As you can imagine writing an article about the best ski resorts in the Alps is not easy; there are so many good ones! The following ski guide is super detailed – we cover Germany, Austria, Italy, France and Switzerland – so please take some time to get the best out of it.
7. Garmisch - Partenkirchen, Germany
WHERE TO SKI
For beginners: the best area for learning is The Hausberg as it offers three easy slopes especially designed for them. There are 4 tow ropes as well as lifts. The Ostler lift located at the base of the area is not included in the Garmisch ticket; a single ride costs €0,50, a half day ticket €5 and a day ticket €8. Equipment rental is available at the station. The ski school accepts kids from as young as four years old and offers classes in English.
For intermediates: the ample slopes of the Osterfelder and the Längenfelder trails are perfect for those wishing to challenge themselves a little bit or improve their technique. The Kreuzeck area is also recommended once you feel more comfortable. The views are mesmerising so be sure to take your camera!
For advanced: the challenging Kandahar slopes in Garmisch Classic are considered by professional skiers one of the most demanding downhill courses in the World Cup circuit. The descent is very tough on the legs of even the more experienced skiers and for this is no surprise that it was one of Austrian superstar Herman Maier’s favourite runs. In fact he won his first World Cup race in this resort.
BEST SKI PASS
The Top Snow Card is a great ski pass for advanced skiers wishing to explore other resorts in the region and the nearby Tyrol. The ski areas included are Mittenwald, Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Zugspitze and Garmisch-Classic), Grainau, Ehrwald, Lermoos, Biberwier, Bichlbach, Berwang and Heiterwang.
WHERE TO STAY
(Elmau 2, 82493 Krün +49 8823 180) Just a short drive away from Garmish-Partenkirchen stands this historic 5 star hotel voted Best Wellness Hotel in Europe. Aside from a quiet location with breath-taking scenery, it is home to the only Michelin starred restaurant near the ski resort and superb sport and relax facilities including a luxury spa, tennis clay courts and two outdoor pools.
Rooms from 174 € per night
WHERE TO EAT
(Bankgasse 9, 82467 Garmisch-Parternkirchen +49 8821 3290) Rustic Bavarian restaurant serving traditional regional recipes in a remarkably cosy and authentic atmosphere with wooden tables and chairs and waitress dressed in Bavarian dresses. The speciality of the house is meat – be sure to try the venison or the schweinshaxe (pork). Reservations highly recommended especially for dinner. Opens until 10pm.
Menu: €8 - €20
The restaurant was featured in the TV show “Der Hacker-Pschorr Haferlgucker“ broadcasted by Munchën.TV
WHERE TO APRÈS-SKI
On the slopes: Drehmöser9
(3 mins from Hausbergbahn +49 8821 797-2020)For those wishing to party right on the slopes, the lively Drehmöser9 is the place to be. Located just a stroll away from the Hausberg station, the traditional cottage has an ample terrace with long tables where aside from cold and hot drinks you can also order warm dishes such as soups, brochettes, pasta and pizza. Vegetarian options are also available.
Beverages prices: coffee from €2,10, tea €3, wine from €3,50, beer from €3,20, cocktails and shots from €2,80 and champagne from €25,00.
In town: Peaches Cocktail Bar and Music Café
(Marienplatz 17, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen +49 8821 18727) Although it attracts mainly a young crowd, the popular Peaches is also home to an Italian ristorante-pizzeria that has a contagious atmosphere and delectable menus. It opens daily from 7pm until 1am during the week and 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. Proper attire must be wear to enter the Music Café where you can enjoy live DJ sessions.
Beverages prices: beer €3,50, cocktails €10,20
FOR NON-SKIERS & CHILDREN
Shopping in Garmisch: the main shopping places are concentrated in the pedestrian area near the Michael-Ende-Kurpark (also known as Michael-Ende spa gardens). Here you can find traditional stores where you can buy a customized regional dresess, souvenir shops and designer boutiques of well-known names. A weekly market takes place on Fridays around the Polznkasparhaus/Mohrenplatz.
Shopping in Partenkirchen: Ludwigstraße concentrates most of the shops with goldsmith workshops, bakeries, potteries and even a chocolatier. Restaurants and cafés are also popular here. The weekly market takes place on Thursdays.
Sports: snowshoeing, tobogganing or winter hiking are available on the hills. In town you can ice skate at the Olympic Ice Stadium (Zöppritzstrasse 42) where you can also catch a game of ice hockey. Just behind the rink you can find the Water Park Alpspitz Wellenbad (Klammstraße 47) which boast an indoor pool, a parent-child area, some slides and an Olympic outdoor pool (summer only). Entrance fees are €5.30 for 3 hours and €7.20 all day.
Entertainment: the Spielbanken Bayern casino (Am Kurpark 10, 82467) is the main entertainment venue in town with 170 slot machines, Blackjack, Poker, Texas Hold ‘em and Roulette tables. Poker tournaments are run on some Fridays. The dress code is formal. For cultural activities the best options are Kleines Theater (Richard-Strauss-Platz 82467) and Bauerntheater Parternkirchen (Ludwigstraße 45, 82467) but be advised that the plays and performances are available in German only.
Museums & exhibitions: the Kurhaus Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Fürstenstraße 14, 82467) is a museum hosting art exhibitions as well as a highly recommended dedicated Michael Ende exhibition about the beloved children’s book writer and creator of Momo, who was born in Garmisch.
Touristic attractions: the Zugspitze train from Garmisch offers impressive views of the valleys and is great if you don’t wish to spend all day in town. Linderhof castle and Neuschwanstein castle are a must during the sunny seasons thanks to their spellbinding architecture and settings. Lake Kochelsee between Murnau and Kochel is also very popular during that time. Throughout the year Innsbruck and Munich make for great day trips.
THE BEST SKI DEALS
There are great family discounts available at the resort for 1 or 2 adults travelling with 1 up to 3 children aged 6-18 years old. Ski passes can also be bought online in advance at great prices in the following official address: Zugspitze
WHEN TO VISIT
From the end of the December to New Year’s Day the ski resort is an absolute thrill with people flying from all over the world in to see the final of the Four Hills Tournament taking place on the 1st of January. Booking a year in advance is often recommended!
HOW TO GET HERE
Car: the best route is the A95 from Munich
Plane: fly to Innsbruck Airport (1 hour away) or Munich Airport (1.5 hours away)
Public transport: Garmisch-Partenkirchen Railway Station is well served by regional trains (DB Regio) and long-distance services (Deutsche Bahn) connecting the town to cities such as Innsbruck in Austria. During the ski season the Garmisch Ski-Express train offers frequent connections from Munich (77 minutes)
6. Kitzbühel, Austria
WHERE TO SKI
For beginners: Although not the best ski resort for unexperienced skiers, the Jochberg area has nursery slopes with free lifts that can be alright for those trying the sport for the first time. Kitzbühel Horn also has easy gentle trails for those who already have a bit of experience but might not be yet ready for challenging red pistes. The Horn has day and two-day lift passes available making it great for second weekers in need of gaining a bit of confidence before further exploration. There is also a children’s area between the Hahnenkammbahn gondola and the Streifalm chair.
For intermediates: the resort has lots of blue and red slopes that suit the different abilities of intermediate levelled skiers. Kluasen, Kirchberg and Skirast have ample long blue pistes, Pass Thurn and Resterhöhe offer perhaps the easier red ones while Wurzhöhe has more challenging courses. Upper intermediates can venture into the red slopes of the Hahnenkamm area – watch out for other skiers as it tends to be crowded – and descend Streif-Familienabfahrt. Those confident enough to try their first black piste should ski to Hochsaukaser. Thanks to its location the snow conditions tend to be better and it’s neither too steep nor too long.
For advanced: the Streif slope is said to be the world’s most difficult downhill trail and the most famous of the resort. Winners of the downhill race taking place in mid-January on this icy 3km long trail course as part of the FIS Ski World Cup are immediately considered legends, in part thanks to the impressive jump located at the top of the course in an area known as Mausefalle or Mousetrap with an 85% gradient. The race is so epic that there is even a 1969 film starring Robert Redford about it! If travelling before the race be aware that it may be closed off to the public. The resort offers several black pistes and 32 km of ungroomed marked runs ideal for glorious deep powder and moguls enthusiasts. If you have never tried off-piste the Ski School Kitzbühel “Rote Teufel” (Josef-Herold-Straße 23, 6370 Kitzbühel) offers powder lessons and the possibility to hire a guide.
BEST SKI PASS
If you get bored of Kitzbühel, Skiwelt (Austria’s largest ski area) is just a short bus drive away. All you need in order to enjoy it is the KitzAlps AllstarCard which also grants you access to St Johann in Tirol / Oberndorf, Waidring – Steinplatte, Fieberbrunn – Pillersee, Hochtal Wildschoenau, Alpbachtal, Skicircus Saalbach – Hinterglemm – Leogang, Zell am See and Kaprun – Kitzsteinhorn Glacier.
WHERE TO STAY
(Griesenauweg 26, 6370 Kitzbühel +43 5356 63181) This romantic 5 star alpine hotel is strategically located near everything Kitzbühel has to offer. The train station and the ski lifts are only a short walk away as so are the best shops and entertainment. If this were not enough, the hotel boast the only Michelin starred restaurant in town and a luxury spa with world-class facilities and therapies ideal to soothe off tired ski legs. During summer it also boast an outdoor pool.
Rooms from €259 per night.
WHERE TO EAT
(Ried Kaps 7, A-6370 Kitzbühel +43 5356 65660-732) 3 Toques and 17 points in the 2013 GaultMillau guide distinguish this modern rustic gourmet restaurant as one of the best Tyrolean kitchens in the region. Located in the luxury A-Rosa Kitzbühel hotel and commanded by the talented Chef Andreas Senn, it is a true paradise for gourmands wishing to experience innovative traditional cuisine at its best. The wine list is also very impressive and the sommelier will be delighted to help you choose the perfect wine for your meal choices.
Menu: €115 - €175
WHERE TO APRÈS–SKI
On the slopes: Berggasthof Sonnbühel
(Hahnenkamm 11, 6370 Kitzbühel +43 (0) 5356 62776) The gathering place of jetsetters and celebrities skiing in the resort. Its sun terrace enjoys enviable views and is a hit with celebrity hunters and skiers more enamoured with the sun than the snow. The atmosphere is delightful and the après-ski parties are almost as legendary as the regional gourmet cuisine on offer. If you feel hungry near the Hahnenkamm area, don’t think about it and stop here; Gault Millau’s ‘Chef of the Century’ Chef Eckart Witzigmann recommends it!
In town: The Londoner Pub
(Franz-Reisch-Straße 4, 6370 Kitzbühel +43 (0) 5356 71427) The best après-ski atmosphere hands down. Lively crowds of all ages and backgrounds, live music every night, lots of fun and a friendly German and English speaking staff. The only downside we could find is that in Austria it is still allowed to smoke indoors and this is a smokers-friendly pub. After the Hahnenkamm race this is the place to go to; even skiers come to party here! It opens daily from 3pm until 9.30pm. There is no dress code, meaning you can walk in straight from the slopes with your skiwear; although we seriously recommend you to change into fresh clothes.
Beverages prices: beer €4.80, cocktails
NON-SKIERS & CHILDREN
Shopping: shopaholics are in for a treat in Kitzbühel. There are luxury boutiques featuring top brands, alpine styled jewelleries and high-end designer skiwear like the fabulous Daleboot where you can buy genuinely exclusive made to measure ski shoes!
Sports: Winter hiking and Nordic walk routes are very popular. In town, ice skating, curling and Alpine curling can be practiced at the magnificent Mercedes-Benz Sports Park (Sportfeld 1, A-6370 Kitzbühel) where you can also see the local ice hockey team “Die Adler” in action. The sport facility also offers the chance to do yoga or play tennis and bowling. The Badewelt Aquarena (Klostergasse 3, 6370 Kitzbühel) is great in any season thanks to its superb indoor pool, spa and mud centre. Tickets cost €13 for adults, € 10 for youths and €6.20 for children. Discount tickets are available with the card Gästekarte. It is possible to purchase evening tickets available from 6pm onwards (€9) or 7pm (€6.50) The use of physio-thermal fit health cabins is included with your ticket!
Entertainment: Casino Kitzbühel (Hinterstadt 24, 6370 Kitzbühel) has French and American roulettes, Black Jack and Poker tables and slot machines. Ladies are in for a special treat on Wednesdays when Ladies Day takes place.
Museums & exhibitions: Our favourite museum – and highly recommended if you are travelling with children who enjoy trains and automobiles – is the Cable Car Museum (Bergstation Hahnenkamm 6370 Kitzbühel). It opens daily from 10am to 4pm and the entrance is free. The Town Museum Kitzbuehel (Hinterstadt 32) offers its visitors a powerful insight to the village’s history through its art exhibition as well as its location; the town’s old corn hall! It is open from 10 am to 1pm from Tuesday to Friday and from 10am to 5pm on Saturday. However, during November it only opens for groups under request.
Touristic attractions: Mittersill Castle (Thalbach 1, Mittersill) where Queen Juliana of the Netherlands spent her honeymoon is great for anyone interested in European history with guided tours available. In Kitzbühel, the now turned hotel Lebenberg Castle (Lebenbergstraße 17, 6370 Kitzbühel) is also worth a visit thanks to its structure. Salzburg, Innsbruck and Munich are great cities for day trips or a quick city break. During the sunnier seasons an excursion to the scenic Lake Chiemsee is a must.
Insider tip: If you are staying in Kitzbühel, Aurach, Reith or Jochberg, be sure to ask at your hotel for the Gästekarte; this guest card entitles you to great discounts in these areas and is absolutely free.
THE BEST SKI DEALSKitzbühel offers great ski deals and snow pass packages througout the ski season that are especially targeted at the keen skier. For ski holidays in 2014/2015 skiers can choose between three different special holiday offers:
Snow Pass Packages and Easterbunny
From €250 you can stay between 3-8 days, get a ski pass and enjoy incredible discounts such as a 50% off at the Aquarena! This offer is available from November 1 2014 until April 30 2015
3+1 Ski Package
From €210 you can stay 4 nights in a partner hotel in Kitzbühel and pay only 3 and pay a 3-day-pass but get a 4-day-pass! This offer is available from January 11 to May 1 2015More information here
WHEN TO VISIT
January is probably the liveliest time of the year as the Hahnenkam FIS World Cup races take place then. Those not staying for the race but wishing to travel on the day from other Austrian locations can do so by buying an ÖBB Hahnenkamm Kombiticket at the main Austrian stations; this is a reduced train ticket that includes admission to the races.
HOW TO GET HERE
Car: the main route is Pass Thurn Bundesstraße B161 towards Kitzbühel.
Plane: fly to Salzburg (1 hour away), Innsbruck (1.5 hours away) or Munich (2 hours away).
Public transport: Kitzbühel train station and Kitzbühel Hahnenkamm train station. This second one is located near the cable lift of the same name and is where more skiers will look to get off.
5. Megève, France
WHERE TO SKI
For beginners: almost half of the resort is accessible for beginners and offers dedicated areas – the one in Mont D’Arbois is particularly remarkable – and practice lifts close to the main lifts. There are nursery slopes as well as longer green runs such as the one heading down to Le Bettex or the Mandarine piste. There are several ski schools throughout the resort and most of them offer English group lessons.
For intermediates: most slopes are easy intermediate with long and smooth courses that allow skiers to improve their skills as well as enjoy the magnificent landscape surrounding them; a perfect example of this is Le Jaillet area. The easier blue runs are located above Combloux, Le Bettex and La Princesse. The ones on Rochebrune can be a little bit trickier but are great for those transitioning to a more advanced level. Les Communailles, La Petite Fontaine and the red runs at Étudiants are great for upper-intermediates before skiing to Super Megève an easy black piste.
For advanced: although there are only 27km of black slopes, powder snow enthusiasts are in for a treat on Mont Joly while moguls fans can ski to the steep slopes of Mont Joux. Magic Garden Coté 2000 also offers good steep runs; after all this is where the Women’s FIS World Cup Downhill takes place and the Emile Allais piste in the Rochebrune sector is an absolute adrenaline rush with its heart-racing 812m vertical drop.
BEST SKI PASS
Advanced skiers wishing to cross to the more challenging Chamonix valley can do so using the Mont Blanc pass.
WHERE TO STAY
(163 Chemin de Riante Colline, 74120 Megève +33 457 747 474) This family friendly five-star spa hotel is the perfect choice for both skiers and non-skiers as it is located near the ski slopes and just a short walk from the town centre. It has classically designed rooms and chalets that boasts an authentic alpine style that makes you feel immediately at home while enjoying the impressive mountain views. Additionally guests can enjoy gourmet meals at its superb restaurant and sooth their bodies and minds at the deluxe Pure Altitude spa.
Rooms from €340 per night.
WHERE TO EAT
(66 Allée des Marmousets – Route de Prariand, 74120 Megève +33 (0)4 50 91 48 70) Recently awarded its first Michelin star, this modern restaurant is a must for gourmands interested in tasting innovative and refined mountain gastronomy and anyone wishing to enjoy an authentic alpine dining experience in an unparalleled setting. Its location is the equally mesmerising Alpaga Hotel and the kitchen is commanded by Chef Christophe Schuffenecker.
Menu: from €65 – Carte: €65-€110
WHERE TO APRÈS-SKI
On the slopes: La Folie Douce Saint Gervais - Megève
(at the top of Mont Joux chairlift, 4962 route des Crêtes, 74170 Saint-Gervais-les-Bains +33 (0) 4 50 58 99 67) New for the 2014/2015 season, La Folie Douce is set to liven up the otherwise quiet après-ski available on the slopes. The latest branch of the well-known franchise spreading the Austrian way of partying to the French Alps is due to open on the 20th December and promises to be the gathering place for young crowds and the young at heart.
In town: Les Caves de Megève
(18 Rue Ambroise Martin, 74120 Megève +33 (0) 450 213 011) Smart bar targeted at the older crowds and a celebrity favourite thanks to its sophisticated atmosphere and live jazz music sessions. Every night resident DJ Sophian C makes sure everyone enjoys themselves at the dance floor playing international hits and the hottest remixes. Additionally, its location in the heart of town makes it easy to bar hop. It opens daily until 5am. The dress code is smart.
NON SKIERS & CHILDREN
Shopping: Megève is known as the “"the 21st arrondissement of Paris” and is one of the most glamorous ski resorts when it comes to shopping. Big brands such as Versace, Hermes or Escada have boutiques here and there are also wonderful jewelleries like Cartier. You can spend literally hours just window-shopping. One of our favourite places to take a break from all the walking and enjoy a warm chocolate or a tea is Le Prieure (116 Place de l’Eglise) and there is nothing as stylish as taking a ride in a horse drawn carriage on your way back to your hotel.
Sports: Les Palais des Sports (247 route du Palais des Sports, 74120 Megève) offers a great choice for those staying in town but wishing to be active. It has an indoor 25m pool, a children’s pool, a spa, a gym, ping-pong tables, tennis and badminton courts, pilates and yoga rooms, basketball and handball courts and climbing facilities. During summer there is also a large outdoor pool. Day tickets are available from €24 for adults (it includes the right to use the pool, the hammam, the ice rink, skates rental and food) and €16,30 for children (includes pool, ice rink, skates rental and food). You can also enjoy ice hockey matches and curling games. If you are visiting in January from the 22nd to 25th of January 2015 you can catch up a match of the prestigious BMW Polo Masters Megève.
Museums & exhibitions: Museum of Megève (66 rue du Comte de Capré, 74120 Megève) is free for both adults and children and is warmly recommended to passionate skiers and anyone wishing to know a bit more about the history of the resort as there are lots of old pictures, old skiing and skating equipment and information on snow games and activities. There is also an area paying tribute to French alpine skiing legend Emile Allais. It is open from 3pm until 7.30pm. Musée du Haut Val d’Arly (84 rue du Dr Ch. Socquet 74120 Megève) is a quaint museum set in a 19th century farm and dedicated to rural life in the area. Tickets are €3,50 for adults and €2,80 for children. The museum is open from Sunday to Friday from 3pm until 7pm.
Touristic attractions: the chapels in the hamlets and the Roman milestone are some of the most charming excursions available in the resort and are a must for hikers. Being just a short drive away, Chamonix and Geneva make perfect day trips.
Insider tip: if you are a non-skier travelling with children the winter camps and language school in town can be a great option for your kids to improve their skiing skills and make new friends.
THE BEST SKI DEALS
This autumn if you book a stay for €250 or over between the 19th of September to the 2nd of November, you and the person of your choice will be treated to a 30 minute scenic flight in a glass roof plane over the gorgeous Vallée Blanche to admire this mountaineous region like you have never experienced before. This experience is courtesy of Megève Tourisme and Aérocime.
WHEN TO VISIT
Spring is the liveliest time of the year in Megève. The temperatures are warmer and the après-ski lifestyle truly blooms then throughout the resort with sun-seekers and younger people visiting the slopes then. Popular events are also organised like the infamous Megève Winter Party taking place every March.Megève Winter Party 2015
HOW TO GET HERE
Car: the main route is A40 direction Mont Blanc – Chamonix before turning off at Sallanches and a short 20 minute drive in the direction of Albertville.
Plane: fly to Geneva (1 hour away)
Public transportation: St. Gervais railway station is the closest station to the resort and is well served by TER trains (from and to Lyon, Annecy and Chamonix) as well as trains departing from Martigny in Switzerland.
4. St Moritz, Switzerland
WHERE TO SKI
For beginners: while St Moritz is not the best resort for learners due to having their nursery slopes quite wide-spread, there are still great areas where young children and beginners can try the skies or boards for the first time. The best beginner’s areas can be found in Corviglia and Salastrains. Celerina also has gentle nursery slopes but you will need to drive there as it is not connected by a funicular or lift to St Moritz unlike the other two.
For intermediates: most runs in the resort are blue and red which means that intermediate skiers have plenty of slopes to master their skills and boost their confidence. However, skiers without too much experience may wish to ski down the nursery slopes first before venturing into the blue slopes as some of them are quite steep and require a certain degree of confidence. The main slopes are located in Corviglia and Corvatsch with both areas offering long runs that invite skiers to practice the ‘ChilloutRiding’ initiative spread throughout the Engadin and that encourages skiers and snowboarders to enjoy the runs in a relaxed way by admiring the scenery and the experience in itself. Upper-intermediate skiers can find more challenging red pistes at Diavolezza.
For advanced: with St Moritz hosting the FIS Alpine World Ski Cup in 2017 expert skiers can be rest assured that they will find challenging courses throughout the resort. In fact, they don’t need to ski too far nor wait until 2017 to descend an impressive World Cup downhill slope as it is easily found at Piz Nair in the Corviglia area. Adrenaline junkies will get their fix at the Lagalb at Diavolezza. The slope is considered to be the most challenging in the Engadin and known as ‘the queen of the mountains.’ Powder snow abounds throughout the resort and there are expert guides offering tours to those wishing to make the most out of the freeriding opportunities!
Insider tip: For a unique skiing experience there is nothing quite like descending Switzerland’s longest floodlit ski slope: Königsabfahrt. Located in the Corvatsch ski area it opens on Fridays from 7pm until 2am as part of the lively Snow Night taking place every week.
BEST SKI PASS
The standard St Moritz Lift Pass covers almost every lift in the Engadin valley and is available from as little as CHF35. To find out how to benefit from this real bargain check out THE BEST SKI DEALS section further down this page.
WHERE TO STAY
(Via Maistra 3, 7512 Champfèr +41 818 366 300) Five star family friendly alpine hotel located just 3km away from St Moritz and with only 78 rooms and suites; allowing guests to truly enjoy a relaxing stay. It is one of the few hotels in the region boasting a 2 Michelin stars restaurant a deluxe Dipiu Spa, with traditional and cutting edge therapies that are guaranteed to help skiers recover after a day out in the slopes. Guests travelling with young kids and teenagers will be pleased to hear that there is a fantastic Mountain Kids Club and a wide array of activities that include riding the hotel’s own horses!
Rooms from CHF325 per night.
WHERE TO EAT
(Via Johannes Badrut 11, 7500 Sankt Moritz +41 81 836 70 00) This 17 Gault Millau points restaurant is one of the finest in St. Moritz and the top choice for gourmands looking for hearty traditional Italian cooking. Set in the luxurious Carlton Hotel St Moritz, it is commanded by 3 Michelin star awarded chefs brothers Enrico and Roberto Cerea. The wine list is almost as impressive and delectable as the menu and à la carte dishes.
Menu: CHF250 – Carte: CHF170-CHF290
WHERE TO APRÈS-SKI
On the slopes:Alpina Hütte
(Corviglia station, 7500 St Moritz +41 (0)81 833 40 80) This classic mountain hut is the perfect place to kick off the party or relax in-between ski sessions as it boasts a large sun terrace with panoramic views of the Engadin Valley. Its snow bar is one of the most energetic in the resort playing contemporary hits and serving the fanciest hot drinks around like SchümliPlflümli, a coffee with schnapps and whipped cream (CHF11.50) ideal to keep warm on cold days. The traditional Swiss dishes served at the restaurant and the sausages and burgers on offer at the food station next to the bar are also a good reason to give your legs a break!
Beverages prices: local beer CHF6, imported beer CHF6-CHF7, Jägertee CHF9.50, homemade Glühmein CHF11 and long drinks CHF18.
In town: King’s Club
(Via Serlas 27, 7500 St Moritz +41 81 837 10 00) The hottest nightclub in town. Period. Located in the equally luxurious Badrutt’s Palace Hotel this is the place where jetsetters flock to in order to mingle with celebrities and royalty members; it really doesn’t get more glamourous and exclusive than this. It is decorated in a modern style and some of the best DJs keep the buzzing atmosphere until sunrise with the hottest tracks being played. It is only open during the winter season but there is no such thing as closing hours which means you can literally dance the night away! The dress code is, and we quote, ‘dress to impress.’
Beverages prices: beer CHF20, cocktails CHF35, soft drinks CHF20, glass of wine CHF30, glass of champagne CHF35, 75cl bottle of champagne from CHF300 (150cl and 300cl bottles also available.)
NON SKIERS & CHILDREN
Shopping: With over a 100 shops, St Moritz is truly paradise for the shopaholics with the main shopping area located along Via Serlas, one of the most exclusive in the world. Designer boutiques and jewelleries of international brands as prestigious as Armani, Bulgary, Cartier, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Versace can be found here. If you get tired of all the walking Café Hanselmann (Via Maistra 8, 7500 St Moritz) has delicious cakes and coffees and is open from 7.30am until 9pm.
Sports: its altitude and weather conditions make St Moritz ideal for athletes and it is in fact the official training centre for Swiss Olympic teams. One of the most impressive sport facilities in town is the Cresta Run, a natural ice skeleton racing toboggan track – and the first one built in the world – where only the bravest dare to race. The course is managed by the male-only St. Moritz Tobogganing Club but beginners can book a session and give the track a go. The Olympia BobRun (Plazza Gunter Sachs, Postfach 283, 7500 St Moritz) is an equal adrenaline rush and an exhilarating experience. You can ride a taxi bob accompanied by a pilot and brakeman and descend the course before taking a diploma back home with you! Polo and ski jeering competitions are very popular during the winter and take place on St Moritz lake. Curling can be played outdoors at the St Moritz Curling Centre Al Parc (Eisplatz Chesa al Parc, 7500 St Moritz). Ice skating and ice hockey are very popular and both can be practiced and enjoyed at the fabulous Eisarena Ludains (Via Ludains 5, 7500 St Moritz) Ice climbing sessions can be organized through Bergbahnen ENGADIN St. Moritz AG. Those wishing to play tennis and squash can do so in the impressive indoor facilities located at the Tennis & Squash Center (Via Mezdi 31, 7500 St Moritz).
Entertainment: Casino St Moritz (Via Mezdi 29, 7500 St Moritz in the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains) It has several slot machines and tables for American Roulette, Black Jack and Stud Poker. Open until 3am every night it is however closed during May and November. Admission is free and adults-only. Kino Scala St Moritz (Via Maistra 29 7500 St Moritz) is a great cinema showing international movies in English and German with subtitles available in German and French and 2D and 3D options. Sessions are at 5pm and 8.30pm and prices range from CHF20 to CHF12.
Museums & exhibitions: Art lovers are in for a treat in St Moritz as there are several museums dedicated to painters and design. The Segantini Museum (Via Somplaz 30, 7500 St Moritz) features heartwrenching, inspiring paintings by the talented Giovanni Segantini and the Berry Museum (Via Arona 32, 7500) showcases works by painter and spa physician Peter Robert Berry. Chesa Futura (Via Tinus 7500) displays Norman Foster’s personal take on how humanity will live in the future through 10 private apartments designed by the English architect. Only the exterior can be visited.
Touristic attractions: it may not be as famous as the one in Pisa but the 12th century leaning tower of St Moritz (Via Brattas, 7500) is impressive enough to be the symbol of the town. In fact there is only another sightseeing site that rivals it and that’s the Heidi Hut, a quaint cottage (Auf dem Schellenursli-Weg, 7500) used for the filming of the 1952 Heidi movie which can be visited by adults and children. On the sunnier seasons, a trip to Lake of Staz is highly recommended.
Insider tip: If you are travelling with young children or pre-teens and wish to have some time of your own some of finest hotels offer exclusive nurseries. Our favourite one is the Kempinski Hotel‘s which accepts kids from 3 months to 12 years old. Badrutt’s Palace Hotel also has a great day nursery.
THE BEST SKI DEALS
For the 2014-2015 ski season St Moritz is offering a variety of great ski packages some of which are available throughout the season!
Hotel and Ski Pass (From 18 October 2014 to 25 May 2015)
If you are looking for the cheapest ski pass in the Alps this year, St Moritz has it and you‘d be crazy to turn this offer down. If you stay one night in any of the partner hotels of the ski resort you can purchase a ski pass for just CHF35! How cool is that?
Nordic Special 2014/15 (From 28 November 2014 to 6 April 2015)
Nordic skiers can benefit from this superb offer that includes a 2 night stay and a ski trail pass granting them Access to over 200km of perfectly groomed cross-country trails for only CHF220.
150 Years Celebration Deal (From 5-8 December 2014)
Ideal offer for the casual weekend skier wishing to celebrate the heritage of St Moritz and its ski history while enjoying a live concert by acclaimed German singer and composer Xavier Naidoo and the exciting St Moritz City Race. From CHF366 per person for 2 night stays.
FIS Alpine World Cup Deal(From 23-25 January 2015)
Alpine ski enthusiasts will flock to St Moritz for the ladies‘ downhill race on the 23th of January and this year promises to be a thrill with the best skiers still in post-Olympics shape. From CHF173 you can be part of it all; we guarantee you it is better than watching it on TV!
WHEN TO VISIT
Crowds coming to St Moritz are rarely interested in the ski. That is why the busiest time of the year tends to be late January and February, when the prestigious Polo World Cup takes place on the frozen lake.
HOW TO GET HERE
Car: The main routes are the Julierpass and the Bernina. Please note that a valid motorway vignette is required to drive on motorways in Switzerland. The cost is CHF40 and can be bought at border controls, petrol stations and post offices.
Plane: fly to Engadin Airport (few minutes away) or Zurich Airport (3 hours away) Check out our exclusive private helicopter transfers from Milan to St Moritz.
Public transportation: St. Moritz Railway Station is served by national trains from Zurich and Basel and international trains from Milano and Munich. For a picturesque train journey we recommend flying to Zurich and taking the train to Chur where you can board one of the hourly run trains operated by Rhaetian Railway heading to St Moritz.
3. Cortina d´Ampezzo, Italy
WHERE TO SKI
For beginners: with dedicated baby slopes with colourful rubber play structures such as Baby Socrepes and Baby Guargnè, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a great place for children trying the skis for the first time. The pistes in Mietres are also very gentle and there is a reserved area for toboggans and sleds that is great for children to wind down after their ski lessons. Other easy runs can be found between Pocol and Socrepes.
For intermediates: More than half of the runs are blue and red coded which means that those with a bit of experience can ski as much as they want and won’t run out of slopes. Furthermore, most of the runs are long and ample allowing skiers to practice their skills and gain confidence. The best areas are Passo Falzarego where you can descend to Armentarola and take one of taxis or the bus waiting at the base back to the pass, Cinque Torri, Faloria and Tofana where you ski down a 1.6km long slope right back to town.
For advanced: the James Bond film ‘For your Eyes Only’ starring Roger Moore was shot in the ski and features one of the most exhilarating ski chases in the history of cinema. Unfortunately, not all of us can be Mr. Bond but Forcella Rossa and Stratofana always prove to be great fun while Canalone, Vertigine Blanca and Olimpia are used every January as the Ladies´ Alpine Ski World Cup racetrack and can challenge even the more experience skier. Off-piste skiing is also possible for those seeking an adrenaline rush and the Gruppo Guide Alpine Cortina offers qualified guides that will make sure you make the most out of the mountains. If that is not exciting enough, snowkite can also be practiced.
BEST SKI PASS
Intermediate and expert skiers wishing for more challenging runs should consider purchasing the Dolomiti Super Ski Pass that gives access to more than 50 resorts in the Dolomites.
Parents travelling with children can benefit from the free skipass offer for any child born after 30 November 2006 when purchasing a skipass for an adult. All needed is valid proof of identity.
WHERE TO STAY
(Via Rinaldo Menardi 42, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo +39 0436 881111) This historic five-star hotel is one of the finest resort retreats not only in the Dolomites region but Italy. Its location offers guest the chance to enjoy the natural beauty of Cortina and its surrounding mountains without interruption and with a high degree of intimacy and tranquillity. It has three exceptional restaurants and a fabulous spa that is the home to the famous Transvital Swiss Beauty Centre and a modern FitWell Club that help guest recover from skiing sessions, shopping sprees or even golf as during the summer the hotel boasts its own private course!
Rooms from €345 per night.
WHERE TO EAT
(Località Lacedel 34, 32043 Cortina d’Ampezzo +39 0436 866400) This romantic one Michelin starred restaurant overlooking Cortina is the perfect venue to enjoy a meal after a skiing session. Their six-course tasting menu is delectable offering fresh lobster amongst other delicatessen products. The food type is Italian. Please be aware that there is limited seating so booking in advance is highly recommended to avoid disappointment.
Menu: €85-€105 – Carte: €74-€144
WHERE TO APRÈS-SKI
On the slopes: Rifugio Scoiattoli
(in front of Cinque Torri lift station - Loc. 5 Torri, 32043 Cortina d´Ampezzo +39 0436 867939) This cosy mountain hut is the only one out of the many ‘rifugi’ of the ski resort that allows its guests to enjoy a warm outdoor bath in a wooden barrel while enjoying mesmerising alpine views. But we don’t love it just for that. The atmosphere here is electrifying with live music played by DJs and friendly staff always happy to help you out. It doesn’t hurt either that the meals are well worth a grappa toast!
(Largo delle Poste 26, 32043 Cortina d´Ampezzo +39 0436 862284) Since its opening in 2002, this delightful prosciutterie has been attracting mixed crowds thanks to its friendly laid-back atmosphere and delicious ham aperitifs. Skiers and local can be seen here chatting over a good wine of glass or dancing to the live music. It opens from 8pm until 2am daily.
NON SKIERS & CHILDREN
Shopping: the car-free streets of Cortina are home to some of the most fashionable designer boutiques and clothing brands in the Dolomites; even rivalling those of Milan and Rome. The most famous shopping area is Corso Italia (also known in Italian as “via dello struscio”) where it is frequent to see people giving in to the very Italian tradition of passeggiata – taking a walk in the evening. Some of the must-be-visited shops here are Le Noir (Corso Italia 76-78, 32043) which offers some of the best fashion houses’ collections in town and Ballantyne (Corso Italia 52, 32043) featuring delightful cashmere jerseys. Sports and arts shops also abound as so do jewelleries. Stores are open until 8pm during the winter season allowing skiers to join in but they are also open on Sundays and bank holidays!
Sports: the host of the 7th Olympic Winter Games back in 1956, Cortina is a haven for sport aficionados throughout the year. The Olympic Ice Stadium (Via A. Bonacossa, 1) is a magnificent venue to practice skating or try it for the first time as there are qualified instructors at hand. You can also catch a game of the Italian Hockey Serie A league. Those seeking an adrenaline fix only have to head to the superb Eugenio Monti bobsled track (Localitá Ronco, cabina “S”) located close to the ice rink where you can jump into a taxi-bob and descend the course at 120km/h accompanied by expert drivers! Those wishing to enjoy the mountains without skis can do so by renting a pair of snowshoes. Most of the routes take you up or down to cosy ski huts where you can treat yourself to a hearty Italian meal. Our favourite ones are the one from Guargnè/Col Tondo to the Mietres Refuge (perfect for those travelling with kids as you can drop them at the baby slopes before heading yourself to adventure), the one from Cian Zopé to the Scoiattoli Refuge (a must for gourmands) and the one from the Falzarego Pass road (easily access by car or bus) to the Dibona Refuge.
Entertainment: Cinema-Teatro Eden (Vía Cesare Battisti 46) is a modern 280-seat venue showcasing international films as well as cultural events and meetings. The closest casino is located in Belluno (Via Mariano Tonegutti 15, 32100 Belluno.) Cristallo Hotel Spa & Golf also offers packages that include transfers to and from the elegant Casinò di Venezia, entrance to the casino and a gourmet dinner at the exclusive Ca’ Vendramin Calergi restaurant.
Museums & exhibitions: Ciasa de ra Regoles (Corso Italia 69, 32043 Cortina) is a charming building that comprises the exciting Mario Rimoldi Museum of Modern Ar. Prices are €8 for adults, €5 for children (under 6 free) and €15 for families. It opens daily excepting Mondays from 10am until 12am and 3.30pm until 7.30pm. Guided tours are available. The Cultural Centre Hall Alexander Girardi (Via Marangoi 1, Localitá Pontechiesa, 32043 Cortina) is a renovated three-story sawmill housing two wonderful museums – the Rinaldo Zardini Palaeontology Museum and the Ethnographic Museum of the Regole d’Ampezzo – that will surely please those interested in the history of this charming town and the region. Prices are €8 for adults, €5 for children (under 6 free) and €15 for families. It opens daily excepting Mondays from 10am until 12am and 3.30pm until 7.30pm. Guided tours are available. The Planetarium and the Helmut Ullrich Astronomical Observatory (Localitá Col Druscie, 32043 Cortina) are great venues for both children and adults offering a unique experience at a ski resort as well as the opportunity of a lifetime to learn more about the universe from the expert members of the Associazione Astronomica Cortina. 90-minute tours are available on request and with the planetarium being the biggest in the Veneto region guests are surely in for a treat.
Touristic attractions: the 18th century Church of St. Filippo & Giacomo (Via Mercato 12, 32043 Cortina) is the main landmark of Cortina and its impressive bell tower can be admired from the slopes as well as most of the pedestrianized streets; you can actually see it in the above photograph. Blacksmith and artist Fabbro Zino offers visitors to his workshop (Loc. Pian da Lago, Capannone B - S.N., 32043 Cortina) the opportunity to discover the ancestral tradition of melting and blending iron with other materials to create fascinating artful objects that will delight the younger ones. The workshop is open to the public from Monday to Friday and from 4pm until 6pm. Visitors wishing to venture away from the Dolomites are up on their luck as both Treviso and Venice are great day trips and only 2 hours away. The nearby lakes Lago di Sorapiss and Lago di Federa make great excursions during the sunnier seasons.
THE BEST SKI DEALS
One of our favourite things about Cortina is that there are great holidays deals available for both summer and winter that allow visitors to make the most of the region and the mountains in particular. For winter 2014-2015 the resort lowers its prices once more to offer three great packages:
Save The Rate (From July 2014 to October 2014)
Booking your ski holiday pays off this year with this special online offer for 2 people staying in Cortina for 5 nights for just €405.
Gran Fondo Dobbiaco-Cortina (From 6-9 February 2015)
Cross-country lovers have no excuses this year to miss this magnificent event taking place on the 9th of February. From €209 this great deal includes 2 nights for 2 people at a partner hotel with breakfast or half-board depending on availability and the hotel selected.
Early Snow 2014 (From 29 November to 20 December 2014)
Enjoy 1 free night when booking a 3 or 4 night stay this season from as little as €165! The offer includes accommodation, skipass, group clases and equipment rental. Please be aware that solo travellers can only benefit from the 4=3 deal.
WHEN TO VISIT
If you want to make the most of the ski is best to avoid the beginning and the end of the season as lack of a snow can be a problem for beginner and intermediate skiers.
HOW TO GET HERE
Car: the main routes are the A27-Belluno motorway and the A22-Bressannone motorway
Plane: fly to Treviso (1.5 hours away), Venice (2 hours away) and Innsbruck (3 hours away).
Public transportation: Cortina doesn’t have a railway station but the nearest one is located at Calalzo di Cadore and the Cortina Express leaving from Venice’s Mestre train station takes about 2 hours. From Calalzo di Cadore there are bus transfers available to town.
2. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
WHERE TO SKI
For beginners: although most of the ski areas that make up the Chamonix ski resort have beginner slopes some of them are hard to reach – the regions are not interconnected – and others can get quite cold for the younger ones due to their location. However there are sunny spots such as La Vormaine in Le Tour and great confidence building green runs like Trappe and Libellules in La Flegere.
For intermediates: there are plenty of blues and reds to keep low and upper intermediates entertained. Those who have just left behind the greener runs will find themselves at home at Le Tour as it has easier slopes than the rest of the ski areas and allows skiers to hone their skills while enjoying breathtaking views; check out the blue Esserts for views of Mont Blanc. Due to this, the area can get quite crowded. Les Houches also has a good selection of blues and reds and magnificent views.
For advanced: Les Houches is without a doubt the ski area for the die-hard skier, after all it is one of the training bases of the French National Ski Team and its only black run, the mythic Le Kandahar, is home to one of the most exciting downhill grand slalom races in the World Cup. Le Brevent and La Flagere also offer great runs and overconfident skiers can find themselves in trouble at some of the reds at La Flagere as they could easily be marked as blacks elsewhere. Grands Montets is overall an upper-intermediates and advance skiers area offering challenging blacks like the steep Chamois – almost 4km long – and the icy and bumpy Pylones. To make the most of the off-piste terrain in Chamonix and specially the Mer de Glace glacier it is highly recommended to hire a guide.
BEST SKI PASS
Advanced and off-piste skiers should consider purchasing the Mont Blanc Unlimited ski pass which allows them to ski in Chamonix, Courmayeur and Verbier; that is 3 different countries!
WHERE TO STAY
(Route des Chavants, 74310 Les Houches, +33 450 546 536) This superb five-star luxury spa hotel is ideally located in a quiet area at the foot of the fascinating Mont Blanc, offering both an oasis of tranquillity and uninterrupted panoramic views of the valley that will surely delight skiers and non-skiers alike. This magical scenery is only surpassed by the outstanding services and the gourmet cuisine served at Le Crystal and La Table des Granges; considered by many to be one of the finest in the region. The hotel also boasts an exclusive spa where guests can treat themselves to vinotherapy massages and treatments.
Rooms from €320 per night.
WHERE TO EAT
(151, avenue de l’Aiguille-du-Midi, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc +33 450 535 764) Fabulous one Michelin starred restaurant serving innovative modern cuisine mixed with traditional flavours in an elegant environment that sweeps you off your feet. We highly recommend the inexpensive lunch menu ‘Le classique’ which gives you the chance to savour a gourmet day speciality and pick a dessert from the à la carte menu for as little as €20! The delectable amuse-bouche prepared by the chef and served before your main dish gets to your table will leave your taste buds tingling. The wine list is also excellent and the knowledgeable staff is always at hand to recommend you the best drink to match your meal.
Lunch menu: €20 – Menu: €55-€85 – Carte: €30-€148
WHERE TO APRÈS-SKI
On the slopes: Bar Club Chavanne
(La Chavanne slope, La Flégère, 74400 Chamonix +33(0)4 50 54 27 81)While most of the mountain huts that you can come across in the different valleys offer a calmed atmosphere, this chalet is the place to kick off the party before hitting town. In fact, it’s the liveliest it gets up in the mountains throughout the entire Chamonix ski area! A live DJ on Saturdays and a Jacuzzi make sure the crowds are entertained while those wishing to sit outside and enjoy a quieter drink can lose themselves in the mesmerising view of the Mont Blanc and the Mer de Glace glacier.
In town: Les Caves
(80 rue des Moulins, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc +33 672 119 619) A wine and cocktail bar, Les Caves is one of the chicest venues in town. Located in the heart of the village, its elegant atmosphere and live jazz and blues bands attract a classy crowd before more energetic tunes played by DJs get them into a dancing mood. While some consider it a pre-drink bar and you can see some people order just a drink before going to one of the two restaurants located upstairs, we loved the fact that if you get hungry you can simply have some sushi brought to your table and keep on partying. It opens from 6pm until 2am from Wednesday to Sunday. The dress code tends to be elegant.
NON SKIERS & CHILDREN
Shopping: there are plenty of shops in Chamonix for shopaholics ranging from sport equipment stores with great price-quality value products to boutique shops by the most prestigious brands located in the chic Rue Dr Paccard. Here you can find big names like Chanel, Lacoste or Swaroski but also children’s clothing and entertainment boutiques that will surely delight the youngest ones. Local product shops are also very popular and we cannot recommend Le Refuge Payot (166 Rue Joseph Vallot, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) high enough. This gourmet store caters Savoyard delicacies such as tartiflette, cheese, meats and regional products that will make your taste buds dance. One of our guilty pleasures while scouting the streets of this quaint town was however the marvellous patisserie and tea salon Aux Petits Gourmands (168 rue du Dr Paccard, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) with delectable chocolates and French pastries such as macarons and hot drinks to keep everyone warm. Please be aware that shops close down for lunch.
Sports: Snowshoeing and sledging is very popular in the ski resorts of the valley but the sport offer is not limited to the mountains. The Centre Sportif Richard Bozon (214 avenue de la Plage, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) is the best bet for sport enthusiasts and energetic children wishing to stay in town. Its huge swimming pool has a fun waterslide that is a big hit with the younger ones while parents can take a break at the sauna, the steam rooms or the state-of-the-art gym. There is also an indoor ice rink where many French hockey players and the national curling team practice and an outdoor ice rink for the more adventurous ones. Furthermore the sport complex also boasts indoor climbing facilities and indoor and outdoor tennis courts. Those travelling with a group of friends or with teenagers can also give Winter paintball a try by contacting Paint Ball Cham (Promenade des Crèmeries, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) at +33 (0)6 07 36 01 51 and enjoy the adrenaline rushed of the paintball experience with a winterish twist.
Entertainment: Casino Barrière (12, place H.B de Saussure, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) is an elegant venue with several slot machines and video poker machines and 5 tables where visitors can play French and American roulette and Black Jack. It also organises special nights and deals for couples. The restaurant and the bar are also worth a visit; if only to take a break from the shine lights of the machines and the huge jackpots available! Cinéma Vox (22 cour du Bartavel, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) has 3 screening rooms equipped with 3D facilities and showcases both French and Hollywood films; these last ones are offered in French or in English with French subtitles which is great for those wishing to improve their French while in town. Animated films are also available. Prices are €9 for adults, €4 for children under 14, €7.50 for students and €8 for senior citizens over 60 years old. On Thursdays ticket prices are just €5! Sessions are at 3pm, 6pm and 9pm. Bowling de Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (196, Avenue de Courmayeur - Chamonix Sud - 74400 Chamonix Mont-Blanc) features 8 ten-pin bowling lanes, billiard hall with snooker, pool, French and American billiard tables, an indoor minigolf course and an arcade with videogames. It opens from 5pm (2pm if bad weather conditions) until 2am during the ski season.
Museums & exhibitions: The modern heritage centre Maison de la Mémorie et du Patrimonie (90 rue des Moulins, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) gives visitors the amazing opportunity to travel back in time and discover the fascinating history of Chamonix Mont Blanc Valley and its people through photographs, objects and sounds. With tickets just €3 for adults and free for children one simply cannot miss it. Those wishing to know even more about this area can head to the Musée Alpin (La residence, 89 avenue Michel Croz, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) housed in the gorgeous Chamonix Palace. In fact, the building itself is worth a visit and is one of the town’s main attractions. Mountaineers and especially children will surely enjoy the interactive Espace Tairraz (Esplanade St Michel, 615 allée du Recteur Payot, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) offers two great museums that are very popular with adults and children alike. The first one is L´Espace Alpinisme, a state-of-the-art museum with audio-visual materials that allow visitors to fully experience alpinism and the mountains without taking the risks of mountaineering while the second one is the Musée des Cristaux, an interesting exhibition of minerals and rocks from Mont Blanc made possible through a collaboration between Chamonix Town and the Mineralogy Club. Tickets are €5 for adults and free for children. Finally, if you are interested in local art, Galerie Pauline Galand (29 rue Dr Paccard, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) is the perfect place for you. Owned by Pauline Galand herself, she welcomes you to admire the work of various artists and have the chance to take a piece of Chamonix back home with you in the form of an oil painting or a fine art photograph to name but a few.
Touristic attractions: The Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in France, is perhaps the most popular attraction and you can visit its heart with the thrilling Grotte de glace tour. The glacier can be reached by the Montenvers rack railway or by gondola lift. The Mont-Blanc Tramway is another quaint rack railway taking visitors to nearby Bellevue during winter and St Gervais during the sunnier seasons. This is a great trip for those wishing to admire the mountain views without hitting the slopes. However, if you are truly looking for a panoramic view there is nothing like riding the impressive Aiguille du Midi cable car; but we warn you, it is the highest one in Europe and is not for the faint-hearted. In town, the most prominent landmark is without a doubt the Eglise Saint Michel (82 Place de l´Eglise; 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc), a Baroque Catholic church (in the above picture) originally built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 18th century after a fire. Day trips are also available throughout the year with the Chamonix Tourist Office (85 place du Triangle de l´Amitié, BP 25, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc +33(0)4 50 53 00 24) arranging weekly trips. Some of the nearby picturesque destinations include Annecy (a must during winter), the medieval town of Yvoire or Evian. Geneva, Montreux and Lausanne in Switzerland are also popular, as so is Martigny which is recommended if you have kids since they have probably the best – and maybe only – St Bernard Dog Museum.
Insider tip: If you are visiting Chamonix between May and early October and are travelling with children you have to take Le Petit Train Touristique (42 rue d´Entrèves, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) a charming white and red mini-train taking tourist around Chamonix on an educational tour set to delight everyone. Tickets are €6 for adults and €4 for children and journeys depart every 40 minutes from 10am until 7pm.
THE BEST SKI DEALS
Early booking: Hotel + Ski Pass
The best hotels in town offer great deals and up to a 25% discount this season for skiers booking a reservation for a minimum 3 nights stay before the 2014-2015 season kicks off. Participating hotels are 4, 3 and 2 stars.
WHEN TO VISIT
It is best to avoid the half-term holiday weeks when it can get really crowded both up in the mountains and in town.
HOW TO GET HERE
Car: the main routes are Autoroute Blanche (A40) and the Mont-Blanc tunnel
Plane: fly to Geneva (1 hour away), Haute-Savoie Mont Blanc Airport (1 hour away), Lyon (3.5 hours away) and Paris (5 hours away)
Public transportation: Sleeper trains from/to Paris, TER and TGV trains serve the St Gervais-les-Bains railway station located just 20km away from Chamonix. The Mont Blanc Express SNCF railway line and Eurolines offer more international connections.
1. Davos, Switzerland
WHERE TO SKI
For beginners: Both Davos and Klosters are family friendly resorts and have dedicated children areas – or should we say paradises – at the top of Pischa and Madrisa where the younger ones can try the skis for the first time and improve their skills at the superb ski schools and gentle slopes. They can also unwind at a carousel, bouncy castle and a trampoline! Older beginners can head to Bolgen’s nursery slopes located at the base of Jakobshorn before moving to the longer and steeper Bunda, near the base of the Parsenn. Selfranga in Klosters also offers gentle runs to gain confidence before moving to the blue pistes.
For intermediates: intermediate skiers are also for a treat as most of the slopes in the resort are blue or red and the vast majority offer really long runs; some up to 10km long even! The blue runs of the Parsenn are very wide and allow skiers to practice their turns. Madrisa is also great to boost your confidence and also boasts one of the longest slopes in Europe, Weissfluhgipfel that takes upper intermediates all the way down to Küblis through 12km of alpine joy where pine forests and scenic views are set to make this holiday unforgettable as so is taking the train back to Klosters before taking the gondola and do it all over again. Not so experienced intermediates can still enjoy this slope by starting it at Weissfluhjoch and avoid the initial section which can be a bit steep. The nearby villages of Sass and Serneus can also be reached by this run. Madrisa is also the starting point of Schalppin, another scenic piste descending to Klosters Dorf although be aware that the last section is marked black.
For advanced: the top black runs are located in the Meierhofer Tälli and the Gruobenalp valleys taking skiers down to Wolfgang/Davos Lake from where they can take either the bus, the train or the Parsenn funicular back to town. On the Rinerhorn, skiers can find a wide black slope taking them through scenic woods from Nüllisch Grat down to the cable car. Due to fact that the steeper slopes are on the valleys skiers should be aware that they are likely to come across icy conditions; this is particularly true of the black piste descending down to Davos. If moguls are your type of thing, the best area is located under the Schwarzeealp chair. There are plenty of off-piste opportunities in the resort with eleven routes unpatrolled and often offering fresh tracks. Those wishing to make the most of them are recommended to contact the Top Secret Snowsports, Swiss Snowboard School + Ski School (Brämabüelstrasse 11, 7270 Davos Platz) or Absolute Powder, Privatskilehrer Verein Klosters (Talerbödenstrasse 2, 7250 Klosters). Mountain guides can also be hired.
Insider tip: to reach Madrisa get the Parsenn funicular (included in your ski pass), it’s great fun for the kids as you can see the skiers skiing right next to the railway!
BEST SKI PASSFor those wishing to make the most out of the Grisons area the SnowPass is without a doubt the best option; especially for families as there are great money saving special rates for them.
You can also enjoy a 25% discount on your ski passes if you buy them online at the official Davos Klosters website:
For the all year round skier we recommend TopCard which grants you access to not only Davos Klosters but also Flims Laax Falera and Ischgl Samnaun in Austria for an entire year (Summer 2014 and Winter 2014/2015). The card includes lifts, cable cars and funicular railways.
WHERE TO STAY
We feel that the best way to experience Davos is by renting a ski chalet, especially if you are travelling with young children as they have more space to unwind and all the members of the family can therefore enjoy their ski holidays to their fullest.
The Chocolate Box chalet is utterly romantic and perfect for families or couples looking for privacy and a home away from home. Ideally located, it has 2 bedrooms, private gardens and secluded balconies from where you can admire the impressive mountain views.
Both the town centre and the ski lifts are nearby.
From CHF1,900 per week.
WHERE TO EAT
(Bahnofstrasse 2, 7260 Davos Dorf +41 081 420 71 77) Traditional Swiss cuisine, family friendly atmosphere and exceptional service; one simply cannot go wrong at this genuine restaurant ideally located near the Parsenn funicular station and the railway station. It even has a sun terrace with scenic views that will leave you breathless! Be sure to try the “mistkratzerli” (roasted spring chicken) and the hearty all you can eat fondue chinoise. These are also available for children at a smaller price but they can also enjoy finger-licking chicken nuggets with French fries.
Menu: CHF30 - CHF46
WHERE TO APRÈS-SKI
On the slopes: Jatzhütte
(Jakobshorn, Kudi Bachmann, 7270 Davos +41(0)81 413 73 61) Located 2530 metres above the sea this ski chalet is not only considered a local institution but also the craziest and the best après ski in the entire ski resort; it could probably be the best in Switzerland if you ask us! Young crowds gather in this oasis with palm trees – yes, palm trees! – and numerous reclining chairs where skiers can rest their legs with a good drink and take in the gorgeous mountains in front of them before heading back to business. It comprises 3 bars in total and also boasts a large sun terrace where DJs play sick sessions from as early as 2.30pm! But believe it or not that’s not the best part: the two heated outdoor Jacuzzis and the great kitchen serving Grisons specialities are! Be sure to try the famous Cafe Sex (CHF8.50) - the most sold beverage in the bar and a top hit for the past 25 years!
Beverages prices: beer CHF5-CHF7, cocktails CHF10
In town: Pöstli Club
(Promenade 42, 7270 Davos Platz +41 (0)81 415 45 00) This classy late night club is popular with celebrities visiting Davos and is easy to understand why. The interior is slick and modern yet with a certain Alpine charm about it that allows guests to enjoy intimate moments in cosy areas with comfortable couches. Dancing is encouraged by DJs and fun-filled events. Guests wishing to kick off the night earlier than opening hours can do so at the Pöstli Bar located in the same building. The minimum age of entry to the club is 21. It opens from 10.30pm until 2am on Thursdays and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays.
NON SKIERS AND CHILDREN
Shopping: although it lacks the glamour of other ski resorts when it comes to designer boutiques, Davos still has plenty to offer to shopaholics, especially if they are interested in sport equipment. The main shopping area is Promenade. Here you can find the well-stocked family business Ettinger Sport store(Promenade 153, 7260 Davos-Dorf), Benetton (Promenade 62, 7270 Davos-Platz ) with a great variety of quality casual clothes for men and women and Bucherer (Promenade 69, 7270 Davos-Platz) a jewellery and watch shop boasting luxury Swiss watches and unique jewels that take your breath away. No shopping spree in Davos is complete without a stop at the enchanting Kaffe Klatsch (Promenade 72, 7270 Davos Platz) where we urge you to sit on an armchair and try their mouth-watering homemade cakes and water it down with one of the 30 types of coffee on offer.
Sports: ice hockey, figure skating and curling are incredibly popular here on both indoor venues and outdoor frozen lakes. In fact, Davos-Platz is home to the largest natural ice rink in Europe, the Natureisbahn and tickets to ice skate on it only cost CHF8 for adults and CHF6 for children; a tiny price for a great adventure! You can also sharpen your curling skills with the Davos Curling Club (Hintere Gasse 4B, 7270 Davos-Platz) from CHF40 and if you want to catch an ice hockey game you only have to head to the modern Vaillant Arena (Talstrasse 41, 7270 Davos-Platz) home of HC Davos. Those wanting to swim or relax in a large heated outdoor pool can do so at the state-of-the-art Hallenbad (Promenade 90, 7270 Davos-Platz). Aside from an indoor pool for the serious swimmer, there are aqua adventure pools for the younger ones and a deluxe wellness centre with solarium and massage cabins. Tickets start from CHF9 for adults and CHF5 for children between 6 and 15. The Tennis & Squash Centre (Clavadelerstrasse 2, 7270 Davos-Platz) boasts indoor and outdoor courts that can be rented from 5.30pm until 10.30pm from CHF35.
Entertainment: Casino Davos (Promenade 63, 7270 Davos-Platz) is the place in town to try your luck. Slot machines, American roulette and Black Jack and Poker tables keep guests entertained from 2pm until 2am. Kino Arkaden (Promenade 56, 7270 Davos-Platz) showcases European flicks and Hollywood’s latest hits in modern rooms with 3D facilities. Movies are dubbed or with subtitles. Sessions are at 3.30pm and 4pm for children movies and 6pm and 8.30pm for more grown-up titles. Tickets are CHF14 for children under 12 and CHF18 for adults. 101 (Promenade 101, 7270 Davos-Platz) is the perfect place for all the family to unwind with several ten-pin bowling lanes, arcade games and pool tables. Ludothek Davos (Promenade 88, 7270 Davos-Platz) allows guests to borrow classic board games, toys, and video games and is a superb alternative to staying in your hotel room if the weather is poor or your kids don’t feel like skiing.
Museums & exhibitions: there are quite a few museums in Davos but our favourite one was without a doubt the Winter Sports Museum (Promenade 43, 7270 Davos-Platz). Although it only opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays it is a must for sport lovers and anyone wishing to know how this small town influenced modern winter sports. Some of the exhibits are particularly interesting and the old sledges, skis and old clothing will surely entertained the younger ones. If you want to know more about Davos and its culture then the Heimatmuseum (Museumstrasse 1, 7260 Davos-Dorf) is the right one for you as it is housed in a medieval burgher’s home known as Altes Pfründhaus. The modern and impressive Kirchner Museum Davos (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Platz, 7270 Davos Platz) is also a mandatory visit if you are interested in art as it houses the largest collection of works by German expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. There are several art galleries where you can buy impressive paintings and sketches with the best ones showcased in Galerie Iris-Wazzau (Promenade 72, 7270 Davos-Platz) and Galerie Eule Art (Promenade 41, 7270 Davos-Platz).
Touristic attractions: the two main landmarks in Davos are the 13th century parish Church of St John the Baptist (Rathausstutz 2, 7270 Davos-Platz ) and the 14th century Church of St. Theodul (Promenade 107, 7260 Davos-Dorf) with an impressive fresco. The Parsenn cable railway is another popular attraction for non-skiers wishing to enjoy the snowed peaks and the alpine views from the top of Weissfluhjoch. Some popular destinations for day trips are Chur, Zurich, St Gallen, Lucerne. Lugano and St Moritz in Switzerland. It is also possible to visit Milan in Italy and Innsbruck in Austria although for these latter ones we recommend hiring a car.
THE BEST SKI DEALS
Free lift pass offer (From 14 November to 21 December 2014)
Pre-season guests in selected Davos and Klosters hotels partners of Davos Klosters will receive a complimentary ski pass for the resort for every overnight stay.
WHEN TO VISIT
December is a great time to visit Davos as the Christmas Spirit is at full swing in the streets and sport lovers can treat themselves to a hockey match of the always exciting Sprengler Cup. However with so many sport events organised throughout the season (Parsenn Derby, Ride the Night, etc.) it is fair to say that any time is a good time to visit and if you are travelling with children Easter is a must!
The only month we highly recommend to avoid is January due to the celebration of the World Economic Forum.
HOW TO GET HERE
Car: the main route is the motorway heading to Chur before taking the exit to Davos in Landquart. Please note that a valid motorway vignette is required to drive on motorways in Switzerland. The cost is CHF40 and can be bought at border controls, petrol stations and post offices.
Plane: fly to Zurich (2 hours away). During winter there is a ‘Davos Express’ bus available every Saturday.
Public transportation: there are two railway stations in Davos: Davos-Platz and Davos-Dorf. Rail services to Davos are excellent with trains operated by Swiss national rail departing from the main cities (Zurich, Geneva and Basel as well as Buchs and St. Margrethen) to Landquart. In Landquart, the Rhaetian railway operates trains to Klosters and Davos. The average journey time is between 2 and 3 hours.