In this blog post, I continue to describe my best ski resorts.
The first part of this post can be read here: My Best Ski Resorts
Wengen, Switzerland. Best for Swiss atmosphere and scenery.
Nestled above the Lauterbrunnen valley, not far from the town of Interlaken, is the resort of Wengen. The resort is most famous for the world cup downhill ski race which descends, from the top of the Lauberhorn Mountain, all the way down into Wengen. This race is one of the oldest and toughest races on the ski world cup circuit and brings thousands of spectators to Wengen, every year in January. The town itself is completely car free and the only access is by railway. These railways are also used as uplift for skiers and link the towns of Wengen and Grindelwald together, offering a large ski area suitable for all levels. The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains dominate the views and offer a spectacular backdrop unrivalled anywhere else in The Alps. The skiing on offer is generally suited to beginners and intermediates although there are some off piste opportunities in the area, if you have a qualified mountain guide.
It is the combination of scenery, traditional Swiss mountain atmosphere and traffic free streets is what puts Wengen into my best ski resorts list.
Chatel, France. Best for good value accommodation, easy access from Geneva and short ski breaks.
At just over one hours drive from Geneva, the small town of Chatel lies near to the Swiss border within a ski region named the Portes Du Soleil. Unlike many French resorts, Chatel is a traditional farming community which just happens to be part of one of the biggest ski areas in the world. The ski lifts from Chatel link directly with the resorts of Avoriaz and Morzine in France and Morgins and Les Crosets in Switzerland. The altitude is relatively low for French alpine standards but the snow is reliable due to the location on the edge of The Alps, where storms can deposit a great deal of snow. The skiing has a reputation for being suitable for intermediate skiers but Chatel has some of the best off piste opportunities in the whole of the Portes Du Soleil region. Chatel offers spectacular views towards Lake Geneva, the Dents Du Midi range and Mt Blanc. It is also cheaper than many other French resorts and the easy access of the town makes it very suitable for a long weekend trip from other European destinations.
La Grave, France. Best for being very scared and having a lot of fun on skis.
La Grave is not a ski resort as such but a village nestled in a high valley near the resorts of Serre Chevalier and Les Deux Alpes, in the southern French Alps. It is renowned for its off piste skiing and high altitude glacial terrain. A single cable car takes skiers up to the top, on a 40 minute journey. From there a choice of marked routes is available and there are many other possibilities, if you are with a mountain guide. The descent can take over an hour easily and miles of quiet skiing awaits, even on the marked routes. The first time I visited La Grave I was met at the bottom of the lift by a mountain guide who questioned me and my friend about our ski knowledge to see if we were qualified to ski on the mountain. He looked at our avalanche transceivers and asked us questions about mountain safety. Once he was satisfied that we knew what we were doing he let us go up. That pretty much sums it up.