Cheap powder skiing in Switzerland really does exist and we’ll let you in on the secret destinations. The Val d’Anniviers area in Switzerland is a well kept secret but for those ‘in the know’ it offers everything you could possibly want from a ski region. The high altitude mountain valley is made up of five beautiful, traditional villages which are situated in a plateau far above the main Rhone Valley below. Each village has its own separate ski area (two of these areas are connected by ski lifts) and all five offer a unique ski experience.
St Luc and Chandolin looking pretty in the evening sun.
St Luc (1,655m) and Chandolin (1,936m)
These are the highest villages in the area, and in my opinion two of the most beautiful and traditional resorts in the Alps. The tiny streets, hardly wide enough to drive a car through, are lined with traditional mazots, century old chalets, a few hotels as well as a pretty family run 4 star hotel called the Bella Tola . The Ski area is relatively small – St Luc and neighbouring Chandolin which is linked have about 75km of pisted runs between them but they also plenty of easily accessed off-piste terrain. This offers great touring possibilities off the back side of the mountain as well as access to skiing over 3,000 metres. However, the real bonus is getting away from other skiers. During your week you might well find that you have the entire mountain to yourself and certainly it is quite normal to ski two or three runs without seeing another skier at all – a unique experience these days!
There are a couple of good local bars and restaurants in town and plenty to keep you going for a shorter stay. There is also a lovely catered chalet here which provides an experience quite unlike anywhere else in the Alps. Forget the crowds of the Three Valleys, the rowdy Brits in Val d’Isere, the poor snow in the Portes du Soleil. At the Chalet Charr you can truly escape from everyday life, forget about work and just relax, you are in the mountains and it’s blissfully quiet.
We have become somewhat desensitized as to what a ski holiday can really be. All the best holidays I have been on have been about connecting with friends or family, enjoying the skiing, the snow and indulging in great food. A stay in Chalet Charr combined with the skiing of St Luc / Chandolin delivers this special ski holiday experience which would be suitable to any skier.
These two villages are about 20 minutes drive from St Luc and are covered under the same lift pass. Here you have access to the largest connected ski area in the Val d’Anniviers region which makes the skiing here more suitable to those looking to do some piste cruising. Although the off piste here is also excellent it does tend to get tracked out rather more quickly than in St Luc and Chandolin. This is partly due to the influx of Scandinavians which the resort has seen in recent years. However, these days all of the best freeride and powder resorts in Europe have a Scandinavian presence, in effect giving the resort a seal of approval if you are after some challenging skiing. Although the off piste tracks out a little quicker here there is still plenty of snow to go around and it stays fresh a lot longer than in most parts of the Alps.
This area is still relatively undiscovered by the UK chalet market and although there are quite a few self-catered chalet options here there is only one catered chalet which is worth looking at. This is the Chalet Edelweiss which is run by an English couple, Penny and Eric Kendall. These guys really know their ski resorts and after 10 years travelling the world and testing out ski areas as ski journalists they decided that the Grimentz and Zinal area was the best of the lot. They run a spacious 10 – 12 person chalet just outside the centre of Zinal called the Chalet Edelweiss. The chalet is sold on an exclusive use basis for high season weeks but by the room at other times of the season. You can expect a warm and friendly welcome, excellent food and plenty of space to relax. Eric will even take you out for piste orientation on two mornings, and if your lucky he will also point out the best routes for some epic off piste skiing!
Finally you have Vercroin (1,330m) which is a small beginner and intermediate ski area at the front of the Val d’Anniviers region. I have not actually skied here yet but Nick from Backcountry Adventures tells me that this is where you can find the best tree skiing in Europe. Apparently it’s the best place to ski when it is snowing as the entire area is covered in perfectly spaced trees.
So, all in all, this magical place has something for everyone, be it hard core freeride, chilled out piste cruising or learning to ski on empty slopes. It doesn’t have the nightlife or après ski scene of larger resorts but the Val d’Anniviers is such a beautiful, unique and calming place that it would be totally ruined if it did.
Let us help you organise some cheap powder skiing in Switzerland for your next trip to the mountains. Telephone: +44 (0)20 7801 1080