Ski Resorts - Switzerland
Switzerland sits in the middle of the Alps and is home to a range of iconic and majestic mountains - The Matterhorn, Eiger, Jungfrau and Weisshorn are names that are steeped in mountain tradition. There are many ski resorts in Switzerland which range from small, traditional and very beautiful mountain villages to large, purpose built resorts.
There are several very high end ski resorts in Switzerland that attract a wealthy clientele (Zermatt and St Moritz if you are traditionalist and Verbier if you are a little more flashy) but there are also smaller village resorts that have genuinely good valued hotel and chalet accommodation as well as lots of charm and good skiing - Grimentz and St Luc in the Val d'Anniviers area are good examples.
Our recipe for a Swiss cheese fondueYou can't stay in a Swiss ski resort and not have a cheese fondue. It just wouldn't be right. Besides, getting stuck into a Swiss cheese fondue is a fun event whether you are with family or a group of friends. The first record of a cheese fondue goes back to a book published in Zurich in 1699. However, it was not until the end of the 19th Century that it became widely popular in the lowland towns of western, French-speaking, Switzerland. Rich cheese like Gruyère was a valuable export item which mountain peasants could not afford to eat so fondue is not traditionally a mountain meal. The introduction of cornflour to Switzerland in 1905 meant that fondues could be easily created without the cheese mixture 'splitting' and the dish was later popularized as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s as a way of increasing cheese consumption. It was later popularised in America and the UK during the 1960's.
The word fondue comes from the French verb 'fondre', meaning to melt.
Ingredients (serves 8): 700g Gruyere cheese, grated. 300g Emmental cheese, grated. 4 tsp cornflour (to stop the mixture separating). 1 clove garlic. 1 glass dry white wine. 8 tbsp kirsch. Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Freshly ground black pepper.
Method: Rub the inside of a heavy saucepan with the cut garlic clove. Add the white wine and cornflour to the saucepan mix together and then bring to a simmer. Add the 2 cheeses and 4 tablespoons Kirsch and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low setting, stirring until the mixture it is hot and smooth. Add remaining 4 tablespoons Kirsch if mixture is too thick. Season with nutmeg and black pepper to taste. Transfer to a fondue pot and serve immediately with dippers of choice (small chunks of bread or slices of apples perhaps).
The popular ski resorts and ski areas in Switzerland
The highest and most challenging skiing as well as the more modern lift infrastructure is in the Verbier sector of the ski area. However, it should be noted that there are very few easy runs here so more nervous intermediate skiers would be best to look at staying in other resorts. If you manage to get to the end of the day unscathed by Verbier's tough skiing then you might reward yourself with an après ski drink and this is where Verbier excels as a resort. There is a massive choice of bars and clubs and the resort takes the whole après-ski scene very seriously indeed with several really good live music venues and a really buzzing resort atmosphere created by a young, wealthy clientele looking to party hard.
Grimentz links to Zinal with a new lift that was completed in 2015 and both these resorts are linked by bus service to St Luc & Chandolin, the 13km journey between the two separated areas takes less than 30 minutes. All the resorts are covered by the same ski pass and their proximity to each other means you can realistically ski two, or even three, resorts in one day. Grimentz is best for families whereas Zinal and St Luc are better suited to expert skiers looking for untracked, snow sure off-piste terrain that is well above the tree line. It's no accident that the famous British mountain guide/skier, Nick Parks, has based his business, Backcountry Adventures, in Zinal.
Today Zermatt has the finest collection of mountain restaurants in the world as well as a far ranging ski domain stretching to Cervinia in Italy. The town of Zermatt is large with a huge array of hotels and chalets as well as endless shops and bars. The resort has a special magical mountain atmosphere and strolling along the car-free pedestrian streets is the perfect way to soak up the historic charm.
The main ski area is the Parsenn with highest skiing from the Weissfluh at 2,844m. There are numerous pistes of every grade and a good collection of mountain restaurants in the Schwendi area. There are too many T bars for some but the excellent off-piste terrain that descends to the valley floor is rich reward. Catching the red mountain train to either Klosters or Davos after a wonderful powder run only adds to the mountain atmosphere. There is also the separate Madrisa mountain (2,602m) where the childrens ski school operate their classes. This area is great in March and April for ski touring and as a heli-ski drop off point. On the opposite side of the valley, and above Davos, lie the two smaller North West facing areas of Jakobshorn and the Rinerhorn.
The ski terrain lies largely between 3,000m and 2,000m which makes this one of the most snow sure ski regions in the Swiss Alps. It attracts a high proportion of snowboarders and ‘freeride’ skiers who enjoy the open terrain and the young, hip vibe that pervades the resort. Flims is an older resort with a more established feel and a wider selection of hotels that attract a wide ranging clientele. It is quieter than Laax although there is a good après ski bar at the foot of the slopes.