Wintertime in Valais
Wintertime in Valais
Valais offers a wide range of activities tailored to the needs of children and parents alike, making it the family paradise par excellence. Families particularly enjoy travelling to the region to ski, hike and sledge, but the Valais winter also scores points with a centuries-old carnival tradition and the legend of Barry the St Bernard dog.
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The new Valais Skisafari is a winter holiday package aimed at snow sports enthusiasts, available from this winter. Every day, guests will explore a new ski area. The basic package of the Valais Skisafari comprises five nights’ accommodation and a “Snowpass Flexdays” lift pass for four days. The extended package also includes a rental car and hire of high-quality ski equipment. If customers wish, they can also book a ski instructor or mountain guide to accompany them on their skisafari adventure.
Cholera – the recipe from Valais for winter
Despite its unusual name, this vegetable pie is harmless. There are numerous stories around the origin of the name “Cholera”. One explanation is that the dish dates back to the time when cholera broke out in Valais and the trade and exchange of food was banned due to the risk of infection. The hearty pie was made from what peasant households had to hand: flour, onions, leeks, apples, potatoes and cheese. Another interpretation suggests the German word “Kohle” – “Chola” in Valais – as the source for the name, because the pan with the cholera on it was placed on charcoal for baking. In fact, “Cholära” in Valais is also a term for the open anteroom in the bakery where the coals were collected in a pit in front of the oven door.
First experiences on skis or a snowboard
Many ski areas in Valais have special facilities such as children’s snow zones or the Swiss Snow Kids Villages run by Swiss Ski Schools. In some cases, the venues are located in the heart of the resort and allow very young children to get their first taste of snow sports free of charge. Some resorts also offer special rates for beginners.
Valais carnival traditions
Wintertime means carnival time in Valais. Many villages and valleys celebrate their own centuries-old customs and traditions during carnival. Figures in unusual costumes try to banish winter and evil spirits. In the Lötschental valley, for example, fearsome creatures known as “Tschäggättä” roam the streets decked out in pelts and gruesome hand-carved masks. And in Evolène, strange straw men and mysterious creatures dressed in fur can be spotted in the villages of the region between Epiphany and Carnival Tuesday.
Barry, the famous St Bernard dog, is best known for his role as an avalanche rescue dog at the hospice on the Great St Bernard Pass. He is said to have saved more than 40 lives.
The Augustinian monks at the hospice on the Great St Bernard Pass started breeding the legendary St Bernards in the late 17th century. For centuries, they searched the pass route twice a day for lost or injured travellers.
More recently, the Fondation Barry in Martigny, founded in 2005, has taken over the breeding and care of the famous St Bernards from the hospice. And the foundation’s remit is very broad: Barryland in Martigny is the world’s first living museum devoted to St Bernards. The first floor is dedicated to the history of the Great St Bernard Pass, its hospices and dogs. “Barry Family” on the second floor is an entertaining interactive exhibition. In April 2018, the foundation opened the multimedia Barry Theatre for children.
Tip 1Belalp Hexe – Witches’ Race
Legend has it that a witch once got up to her tricks at Belalp. In her honour, one of the biggest and most unusual downhill races in Switzerland is staged every January on the panoramic sun terrace: the skiers are dressed up as witches. This winter there will be a new culinary downhill run called “Hexen Kalazz”.Further information
Tip 2Oh! Festival
This festival of the performing arts, which features productions from Valais and around the world, takes place from 16 to 20 January 2019 throughout the canton. The Oh! “performance pistes” take the audience on a journey from one end of Valais to the other via a host of different performances.Further information
Tip 3Cross-country skiing is back in fashion
This classic among snow sports disciplines has become highly popular once again. The sport is accessible to all: children as well as older generations. Valais offers cross-country skiing trails of various difficulty levels for both classic and skating styles.Further information
Tip 4Dog sledding
A dog sledding tour is a special winter experience to enjoy with friends or family. Huskies pull the sled through the winter landscape and bring a touch of the far north to Valais.Further information
Tip 5Magic First Experience
For the opening of the winter season, the Magic Pass launches a discovery offer for beginners and those who are curious about skiing. A unique offer in Switzerland at a magical price, including semi-private ski courses, rental of ski equipment and the Magic Pass day pass.Further information
Valais in figures
- More than 2,000 kilometres of pistes
- 29 ski areas at 1,500 to 3,885 metres above sea level
- Ski runs of up to 25 kilometres in length
- 26 children’s snow playgrounds
- 905 ski instructors
- Ski resorts open 124 days per year on average