With its majestic mountains, superb skiing, high altitude resorts, picturesque Alpine villages and plenty of great mountain restaurants, Switzerland is an ideal destination for skiers. Amongst the many regions, Valais in particular is a winter fairytale.
The natural playground of the Valais is dotted with 36 diverse ski resorts, which offer over 2000km of pistes, virtually all of which are over 1500m in altitude, with some exceeding 3000m, which means snow cover is guaranteed. Housing some of the world’s most legendary freeriding terrain; untold acres of ski touring terrain and prepared touring terrain; 1000km of cross-country ski tracks, 1000km of winter hiking trails, 50 sledging runs and countless snowshoeing trails.
With such diverse snowsports on offer, Valais has something for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. The Valais also produces some regional specialities, including fabulous wines, meat and cheese specialities, and has some first-class restaurants on & off the slopes. Prepare to be enthralled by the unique Valais winter! visitvalais.ch
Saas-Fee Free Republic of Holidays
Saas-Fee is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful mountain villages in the world; stunningly nestled at the foot of the dramatic 4,545 metre-high Dom and the Allalin glacier. It is the very picture of winter magic and romance, with streets flanked by centuries old timber chalets and cowsheds.
There are a further thirteen peaks of 4,000+m on both sides of the Saas-Fee valley, making it the only place in the world where you can glimpse so many 4000ers at once.
Saas-Fee’s altitude (1800m) guarantees snow from November to April, and summer skiing on the Allalin glacier from July to October. Snow is not merely abundant, but is cold, chalky and grippy – ideal for perfecting your carving technique. Advanced skiers can climb some of the surrounding 4,000m peaks with local guides to be rewarded with 2,000 vertical metre off-piste descents.
The area benefits from a network of new, high-speed lifts including the Metro Alpin, an underground funicular, which takes guests to the world's highest revolving restaurant, the 3500m-high Mittelallalin, where you can enjoy 360-degree views of the Alps. James Bond fans will recognise the restaurant, which featured as Blofeld’s headquarters in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service.' The Metro Alpin also brings you to the Allalin Ice Pavilion, where you can follow a tunnel into the heart of the glacier.
You can also try scenic winter hiking routes, snowshoeing adventures, cross-country ski trails, snow-tubing, a children's fun park, the Feeblitz toboggan run, and the Alpin Gorge, where you can cross the dramatic gorge using swaying rope bridges and fixed-rope crossings.
Every freerider dreams of finding their very own secret powder kingdom, a place of undiscovered bowls, pristine couloirs and untouched glades. For those willing to share such a snowy kingdom with just a few fellow powder fans, they can stop dreaming and discover the Val d'Anniviers.
The Anniviers valley is encircled by the "Imperial Crown", five peaks towering above 4,000 metres including the Matterhorn, and boasting 220km of ski pistes across three ski areas. Passing through the sleepy Anniviers villages, it's as though time has paused: wooden “raccards” (granaries) stand in Alpine pastures, barely changed in 600 years, and cow fighting remains a highlight of the social calendar.
The best way to explore the Val d'Anniviers off-piste is by joining a Freeride Week organised by the local tourist office. They offer five nights accommodation with four days of guided freeskiing and ski touring (for various skill levels) as well as training in mountain safety and avalanche awareness. The last involves tuition and hands-on experience gained at the Mammut Avalanche Training Centre on the pistes above Zinal, where guides teach budding freeriders to use their avalanche transceiver in simulated situations.
For a real freeriding treat, call a helicopter to whisk you from Grimentz up to the 3,796m summit of Pigne d’Arolla. From here, you can enjoy 1,800 vertical metres of untouched descent through a glacial wonderland.
Winter holidays spent with family are magical: bundling up your little ones in their down ski suits, watching them master their first ski turns, laughing together over bread dropped in the fondue and evenings spent playing games by the fire.
Scooping first place in the “Peace and Relaxation” category of the Best Ski Resort Awards 2016 is just one reason to bring your family to Aletsch Arena. It’s also one of a select number of Swiss destinations recognised as a "Families Welcome" resort, having met exacting standards for family-friendly infrastructure, activities, services and hospitality.
Set within the first UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in the Alps, the three mountain villages are car free and accessed by ski lift, guaranteeing peace and quiet as well as a safe environment for little ones. There’s 104km of pistes, over a third of which are beginner friendly and nearly half suitable for intermediates, making Aletsch great for children and adults alike. And that's not all: there are four dedicated kid's areas, four fun parks, a snowpark and a half pipe. There's even a competitive high-speed course on Fiescheralp and a timed giant slalom course on Bettmeralp .
Aletsch Arena is also home to kilometres of scenic cross-country ski, snowshoeing and winter walking trails, which provide mesmerising views of the Aletsch Glacier and some of Switzerland's most iconic peaks, including the Matterhorn and Jungfraujoch.
Lying at the very heart of the extensive 4 Vallées ski area, Nendaz combines direct access to Switzerland’s largest ski area with a tranquil, authentic mountain experience.
Located at the centre of the 4 Vallées, between Verbier and Thyon, Nendaz is arguably the best place from which to explore its sprawling slopes and off-piste terrain. You can lap up the virtually untouched local slopes through the morning, drop in on a neighbouring resort for lunch, catch a few chairlifts to explore the other valleys in the afternoon, and be back in Nendaz for après-ski.
Nendaz also offers seven “Freetracks” for advanced skiers and riders to enjoy – secured, yet ungroomed freeride routes. It’s small wonder that the world’s best freeriders gather here each year for the Nendaz Freeride Competition.
Life beyond skiing
After a long day’s skiing, it’s hard to beat soaking sore legs in a hot tub and easing aches in the sauna. Nendaz offers a unique Ski & Spa Pass, combining a one-day adult lift pass with access to the Spa des Bisses in the luxurious Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa resort for just CHF79 (saving nearly a third on the full price).
Indeed, Nendaz offers a wealth of activities off-slopes; including 40km of snowshoe trails, best explored with a guide to point out local wildlife and history; 100km of winter hiking trails; cross-country ski trails; and a sledging run on Tortin. But perhaps the most memorable adventure is a Full Moon Mountain Party, available from January to March.
Skiing, perhaps more than any other sport, gets under your skin. From those first tentative moments on the nursery slope to that exhilarating rush as you conquer your first blue or red slope, you're hooked. Chose the Valaisan resort of Thyon for your first turns, or for your children's early ski moments, and you'll be starting the habit of a lifetime.
Thyon is great if you’re eager to learn or improve your skiing, have a young family or simply crave intermediate slopes all to yourself. The eastern gateway to one of the largest ski areas in the Alps, Verbier's 4 Valleys, and located just thirty minutes' drive from Sion airport, Thyon is the little-known solution to all your ski dreams.
Three Times As Much Choice
The resort comprises three villages – Les Masses at 1600m, Les Collons at 1800m, where properties are rarely more than three minute’ stroll from the pistes, and perched at 2000m is Thyon. It’s car-free and all apartment blocks offer ski-in/ski-out convenience, with shops and restaurants at ground level.
Thyon's slopes, which include a dedicated Slow Zone and network of gentle blue and red pistes, are easily accessed from each of the three villages. Children can learn the basics of skiing and snowboarding in the sunny Snow Village. Confident intermediates can master their carving skills on the invariably quiet pistes, building up to the black runs off Etherolla, while advanced skiers will find untracked powder on the freeriding itinerary off l’Eteygeon.
Furthermore, Thyon’s slopes are part of the sprawling 412km of pistes in the 4 Valleys ski area, opening up jaw-dropping amounts of terrain for intermediate and advanced skiers.
Swiss International Air Lines offers more than 180 weekly flights from the UK and Ireland to Switzerland, plus they transport your set of ski or snowboard equipment for free in addition to the standard baggage allowance. New this winter: Additional SWISS flights from London Heathrow to Sion flights during January and February’18. SWISS.COMSwiss ski resorts are easily reached thanks to the excellent transport network, making it the ultimate destination for flexible ski travel. The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers travel from any Swiss airport to the chosen holiday destination – and back again at the end of the stay. And even better, children under 16 travel free of charge when accompanied by an adult holding a Swiss Transfer Ticket. MySwitzerland.com/rail
Find out more in our 2017/2018 Valais Brochure
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