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.
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…
The Snow’n’Rail scheme from Swiss Railways provides a 20% discount on the combined public transport and lift passes for a whole host of resorts in Switzerland. Additionally there are often even better offers available, and January sees some really brilliant ones.
Airolo is a pretty little village, famous as the home resort of Lara Gut, with enough slopes to keep most skiers and snowboarders happy for a day trip. They will be particularly happy with the massive 50% discount offered in January. You can get to Airolo from many locations, including Basel and Zurich, without changing trains – and there are not many resorts you can say that of. Plus it is the largest Italian-speaking resort in Switzerland.
If you do take the train to Airolo you can either take the courtesy bus from the station or walk to the bottom station – head left out of the station.
Other noteworthy deals are the 30% discount for Distentis (here), a favourite for freeriders, Meiringen-Hasliberg (here), convenient for Basel and Berne, Sattel (here), convenient for Zug and Lucerne, and Braunwald (here), a direct train trip from Zurich.