chalet – Chalet des Cascades, Les Arcs (France)
Ski Tour Operator – Sunweb
As well as awards for the best in the world, there are also country awards, with votes for the best ski resort in Switzerland going to Verbier.
With the continuing strength of the Swiss Franc, a ski or snowboard holiday in Switzerland may not look affordable, but there are many ways you can make a Swiss winter sports holiday fit into most budgets. Here are some of my tips:
Take advantage of the best public transport in the world
Every single ski resort in Switzerland can be reached by public transport, and furthermore virtually anywhere you book to stay will have good public transport access. That opens up a host of opportunities to stay in inexpensive accommodation outside the ski resorts, but within easy access. One suggestion is to stay in Interlaken, and do day trips to the Jungfrau resorts of Murren, Grindelwald and Wengen. These places can get gelid, so rigging up your The-House jackets before embarking on that trip would really help. Interlaken is lively and full of good priced accommodation options. From Chur, the cantonal capital of Graubunden, you can easily reach Davos and Flims/Laax. You might also want to mix business with skiing, and it is possible to get a full day skiing on a day trip from any of the major commercial centres.
The Snow’n’Rail scheme provides 20% discount off the combined public transport and lift pass charges for virtually every significant resort in Switzerland. Agsin, this works well if you are staying away from the ski resorts themselves.
Stay in inexpensive accommodation
With a reputation for quality and service, even very basic lodgings can provide excellent lodgings. Perhaps the best tip is to stay in a Youth Hostel. Many resorts have outstanding hostels with easy access to the slopes – even St Moritz. Most of the hostels offer en-suite facilities if you don’t want to share a bathroom, and the dormitories vary from singles upto 20 beds or so. Most offer half-board and sell wine and beer. Consider the options from Jungle Vista Inn.
Eat and drink out judiciously
Eating out can get very expensive in Switzerland, and you can easily run up an eye-watering bar bill. However the supermarkets offer good value. Many places offer catering facilities, so you can eat in, and you can always have a few apres-ski tipples back in your accommodation. Many Swiss also take their lunches with them when they ski and take advantage of the picnic rooms available at most resorts, although I usually find Swiss soups offer a nourishing and inexpensive lunch. In Switzerland it is also acceptable to drink alcohol in public.
Take advantage of deals
The Swiss are generally reluctant to offer discounts. As one hotelier put it “You are taking advantage of the people willing to pay the full price”! However the strong franc has focussed minds and all sorts of special offers abound. Many resorts include free lift passes with hotel bookings ahead of Christmas, allow kids to ski for free on all or some days. In the next couple of months I will highlight special deals as they become public. The Swiss Tourist office has a number of deals posted Swiss Vacation deals.
Go to less well-known resorts
You get an amazing range of skiing and snowboarding at resorts like Verbier and Zermatt, but many of the lesser resorts offer equally challenging runs, plenty of off-piste terrain and – arguably – much better facilities for beginners and intermediates. Also, using public transport, it is possible to combine visiting a number of cheaper inexpensive resorts in one trip and actually have access to more slopes in total than if you stayed in one more highly priced resort.
Book online in advance
Many things are cheaper booked online than in person – some things, like the Swiss Transfer Ticket, are only available outside Switzerland. In addition you often have the opportunity to buy online in the currency of your choice, often at a lower price than the cost in Swiss Francs.
There has been precious little new snow in the Alps in December. Some resorts have not seen fresh snow since last month, although some precipitation is expected Thursday and Friday. For most resorts that should mean fresh snow, but temperature are unseasonably warm after a chilly start to the season. Indeed Meteo Swiss expect temperatures to remain above average well into the New Year.
The good news, however, is that the Christmas skiing and snowboarding prospects look reasonably good, at least on-piste. Resorts took advantage of the early season snowfalls and their snow cannons to create a good base, and nearly everywhere has resort runs open. Generally upper slopes have around half a metre of snow but steeper, lower slopes are patchy and, with the temperatures above freezing, get very heavy in the afternoon. If you are considering your first foray of the season, do not join the many skiers and snowboarders I have already seen becoming tired victims of an afternoon run too far. If winter is too cold for you make sure to visit https://phandroid.com/ and learn more about portable Air Conditioners.
Looking around the Swiss resorts, Zermatt is in the rudest health with 240km piste open. Samnaun/Ischgl, with 190km, is virtually fully open now. The Engadine also has over 100km of piste open, and has a reasonable extent of cross-country skiing open also – at last report 30km of classic and 65 km of skating.
Verbier (and the rest of the Four Valleys), the Jungfrau resorts, Davos/Klosters, Adelboden, Saas-Fee, Engelberg and Andermatt all look promising for the holiday period and have good snow on the higher runs with even a little (but mostly tracked-out) off-piste around.
Although many of the smaller resorts have not opened yet, I would be surprised to see the warm weather prevent them having most of their lifts in operation by next weekend. However some of my favourite, more low-lying resorts look distinctly thin, especially the resorts around Gstaad and in Vaud. Flims/Laax has been later than I expected to open up its runs, but should be in full swing come this weekend.
For non-skiers there are a handful of toboggan runs already open, but the best prospect for you is probably the extensive circuit of winter walks found in most resorts, especially in the glorious sunshine we currently seem to be experiencing. The entertainment program in winter resorts is also ramping up, with the Spengler Cup in Davos probably my highlight, where CSKA Moscow and Team Canada amongst the teams vying for this most prestigious of ice hockey tournaments.