by Nick Trend, The Telegraph, February 21, 2017
This chic Swiss resort offers gentle runs, stylish après-ski and maybe even a glimpse of Roger Moore.
Why go now?
If you had to design a ski resort for a short, relaxing break, you would come up with Crans-Montana . A couple of hours by train from Geneva, the resort is spread along a south-facing balcony halfway up the 9,000ft massif that soars above Sierre in the Swiss canton of Valais.
Though its most famous resident is the archetypal Englishman, Sir Roger Moore, Crans, once well-known for its celebrity status, has fallen off the radar of most British skiers and is probably the better for it. It is highly civilised, rarely crowded and extremely friendly. The pistes are mostly gentle blues and reds, better suited to graceful cruising than thigh-burning descents, though there is plenty of variety.
Most face south and this, combined with the local boast that it is the sunniest place in Switzerland, means you have a decent chance of good weather. Sometimes too good – later in the season the lower pistes can get soft by early afternoon, and on warm days, you may prefer to ski until 2pm and then relax over a long lunch on the mountain.
The more upmarket Crans is where you'll find the best hotels and restaurants.
The resort is actually two centres, Crans and Montana, which straggle for a couple of miles along the balcony and have effectively merged into one. To the west, however, Crans is the more upmarket – shops include Prada, Louis Vuitton, Bally and Montblanc – and this is where you find the best hotels and restaurants, but it can feel a little quiet in off-peak weeks. Montana is younger and livelier, especially later in the evening.
You won’t find tour-operator coaches pulling into Crans-Montana. Most visitors book privately. British Airways (ba.com), Swiss (swiss.com/uk) and easyJet (easyjet.com) fly to Geneva. It’s an easy two-hour transfer by train to Sierre and a 15-minute climb by funicular to Montana Gare (see rail.ch for timetable). Train tickets and more information from Switzerland Travel Centre (020 7420 4900; myswitzerland.com/rail).
Where to stay
Special treat: LeCrans (0041 27 486 6060; lecrans.com), a smart boutique chalet hotel, offers a handful of luxurious suites and rooms with fabulous views over the Valais mountains, as well as two swimming pools and a spa. Doubles from 550 CHF (£442) per night, including breakfast.
The Everest junior suite at Le Crans
Mid range: Four-star Hotel Art de Vivre (0041 27 481 3312; art-vivre.ch) is near the centre of town with 27 rooms (including four singles). Most have mountain views and south-facing balconies. Doubles from 240 CHF (£192) per night, with breakfast.
On a budget: Auberge Lago Lodge (0041 27 480 2037; auberge-lagolodge.ch) on the main street, near the frozen lake, offers budget-priced rooms that accommodate up to eight people. Doubles and family rooms are also catered for. Doubles from 135 CHF (£108) per night, with breakfast.
This is when the lifts open. Start your day at one of the three main cabine stations, and get there early to beat the ski schools’ day-trippers, who can clog up the base stations between about 9.30 and 10am. If it’s sunny, continue up the mountain to Plaine Morte at just under 9,800ft. From here you can enjoy the long red runs across to Les Violettes and Tubang, which see fewest skiers and get the most sunshine in the morning. If visibility is poor, stick to the lower, partially wooded slopes from Chetseron or Mont Lachaux.
Stop for hot chocolate on the sun terrace at Plaine Morte restaurant (0041 27 481 3395) with distant views of Mont-Blanc.
Take lunch at Buvette de l’Alpage de Pépinet (0041 78 722 4390). It is signed from the blue run from Les Violettes and serves excellent local cured meats, salads and croque-monsieurs. Expect to pay £12 to £14 for a main course. If you want a quicker lunch, try Cabane des Taules, near La Toula chairlift. This is a small and informal self-service café serving goulash soup or raclette at around £8, but there are no lavatories or inside seating.
Continue to the far eastern edge of the resort to find tougher reds and off-piste options at Petit Bonvin 7,900ft, alongside the long toboggan run. Les Faverges is a pleasant, easy run feeding into Aminona. Allow plenty of time to return. The ski area closes at 5pm, with some of the lower lifts stopping at 4.30pm. If the weather’s too poor to ski, there’s an ice rink at Stade Y’coor (0041 27 481 3055) in Montana.
Go for après-ski at Zerodix (0041 27 481 0090; zerodix.ch), which has an outside bar next to the cable car station in Crans. Skiers congregate on tables set out under large red awnings.
LeMontBlanc at Hotel LeCrans is one of the resort’s top restaurants, with main courses from 48 CHF (£38). L’Hostellerie du Pas de l’Ours (0041 27 485 9333; pasdelours.ch) specialises in Provençal cooking. Lower prices and Valais specialities at La Désalpe (0041 27 480 3150; ladesalpe.ch) in the town centre.
Dance at Le Pacha (lepacha.ch) or enjoy late-night drinks at Leo's Bar at 23 rue Centrale (0041 27 481 9800).
Head up to Bella Lui or Plaine Morte to savour the views as the sun starts to climb, but this time descend along blues and reds, which take you from the more exposed snow fields below the tree line and into Barzettes.
Eat at Chetzeron (0041 27 485 0808; chetzeron.ch), a cable-car station converted into the resort’s trendiest mountain restaurant, with a huge dining terrace and luxurious sunloungers. There’s a choice of lighter meals, like salads or soups from 10 CHF (£8), or more substantial lamb stew and roast chicken dishes from 34 CHF (£27). It also offers 16 rooms for overnight stays.
Finish the afternoon on the long, exposed slopes from Cry d’Er. On a good day, these are the best runs for watching the sun set over the valley.
This season, the resort closes on April 23, 2017, depending on the snow conditions.
Lift passes cost 300 CHF, £240 (adult), 165 CHF, £132 (child), for six days if bought in advance. See mycma.ch.
Resort and piste information from Crans-Montana Tourism (0041 848 22 1012; crans-montana.ch).
A free shuttle-bus service operates between Crans, Montana and Aminona. See cie-smc.ch for timetables.
This article was written by Nick Trend from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.