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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Skiers discover lesser-known Swiss resorts with Melbourne-based Swiss Trip experts


Switzerland has a reputation for superb albeit expensive skiing and snowboarding but, if you know where to look, it’s possible to find reasonably priced ski holiday packages in small and exquisite Swiss resorts.

Popular with Europeans, these ski resorts warmly welcome Australians - firstly because they see very few of us and secondly because they’re amazed we’d fly 24 hours across the world to ski there.

And the skiing is simply magical, with high altitudes, endless kilometres of runs, powder snow that stays crisp and dry, excellent lifting capacity and more than enough winter activities to keep every member of the family occupied for a week or two.

Crans-Montana, Leukerbad and Bettmeralp are three such resort villages discovered by Melbourne skiers Mara Winthorst and Tim Jones, who have skied in Switzerland for ten years and run Swiss Trip ski holidays for four years.

They chose these three because each is unique in some way, and all provide a first rate ski holiday at about half the cost of major ski resorts which attract high-spending international skiers.

A very good range of accommodation is available, there are plenty of bars and restaurants, and menus often feature local specialties such as raclette and cheese fondue with produce from the surrounding valleys, as well as varied modern cuisine.

A week’s skiing with Swiss Trip starts at $1,973 per person twin share for seven nights including Swiss Train tickets from airport to resort, meet and greet, hotel accommodation, breakfasts, ski passes and a day’s ski orientation with Mara and Tim.

“Every skier knows that arriving in a new resort, finding your way around and sorting out ski lifts and runs can be quite confusing and time-consuming,” Mara said.

“We make it all easy as possible, picking up guests at the train station, taking them to their hotel or apartment, then helping them organise ski hire and lift tickets. We also escort them around the village, pointing out ATM machines, grocery stores and restaurants.”

On the ski orientation day, guests are familiarised with the mountain terrain and are taken to the areas best suited to their abilities.

Crans-Montana

Twin villages located 1500m above the Rhone Valley, with views of the Swiss Alps from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc.

* 35 hotels, plus apartments.
* 27 lifts, 140km of runs, highest ski altitude 3200m.
* 5 minute walk from village to lifts.
* Packages from $1973 per person twin share for seven nights.

Bettmeralp

Located nearly 2000m above the Rhone Valley and bordering on the Aletsch Glacier, this car-free winter world is accessed only by mountain cable car.

* 6 hotels plus apartments.
* 36 lifts, 99km of runs, highest ski altitude 2647m.
* Ski in – ski out from traditional wooden chalets.
* Packages from $1992 per person twin share for seven nights.

Leukerbad

Switzerland’s largest thermal spa resort, with 65 thermal springs and numerous baths for après ski relaxation, surrounded by 4000m high mountains.

* 28 hotels, plus apartments.
* 11 lifts, 52km of runs, highest ski altitude 2610m.
* 5 minute walk from village to lifts.
* Packages from $2060 per person twin share for seven nights.

Further details: 1300 85 11 34, or www.swisstrip.com.au

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