News from the snow
Crans Montana Switzerland
Originally two villages, the natural advantages and resulting popularity of Crans and Montana led to the two villages joining under one name in the 1960s. Those advantages begin with the resort's wonderful location, on a sunny terrace of lakes and woodland with views across the Rhone Valley and out towards the mountain peaks of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. Famous for its pure mountain air, Crans Montana today is a large, cosmopolitan resort boasting over 60 international restaurants, an excellent range of shops, lively nightlife and culture, a comprehensive program of activities and a wide-ranging choice of sporting activities beyond skiing. A free bus service links all the different sections of the resort. Crans Montana is also building a reputation as an international conference centre similar to Davos, attracting scientists, economists and politicians from all over the world to events based in its Regent Congress Hall. Crans Montana has a long and illustrious history in winter sports and Swiss tourism in general dating back to the early years, although the resort also recognised the potential of golf from the start, opening the Severiano Ballesteros 18 hole course as early as 1906 and staging the first Swiss Open in 1939. The first hotel, Le Parc, opened in Montana in 1893. Over 100 years later there are now more than 30 hotels, with total tourist bed numbers of over 40,000. The resort's history is inextricably tied up with the Central European Latine culture, a tradition still clearly visible today.
Once two separate villages, Crans and Montana officially met up and merged in the 1960s, Together they have a 40,000 bed base and are 6km long, with a modern, lively and cosmopolitan atmosphere. The resort also boasts breath-taking views of the Alps, from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc. Lift opening to 1700 from February.
The resort was the location for the 1987 and 2008 World Alpine Skiing Championships and the World Alpine Ski Cup Finals of 1992 and 1998. Every year a number of FIS World Cup events are also staged here including men's and women's downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom.
An excellent choice for beginners, thanks to the resort level snow and the huge area of gentle slopes that in summer transforms into the golf course.
Crans Montana's main skiing is divided in to three areas although they are all well lift-linked to one another and by five different gondola lifts from various parts of the resort itself. The biggest is Cry d'Err , the second Violettes - location of many of the resort's tougher runs, and the third Aminona above the purpose built centre of the same name.
Intermediate level skiers will find plenty to occupy them at all levels, particularly the long run down from the Plaine Morte glacier. Experts will enjoy the men's downhill course, the Piste nationale, and there are also many off-piste itineraries to explore with a guide. Lift queues are rare thanks to recent investment in high-capacity, high-speed lifts, most notably the Funitel gondola. Excursions are possible to neighbouring Anzère or further afield to Grimentz, Verbier or Zermatt.
There are some 30km (19 miles) of cross country trails, including a high altitude loipe on the glacier, and the Foulée Blanche race is staged in the resort each January.
The Fleur des Champs daycare facility accepts children from three months old to age seven and ski kindergarten starts from age three, learning on wide open sunny slopes. The range of activities available means there's plenty to keep the kids entertained, and similarly the large number of dining choices means that the choice of economic, fast and friendly restaurants is greater here than at many other major Alpine resorts.
All in all a very good choice for families.
For fast, friendly food the aux Bonnes Choses crêperie and the Vieux Moulin pizzeria.
Good traditional Swiss fayre is served at Le Bergerie du Cervin, Le Mayen, La Dent-Blanche, Le Greni and La Cave. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy high calibre gastronomic specialities, perhaps polished off with a champagne Verve Clicquot sorbet. The local cuisine includes French delicacies as well as Swiss dishes.
Late night entertainment provided by seven different night spots open through to 4am and the Friday disco night at the open air 'Patinoire d'Ycoor' ice rink is always good fun. In addition there is a cinema, often showing English language films, 10 pin bowling and a casino.
Both Crans and Montana have specialised 'boarding shops and tuition is offered by the Swiss Ski and Snowboarding Schools, Ski and Sky School and Stoked Boarding School.