One of the most eye-opening trips I experienced last week was a visit to Crans Montana.
Last time I was there was in 1979. I was 17. Disco was in its heyday, from John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever to Earth Wind and Fire and The Bee Gees. Unsurprisingly I was desperate to get into a night club, and spent half my time in the UK trying to achieve this goal. Sadly, I looked about 15 and never had any success.
That is, until I spent Christmas 1979 in the Swiss resort of Crans Montana. Sneaking out one night after dinner, my older sister and I headed for ‘Le Sporting’. I’ll never forget it – the electric atmosphere, the beautiful girls, and all the tables for everyone to sit around. What’s more, the music was great, giving a Pink-Pantheresque feel to the place. The night would have been complete had Peter Sellers walked in with Claudia Cardinale on his arm.
Plenty of great snow, all the way down, last week.
I loved the skiing too. There wasn’t much snow around in Switzerland that December, but all I remember was that Crans Montana had a glacier and we skied it till the lifts closed. Just like any 17-year-old, I was pretty hard to please, but this resort ticked all the boxes: a thriving discoteque, the best pizzas outside Italy, and good intermediate skiing terrain to bomb down.
Buvette Pepinet terrace. Roger Moore’s and the local’s favourite.
I wasn’t one bit disappointed when I returned last week. These days, ‘Le Sporting’ acts as the clubhouse for the resort’s championship golf course, but none of the charm has disappeared. As a teenager, I’d spent my time looking at the girls and missed some the most amazing views in the entire Alps. Watching the sunset reach from Mont Blanc to far beyond the Matterhorn whilst sitting at your hotel terrace ( from most hotels actually is a vision imprinted on my mind forever. Truly stunning.
Henry crackiing open the bottle to celebrate the best sunset in the alps.
What’s more, last week, I was lucky enough to see some equally beautiful views of Lake Geneva en route to Crans Montana (Swissrail is definitely the best way to travel to the resort, as far as I’m concerned). The well-known rock band, Deep Purple, were quick to point out during an end-of-season gig in Crans a few years ago that their famous track – Smoke on the Water – was recorded as a result of smoke on the Lake Geneva water after a fire burnt their studio down. And that says it all, really!
Crans Montana is a great ski area with some fantastic runs and if you’re a family with young children, your kids will thank you for it. Crans is one of the few resorts which has sunshine all day, and over December, January and February, where most other resorts drift into shade and skiing becomes extremely cold in the afternoons.
Off piste ( Les Favereges) off the back of the Plein Morte glacier to Aminona, part of Crans-Montana’s ski area.
Drop 3 letters, “ona”, and you have a classy resort!
To this day it remains an upmarket resort with great boutiques and excellent bars and restaurants both on and off the mountain. Roger Moore is a permanent resident here and I was even lucky enough to have his instructor, Jorg, show me his favourite haunts (now that was a great day’s skiing!). That said, there’s a great choice of hotels for every budget. Other regular celebs that you might bump into include, Alain Delon (those were the days), Bono, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Fogle, and James Cracknell. And did you know Countess of Wessex – yes, Sophie Rhys-Jones – did a ski season in Crans Montana working as a rep for Bladon Lines?
With three new boutique hotels (Le Crans, Guarda Gold and Crans Luxury Lodges) and the 5-star Crans Ambassador, 2012 is set to be Crans Montana’s year.
IF YOU HAD 48 HOURS IN CRANS-MONTANA
Chetzeron, Toula, “National” World Cup run and for the off-piste, Les Faverges down to Aminona (see picture below).
Buvette Pepinet and Chetzeron (see photo below) and Les Violettes if you’re staying longer. You can dine in Chetzeron at night too.
Apres- Ski: Zero Dix
Aperitif: Senso (photo below), Le Plaza or 1900 fort the local scene.
Bistrot “des Ours”
Mont Blanc at Le Crans
End of dinner treat at Mont Blanc
Later: Pacha, Xellent or Monki’s for the younger. Roberta’s is my favourite for a few late night drinks. Roberta is a great host!
We went too early!
Oh, and for the more adventurous skiers:
After a great lunch at the Pepinet, eating the most amazing wild mushrooom croutes washed down with a Valais Gamay…
…our guide Jean Yves suggested we do one last off-piste run down the back of the glacier. This time towards the Zeuzier Dam below the village of Anzeres. This is more of a ski tour with a great steep descent down to the dam. To our surprise, when we reached the dam where we had agreed to meet our driver, the road was closed . We had to walk 1km on glass ice through two freezing and pitch-black tunnels!
Still, glad we did it.
I’m sure I either saw bats or alien eyes staring at me in there. Or was I just tired!