This past Friday, one of Martin’s co-workers kindly drove us to the Stöckli Outdoor Sports store near Thun. After a great ski season, where we visited four different resorts, my husband decided it would be a good idea to invest in our own set of skis for next season instead of renting. Stöckli is a Swiss made brand and its stores offer new, last season and previously used skis. A new set of skis and bindings will set you back at least 1400 CHF, so we decided that it would be wiser to look at last season’s and used skis, which have at least 50% knocked off the new asking price. After almost an hour of looking at what they had on offer, trying to decide between slalom, giant slalom and cross skis, we both found a set that were perfect for each of us. My husband’s co-worker was also able to negotiate a pretty fair price. Super!
I’m now excited for next season, so I thought I’d write up a quick summary of the Swiss resorts we tried out this season.
1. CRANS MONTANA: 17/1/2014 – 21/1/2014
The first resort we tried was Crans-Montana. Located in Southwestern Switzerland, it took us 2 hours, 2 trains and 1 funicular ride to reach the resort. We stayed at Hotel Le Green which is located in the centre of the resort and has good lift connections.
The Cry d’er gondola in Crans was located just a 10 minute walk from our hotel (très convenient). Our first day there it was unfortunately closed so we caught a very crammed bus headed to Les Barzettes and skiied Les Violettes instead. In Europe, the basic grading for ski runs goes from blue (easy) through red to black (difficult). The majority of the runs in Crans-Montana are rated red (intermediate) so it’s definitely not an ideal resort for beginners.
Throughout our time there, the conditions varied quite a lot. On our 2nd day we were joined by a friend from London and had a lot of snow coverage and sun. The last couple of days the snow coverage wasn’t great, closing some of the runs, and fog rolled in and out throughout both days, making visibility extremely difficult at times.
All in all, it was a decent first holiday. It’s definitely not one of my favourite resorts. The après-skiing was almost non-existent and at times the resort appeared deserted at night (this could be down to the time of year we were there). It didn’t have the same charm as other resorts I’ve visited, but the ski runs were actually pretty good when the weather co-operated. If I were to give this resort an overall star rating, I would give it 2 stars out of 5.
2. ZWEISIMMEN: 1/2/2014
We definitely caught the “ski bug” after our first trip to Crans-Montana, so eleven days later we decided to head to Zweisimmen for a quick day trip of skiing. We were advised that Saturday would be better than Sunday, as Saturday is typically a transition day when people are leaving and new guests are arriving, so it’s considerably less crowded than Sunday.
After getting up early to catch the train and pick up our rental skis we were quickly on the slopes. The conditions were great.
The majority of runs at Zweisimmen are blue rated, so it’s a great place to go as a novice skier. It’s also very easy to make your way across the mountain to ski all of the runs. It’s a small resort, but perfect for a day trip. I would rate it 3 stars out of 5!
3. GRINDELWALD: 7/2/2014 – 9/2/2014
This was our 4th trip to Grindelwald. It’s by far one of my favourite ski resorts and is only one hour and 40 minutes from Bern via rail. Our first three holidays there we stayed at Jasmine Apartments, but for this one, we chose a small B&B as we were only going for two nights and Jasmine is generally booked in week long slots.
Grindelwald is split into 3 ski areas: First, Kleine Scheidegg and the Schilthorn. We’ve only ever skied First and Kleine Scheidegg as the Schilthorn is a bit further away and costs more to include in your ski pass. Grindelwald has many runs to keep you busy if you go for a full week. It also has many sledge runs, which I highly recommend trying as well.
As we’ve been there before, there are a few things we definitely recommend trying if you’re ever in the area. Food wise, you need to try Onkel Tom’s Hutte. It serves great pizza in the cutest traditional Swiss lodge. It does get very busy, but you can put your name down and usually get a table within an hour, depending on your party size. If you’re looking for more traditional food, the Bistro Memory in the Eiger Hotel has a good variety of roesti, cheese fondue, and raclette as well as burgers and burritos for less adventurous eaters.
An activity that we’ve tried and absolutely loved, was night sledging at Bussalp. After a thirty minute bus ride up the mountain, we enjoyed a fondue dinner followed by a white knuckled, 8km sledge run which took us back into town. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in my life. There’s even a small drink hut in the middle so you can refill on liquid courage. Perhaps not the smartest combination, but lots of fun!
If you’re a good skier and like a challenge, Martin recommends skiing the Lauberhorn, the location of an annual downhill ski race since 1930. I met up with him half way down the run. I was way too scared of the Hundschopf to start from the beginning.
Grindelwald may not have the liveliest après-skiing, but the village charm, variety of ski runs and exciting activities on offer make it a 4.5 stars out of 5 experience for me!
4. SAAS FEE: 6/3/2014 – 9/3/2014
Our final ski holiday of 2014 was at the Free Republic of Holidays Saas Fee. There was a massive dump of snow the weekend before we arrived so the snow conditions were perfect. The sun also shined the whole time we were there, which was an amazing way to end our season. We stayed at the Hotel Derby which allowed us to ski in and out from the hotel. I quickly became accustomed to this kind of luxury.
By this time, I had made some strides in my skiing abilities and had enough confidence to tackle all of the black runs that the resort had to offer. I won’t say I made it down gracefully, but…I MADE IT DOWN.
The highest point you can ski from is the summit of Mittelallalin. It is reached via cable car from Saas Fee to the Felskinn intermediate station and finally to the top with the Metro Alpin, the highest funicular in the world. At 3456 m, the thin air is noticeable as soon as you exit the funicular, giving a very literal meaning to “breathtaking” views.
Skiing in Saas Fee was very enjoyable. It’s not a very large resort, so if you’re there for more than 3 days you’ll find yourself repeating runs over and over again. For this, I will rate it 4 stars out of 5.
I really can’t wait for next season to start, but for now, I’m planning on visiting some of the same resorts to see the landscapes in the summer months. And perhaps enjoy some more cheese fondue.