In a meeting of valleys near the northerly side of the Alms, Andermatt sits in a good position to gather snow. The elevation is also helpful – the skiing area in one of the two different areas of Gemsstock, steep and shady.
In the Valais region, Switzerland’s main resort concentration, snow cover in Andermatt is often high quality when its conditions are mediocre. Although it has one or two pathways, Gemsstock is truly a mountain expert. Nearly all black paths are found on the main 900m vertical façade, and the one to the valley is also black but easy. The main facing façades are also black.
But the remaining sector Andermatt, Nätschen-Gütsch-Sedrun, has a wide range, bringing the total runways in Andermatt up to 120 kilometres. A modern lift and track network links Nätschen-Gütsch with Egypt’s Egyptian entrepreneur Samih Sawiris, 15 km to the east of Sedrun, which is part of a 1,2 billion £ restoration of the resort. Once connected only by train, a number of red and blue runs and lifts with six-seater chairs and a quick dip of 10 people from Oberalppass to Schneehüenerstock are now available. There are also several routes.
Some of the Swiss resorts may match Verbier with luxurious chalets and hotels, but none of them has their cool cachet, largely because few are able to compete against his challenging high-rise terrain. Anyone who can manage the routes of Verbier, regardless of its corridors, can consider itself a pretty good darn.
The routes (which though loosely marked, are not officially controlled by an avalanche or supervised by skiing patrollers) spend time treating many experts like tracks. Epic highlights include Col des Gentianes’ 900 m vertical road to Tortin and the Vallon d’Arby’s 1’000 m vertical route down to La Tzoumaz on the edge of this ski area.
The 94 elevators have access to more than 400km of paths with some of the most popular elevators in the Alps. There is the more steep itinerary and severe off-piste roads from Mont Gélé (3,025m), while the top of Mont Fort (3,330m) offers a black mogul run on the front piste and adventurous off-piste roads on the back end in Siviez.
The resort is a small variety, but generally very efficient ski bus system – chalets, hotels and flats, a very limited number of which are ski/ski-outs! The after centre of the Central Square, the main lift base at 500 metres from the Médran and the bustling street between the two revolve around the resort life.
Ski trains and buses in St Moritz offer fairly efficient access to a broad range of intermediate pistes throughout six broad areas. Corviglia, the two biggest, is a 25-minute free ski bus ride from the town and Corvatsch. All sectors reach approximately 3,000m and provide wonderful views. A particularly attractive piste cruise is the broad open slopes above the tree.
St Moritz is well known for being the world capital for winter glitz, attracting stratospherically customers, but it has more than bling with its 350 kilometres of sunny, trustworthy snowy trails. There are two main parts of the resort village. The largest and most of the 5-star hotels, swan clubs and restaurants in the village is St Moritz. The cross-country track around the lake is located in Quieter St Moritz Bad.
The resort offers a wide range of quality entertainment facilities including ice skating, sliding and the famous skeleton Cresta Run, which is still open only to people. Golf, cricket and horse raking is more unusual on the cooling lake.
The magnificent little village of Saas Fee looks a little like a small Zermatt, surrounded by magnificent glaciers and mountain peaks including the Dome, which is Switzerland’s highest mountain. When it’s a decent quantity of sun, it is the perfect time to visit later in the season.
The ski area with 100 km of pistes is relatively small and the best for beginners and intermediates. The nursery slopes are long, gentle, calm and a short walk from the main street – the glacier and most of its top half are perfect for beginners who run up at altitudes with a glorious easy, blue stretch. Even red runs are usually very gentle here, and in many resorts would be classified blue.
Saas Fee is friendly and well equipped for the family because there are lots of après-ski fun, including the state-of-the-art Aqua Allalin swimming pool and spa complex. The Feeblitz Rodelbobbahn (a hybrid bobsleigh/rollercoaster) which provides a great afternoon of fun – particularly when the weather closes.
Grimentz is the biggest and attractive destination for all four resorts in the lovely Val d’Anniviers, sharing with Zinal, St Luca and Chandolin two ski areas covered by a single ski pass. Grimentz is the largest of four, featuring more restaurants, bars and accommodation, which are reached from Sierre in the Rhone Valley by a dramatic winding road that zigzags past sheer hits. The honour of this frightening initiation is the sense of discovering a secret alpine refuge. The village features a charming traditional town centre with time-blacked wooden chalets as well as less appealing additions from the seventies.
Although Grimentz isn’t so clandestine nowadays its offbeat location does not over-exploit tourism demand and it’s all the better for it. The two ski slopes are 210 km long. On one side of the valley is Grimentz-Zinal, and on the other is St. Luc-Chandolin. It’s best to have a car, because the bus service isn’t excellent, between the two ski areas.
The two ski areas combine to offer the amount and variety of pistes needed to enjoy the full week. While the area is very easy and intermediate, the steep pistes and the off-piste are major attractions. Grimentz’ World Cup is a true challenge, but it is not very important compared to Zinal’s black Piste des Chamois. Here is an impressive demonstration of swiss engineering expertise in the winding of a washing machine. The opportunities with a mountain guide to be discovered off-piste are great.