In the latest Good Ski Guide magazine, Verbier was ranked in 3 'Best of the
Best' categories - for advanced skiers, off-piste skiing and après-ski.
Do we agree? Well
as the top banana of the Four Valleys domain, Verbier
has access to 400km of pistes. It has an excellent sun and snow record, particularly
at higher altitudes, also offering a limited amount of year-round skiing on
the Mont Fort glacier. From here the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. There's
a massive array of skiing throughout the area, with unlimited off-piste and
great black runs for advanced skiers. There is also a specialist park for boarders.
Tuition for better skiers is of the highest order, while the lift system has
been constantly upgraded since 1994. The resort itself offers an excellent variety
of restaurants, extremely lively nightlife and plenty for non-skiers to do.
Any disadvantages? The skiing lower down can be poor as a result of the
sun. There can often be considerable queues. Prices are high, even for
Switzerland. The accommodation won't be winning architectural awards any
Verbier is a superb resort, particularly for better skiers, but as the list
of faults confirms, it isn't quite in the same league as some other domains
- Whistler, the Trois Vallées and Val d'Isère/Tignes are all a
head or more above. Nonetheless, this is a seriously good skiing venue and
the views are among the best in the world.
Resort summary :
Resort Altitude -
1500m (4921ft) .Winter
season: December to April .Traditional: YES .Nearest town: Martigny.
Slope suitability -
.Intermediate: 42% .Expert: 19%
Lifts & slopes :
Highest lift: 3330m (10925ft) .Lowest lift: 1500m (4921ft) .No of lifts: 38
.No of slopes: 70 .Total piste length: 125km .Longest run: 15km .Snowparks:
2 .Snow runs: 70 .Glacier: Mont Fort Glacier .Cross country: 20km .
SAAS- FEE :
Saas-Fee has some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere, from 4000m
peaks to a range of stunning glaciers. Much of this territory is shared by
its illustrious neighbour, Zermatt. Saas-Fee sits at 1800m, so snow is all
but guaranteed. The skiing is not as challenging as Zermatt's, with most of
theruns favouring intermediates and beginners. Snowboarders will like
Saas-Fee with its excellent school, although it isn't great for
The ski domain is not that expansive, with 100km of its own pistes, while
the lift is rather inefficient. Due to the dominance of the Dom Mountain
(one of the highest in Switzerland), the resort can suffer from a lack of
sun in the winter. The Mittelallalin glacier, connected by an underground
funicular railway, provides summer skiing and boarding. Saas-Fee is also the
official training centre for the Professional Snowboarding Association.
The resort itself has maintained more of its traditional village charm than
Zermatt and is traffic-free. There is plenty to do when not skiing, with a
sportscentre, the highest revolving restaurant in the world (3500m) and some
good designer ski shops. Après-ski is fine, but the eateries aren't
excellent and they charge prices that will have you increasing your
Overall, Saas-Fee has a lot of great features, particularly its scenery,
causing many people to fall in love with the place. Its skiing isn't awesome
and it has Zermatt as a neighbour, so the two are always compared.
St Moritz is probably the most famous of all the Swiss resorts. It is posh,
glamorous and very expensive. It's a place to be seen in but, if you're
really picky, you can ski as well. The sun shines nearly all year-round and
the snow record is pretty good. The town isn't that attractive, with
less-than-beautiful buildings often spoiling some great scenery. There are
countless things to do off the snow, while cross-country skiers are truly
spoiled with lovely tracks around the frozen lake. It's difficult to access
by car and the transfer times are hefty (Zurich is 200km away). Many prefer
to take the train, but that still takes a fair while. The resort prides
itself on having hosted the Olympics twice in the last century. Its most
well-known off-snow activity is the world-famous Cresta Run - still
unavailable to women. The nightlife, top-class hotels and restaurants are
major pulls, although you may need to extend your mortgage to cover the
There are a massive 350km of piste to explore, but it's
fragmented and rather poorly linked. Many of the runs in the main domains
are easy and rather similar. The 'in-crowd' seem to like it like that - not
too strenuous and perfect for posing. Beginners don't receive too much
attention, while advanced skiers will have to travel around to get the best
St Moritz has to offer. There is some good off-piste to be had on the face
of the Piz Noir when snow cover is adequate. The lift system has been
upgraded, but over-reliance on small cable cars means that queues can often
develop. Overall, it's a venue not solely based around skiing. People come
to St. Moritz all year round. The skiing is ideally suited to the clientele,
as are the prices. However, if you are working on a budget, or want a
massive variety of skiing, St. Moritz isn't exactly tailored to you.
One of the first spots in the Alps to be used as a skiing venue and also a
'health' spa, Davos is a large, outstretched town 1 ¾ hours from Zurich
by car or 2 ½ hours by train. It has access to 325km of pistes and is
linked to Klosters.
As a whole, there is something for every type of skier, although beginners
don't fair as well. Intermediates have lots of long blues and reds to
exploit, while advanced skiers have some good off-piste. The snow is
generally good at the higher levels and some fantastic off-piste. What the
town lacks for in charm, it makes up for with its fantastic variety for
skiers and boarders alike and with the new Parsennbahn railway, access to
the slopes is quick and easy.
For boarders the off-piste is a major attraction, as is the designated
park. Cross-country skiers also have much territory to cover. The town
itself, split into 2 parts, Dorf and Platz, doesn't possess the charm of
Klosters, but life off the slopes is lively with 5 nightclubs to choose from
as well as lots of bars and restaurants. In addition there are many other
things to do apart from skiing. You can take a scenic train ride, use the
largest natural ice rink in Europe, visit the winter sport museum, or watch
an ice hockey match. On top of that are the great shops and excellent
restaurants (on and off mountain).
It is expensive and fur coats abound, however, it does cater for all - if
you can afford it.
Inextricably linked to Prince Charles and the Royal Family, Klosters is
part of the Davos ski network. They share the Parsenn ski field, but the 2
towns are 10km apart and Klosters has its own ski area, the Madrisa.
The resort is split into 2 parts, Dorf and Platz, but neither is the
exclusive hive you might have imagined. Platz has classy hotels near the
station and more fizz, while Dorf remains very quiet. Both have plenty of
There are great on- and off-snow restaurants, but as a rule the evenings
are pretty quiet. Non-skiers can experience the sports centre, ice-skating,
sleigh rides and sled runs down the front of the Gotschna. There are several
beautiful marked walks up and down the valley by the river and up the
mountains, for example, via the ancient hamlet of Montbiel to the old
Garfiun restaurant where cross-country skiers and walkers bask in the sun
and take a well-earned rest.
The skiing across the whole area is suitable for all abilities. Advanced
practitioners have good on- and off-piste, intermediates have plenty of long
blues and reds and beginners can head to the Parsenn for gentle, developing
runs. The lift system at Klosters has been partially upgraded, including the
Gotschna cable car, named after Prince Charles. Local transport is necessary
to access other ski areas.
Overall, Klosters has dodged the tourist mass market and preserved much of
its Alpine charm. It is still expensive and quite upmarket, but that
shouldn't necessarily put you off. The skiing offers something for everyone
and hey, if you go at the right time, you might bump into a prince or two.
The Adelboden ski area comprises of 5 domains. Three are lift-accessed from
the town and the other 2 linked by an efficient bus service. Between them
and other small local ski areas there are over 200km of runs, offering
enjoyable skiing for beginners and intermediates. Experts will have to root
around for off-piste and decent black runs. Most of the skiing is at fairly
low altitude, but the slopes do hold their snow reasonably well as they are
Adelboden also offers 2 half-pipes and one specialist park for boarders.The
fragmented nature of the skiing is probably Adelboden's greatest
disadvantage. The village itself is traditional, pretty and sedate. The
scenery is a real plus, with Adelboden sharing the same range as Gstaad and
Wengen. It is also a great spot for other winter pursuits, so non-skiers
should find plenty to amuse. Après-ski is fairly quiet, with the
majority being hotel-, restaurant- and bar-based. The ski school is
adequate, but best suited to kids.
Overall, Adelboden/Lenk is a great base for a ski touring holiday - if you
have a car. If that's the case then most will have a variety of slopes to
keep them occupied. It's a wonderful and typically Swiss environment from
which to explore.
Mürren is one of the original ski resorts, developed by Brits in the
'20s,remaining a favourite nowadays. There isn't a great range of skiing for
all abilities, but 2 things draw people back every time. First is the
stupendous scenery that provides views into Germany, France and Italy.
Second are the black runs down from the Schilthorn and great off-piste at
Blumental, which many advanced skiers find worth the journey alone. If you
want more varied skiing you can slide across the Lauterbrunnen Valley. This
provides access to the Wengen and Grindelwald slopes, which largely please
the intermediate audience. This is best done in the week, as queues build up
at the weekend.
Add a small-but-stunning village, picture-postcard chalets and no cars and
you have one of the great Alpine spots. There isn't much to Mürren in
terms of nightlife, but what there is really hots up at the weekend. During
the day the non-skier might find themselves with a lack of activities. The
mountain restaurants won't be winning many awards any time soon, but the
hotel restaurants are more than adequate.
Access to the village is provided by train or gondola, definitely adding to
the Alpine ambience. The revolving restaurant, Piz Gloria (at 2970m) is as
good a place as any to enjoy the views. If for nothing else you really must
try Mürren for the scenery.
Lenzerheide is rather a charming old town linked with Valbella by a lake,
as well as by lifts. They combine to form a picturesque, but not
particularly exciting ski area, with one little-known claim to fame:
Margaret and Denis Thatcher brought their twins here to learn to ski. Much
of the skiing takes place on either side of a wooded valley - some runs in
the trees, some above them. The uniform shape of the valley tends to make
the runs in this area a little up-and-down and monotonous. However, there
are some surprisingly steep and gladed slopes, sometimes mogulled, beneath
the Rothorn cable car, at the Valbella end of the valley.
Zermatt, according to some reporters, is as near as anywhere to perfection,
so long as you are an intermediate or advanced skier. Dominated by the
stunning scenery of the Matterhorn, Zermatt's pluses can be summarised as
follows - awesome scenery; amazing mountain restaurants; fantastic and
varied skiing (also linked to Cervinia in Italy); a charming and
predominantly traffic-free town, bar the electric taxis; great snow high up;
all sorts of nightlife for everybody; great shopping; masses of non-skiing
activities to enjoy; a glacier for year-round skiing; good accommodation; a
cosmopolitan crowd; excellent boarding provision. Apart from all that, it's
quite a good resort
There are a few minor complaints, but nowhere is perfect. Often you may
have a bit of a trek to get to the lifts and there can be queues,
particularly on the way up to the skiing. Beginners don't have the greatest
amount of choice. The 3 ski areas are separate and rather poorly linked.
It's at least 4 hours to the nearest international airport. Oh, and it's
seriously expensive, tending to attract the 'fur coat and poodle brigade'
Overall, Zermatt has been described as 'the perfect ski destination' and
'about as complete a resort as you can find'. Such plaudits are hard to
argue and it must be on every skier's itinerary, as long as the credit card
can come too.
Wengen, which shares the Jungfrau pass with Grindelwald and Murren, is most
famous for its dramatic downhill course, the 'Lauberhorn'. It's also known
as one of those classic Swiss ski resorts that is relaxed and has stunning
scenery. Don't come here solely to bash as many pistes as possible. Wengen
is traffic free and only accessible only by train from Lauterbrunnen. Many
skiers will then take the train on up to Kleine Scheidegg, so a good
knowledge of the timetable is vital to avoid queues although the newly
renovated cable-car to Mannlichen provides a quicker alternative into the
main area. As with Grindelwald, the views of the Eiger and the surrounding
mountains are awesome. Both resorts share the problem of unreliable snow, as
the pistes don't go much higher than 2000m. The skiing is very good for
intermediates and beginners and the ski schools are excellent. Advanced
skiers and boarders don't have too many pistes to try, but off-piste is
Many people go to Wengen simply for the atmosphere. It's sedate, stress-
and traffic-free and 'old-school'. The village has excellent hotels that
provide most of the dining, with some superb mountain eateries to boot.
Nightlife is fairly restrained but non-skiers have plenty to occupy
themselves with. In particular there is the option of the train, providing
access to the valley below, to Murren, and to Interlaken. When the weather
is fine, many people are happy just to sit out, enjoy the scenery and soak
up the ambience of the place. It isn't just skiing in Wengen, you know.
CRANS MONTANA :
Originally 3 towns, Crans, Montana and Aminona amalgamated in the 1960s to
form one resort. Once spa-inspired and a resort since 1893, it is renowned
its stunning views and sunny weather. Crans-Montana's one major failing is
that the snow can be poor, in spite of sitting at 1500m. Be sure to check
the snow reports before you book.
The town itself is functional, not attractive and traffic can be a problem.
Most accommodation will require a bus to the lifts. The lifts are efficient,
allowing few queues, except possibly at weekends. Shopping, eating out and
general non-skiing activities are good, as befits a large resort. While
there is a reasonable amount of nightlife, the majority of visitors prefer a
quiet meal to an all-night session. There are also excellent childcare
On-piste skiing favours beginners and intermediates, with only 2 black runs
for advanced. There's plenty of exciting and varied off-piste and this
contributes to a strong boarding presence. Crans-Montana also provides some
scenic tree-line skiing. The lift pass covers the 160km of pistes, but you
will have to pay more to access the Plaine Morte glacier.
Overall, Crans-Montana is a great resort with stunning scenery, many
activities and lots of skiing for all. It is a wonderful destination for
families seeking quieter evenings. Beware the 3- hour transfer from Geneva,
Accessible from Berne (75km) and Zurich (2/3 hours), Grindelwald is the
oldest yet least- known of the 3 Jungfrau resorts (which combine to offer
188km of piste). Most will have heard of Wengen and Murren. All 3 sit around
the magnificent Eiger, with Grindelwald at the base. This does lead to a
lack of sun in the winter. A mountaineering Mecca, the setting and scenery
are fantastic and the resort is picturesque in the extreme, although Murren
possesses the best views. Grindelwald has its own domain, linked with
Wengen, while a slight trek can get you to Murren. In particular, the cog
railway and the gondola to most of the skiing can get clogged, especially at
weekends. The lift system is rather antiquated, but should be receiving
attention soon. Grindelwald has Europe's longest sledge run - it is 15 km
The skiing favours intermediates, while advanced skiers may miss out if
they aren't prepared to travel. The resort is hugely popular with families.
The ski school also has a reasonable reputation, with many English-speaking
instructors. Grindelwald's biggest problem is a lack of guaranteed snow,
with most of the skiing between 1000m and 2000m.
There is plenty to do off the snow, with the train helping you to get
around. Après-ski is pretty laid-back, while hotel restaurants are
the focus for good
grub. There are a few reasonable bars and 2 clubs, so it's slightly
livelier than the other Jungfrau resorts. Access is provided by train from
Overall, a beautiful family ski resort, with a great selection of skiing
and non-skiing options available. Grindelwald, funnily enough, only really
comes into its own when there is ample snow.
The World Snow Festival takes place in Grindelwald each year. Thousands of
sculpturers present their creations on this event. It is worth watching them
how they make their creations.
Linked to Les Diablerets and its glacier in 1997, Villars' signature
feature is its mountain railway, which winds up the valley from Bex and
stops at Bretaye. Due to its lower altitude and south-facing location,
Villars can be in trouble if there isn't much snow. This problem has been
partially defeated by the recent introduction of snowmakers. Most of the
skiing favours beginners and intermediates. For boarders there are 2 local
boarding parks. The glacier has some very good off-piste. Investing in a
'Glacier - Alpes Vaudoises' pass allows you to ski on over 500km of pistes,
including Gstaad and Chateau d'Oex. The on-site ski school is more than
adequate and childcare is comprehensive for all ages. The town itself is
more modern than Les Diablerets, but still fairly attractive. There are some
decent mountain restaurants, with more local speciality venues in town.
There are also several good bars, a couple of clubs and lots of off-snow
activities. As a result, Villars is a relaxing, relatively quiet family
resort, with ample skiing for those of lower abilities.
Found at the top of the delightful Schanfigg Valley, Arosa is not just a
ski resort ional winter venue. Largely catering for a wealthy but unshowy
clientele, Arosa has loads of Alpine ambience and attracts as many
non-skiers as slope-sliders. Sitting at 1800m, the snow is very good and the
lift system is highly efficient. There are 70km of pistes, largely favouring
beginners and intermediates, while experts will have to make do with a few
blacks and any off-piste they can find. Boarders are very welcome, although
the nightlife might fall short of greater demands. Après-ski is
rather sedate, mainly involving good eateries and hotel-based bars. Arosa is
a great family venue - in the evenings traffic is banned from the
village-centre and a free bus service takes people in and out.
Overall, Arosa is a friendly charming mountain resort that's very Swiss and
traditional. The skiing isn't overly demanding, but perfect for learners
wanting to have the full Alpine experience.
Another of the Portes du Soleil resorts, Champéry benefits from
access to 650km of runs, providing something for everyone. It is one of the
more attractive places to stay on this circuit, maintaining its old Swiss
Alpine charm and ambience. It also boasts dramatic views of the Dents du
Midi. Most of the accommodation is hotel-based, as is the majority of
nightlife. There are plenty of cafés and shops for early après-ski.
As for the skiing, there's loads for all on the Portes du Soleil, but Champéry
is lift- not ski-linked. You'll have to take a bus for the cable car up and
you can't ski back to base. Champéry's local slopes are very sunny
and are ideally suited for intermediates. Unfortunately, beginners have to
pay for a full lift pass just to access the nursery slopes. Experts should
make the trip to get to the best stuff at Avoriaz.
Overall, Champéry's biggest pull is its cosy and friendly ambience,
which compensates for the less-than-convenient slope accessibility.