The magic of winter in Valais
Guaranteed snow and lots of sunshine: Valais offers the perfect combination for anyone who loves winter! With 2,000 kilometres of ski pistes and countless prepared winter walking trails and scenic snowshoeing routes, Valais promises a magical experience of winter in a pristine natural setting. We have put together some original ideas to inspire you. Discover a winter far from the crowds as you explore some of Valais’ wildest and least-known landscapes – on snowshoes or touring skis, for example.
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On the trail of the Haute Route in the “Pays du Saint-Bernard”
The region of the Pays du Saint-Bernard, home to the famous Great St Bernard hospice with its iconic dogs, extends from the Italian border to the Mont Blanc massif. Ski touring enthusiasts know the region well as it lies on the legendary Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. Novice ski tourers as well as experts find ideal conditions in the Pays du Saint-Bernard for enjoying the pristine mountain landscapes, with a wide choice of trips from a gentle climb up to the hospice to a challenging ascent of the Grand Combin (4,314 m).
The mountain guide Eric Berclaz, native of the Pays du Saint-Bernard:
“I’ve been a mountain guide in the Pays du Saint-Bernard for 34 years now. I was born here and I’ve never been able to imagine a life without mountains. On every trip with clients, I try to pass on the passion I feel for our majestic Alpine scenery. Most of them share my enthusiasm: the tranquillity, solitude and views that our peaks offer certainly do a world of good for the soul.”
Pure mountain tranquillity: the Val d’Hérens
The hamlet of La Forclaz in the Val d’Hérens is home to six ancient wooden structures that, despite appearances, were not originally built here. The Valais architect Olivier Cheseaux found them in a state of disrepair, due for demolition; he had them dismantled, transported from their village of origin and re-erected at this sunny spot, far from the tourist crowds. Converted into small, individual holiday homes, they have nonetheless retained their original character and charm – giving new life to an ancient piece of Valais heritage. Numerous ski touring routes and snowshoeing trails close to Anako Lodge offer guests a wonderful opportunity to explore the surrounding mountains – after an early-morning visit to the small local shop, where Gusti, the owner, provides breakfast baskets with Valais specialities.
Olivier Cheseaux, architect and originator of Anako Lodge:
“I am convinced that tourism needs to reinvent itself and come up with innovative concepts that are bold yet still respect our regional roots. It hasn’t been easy convincing my bank of the tourism potential of Anako Lodge. All too often, emphasis is on the big resorts; Anako Lodge, however, offers a real alternative while reinterpreting our heritage. A stay here offers guests a return to genuine values: nature, tranquillity, star-filled skies and a feeling of being on top of the world.”
Relax on a sunny terrace by the pistes
Why put up with grey skies when you could be on a sunny terrace above the clouds, enjoying magnificent views of the Alps? If there is one thing the people of Valais agree on, it is that life is too short not to treat yourself from time to time. A shared “assiette valaisanne” (cold platter of Valais meat and cheese) accompanied by a glass of wine is a joy at any time of day. Locals love this tradition: a wonderful way to take a break from the constant rush of life and enjoy the company of friends to the full. Ideally on a mountain terrace with panoramic views of the snowy landscape! You’re spoiled for choice: everything from simple cabins by the piste to Michelin-starred restaurants.
The finest snowshoe trails
Strap a pair of snowshoes on your boots and you feel you can float across the fresh snow: suddenly, exploring becomes easy. Snowshoeing does not require any previous experience or skill: anyone who can walk can snowshoe. Marked trails lead you across white meadows and through snow-covered forests, promising an intimate encounter with nature. There is no better way of exploring the pristine winter landscapes as in Crans-Montana or Zermatt, for example.
Tip 1Ski touring after dark
The snow-blanketed landscapes take on a new dimension after dark: a night-time ski tour by moonlight promises a magical experience. To complete the picture, many mountain restaurants stay open in the evenings specially for ski tourers.Night-time ski tours
Tip 2A green holiday in the snow?
The Maya Boutique Hotel shows that mobility and sustainability are perfectly comptable – on holiday, too. The owners of this eco-friendly hotel, built of bales of straw, now offer electric cars for their clients, who decide themselves how much they want to pay for rental. This novel concept won the prize for “Best innovation in non-accommodation services” at the Worldwide Hospitality Awards in 2016.Maya Boutique Hotel in Nax
Tip 3Kitchen Around
Zermatt, which has the greatest concentration of gourmet restaurants in Switzerland, offers a unique “backstage” gastronomic experience called Kitchen Around. Groups of four guests enjoy a four-course meal at four different gourmet restaurants: at each, they watch a dish being prepared before eating it in the kitchen among top-class chefs. The dishes are made with local produce, and each one is accompanied by a different Valais wine.Kitchen Around Zermatt
Tip 4Ski touring parks
Morgins is one of the first resorts in Valais to specialise in ski touring by opening its very own ski touring park. This has six itineraries (2 blues, 3 reds, 1 black) that allow enthusiasts of all levels to enjoy scenic tours in nature. The resorts of Arolla and Crans-Montana also have specially prepared ski-touring itineraries for enthusiasts.Ski touring parks
Tip 5Patrouille des Glaciers
The “Patrol of the Glaciers” from Zermatt via Arolla to Verbier is regarded as the toughest ski mountaineering race in the world. Each “patrol” consists of three members, who must conquer a total vertical climb of 4,000 metres. The legendary challenge first took place in 1943, established by the Swiss army to evaluate and boost the operational capacity of its troops. As a result, the first few editions were open only to military patrols. Today this race represents the ultimate challenge in terms of physical ability and endurance. The next edition takes place from 17 to 21 April 2018.Patrouille des Glaciers from 17 to 21 April 2018
The magic of winter in Valais – in figures
- 2,000 kilometres of piste
- 45 peaks higher than 4,000 metres
- 36 ski areas
- 6 spa resorts
- 72 gourmet restaurants
- 996 Gault&Millau points
- 13 Michelin stars