Gstaad, Switzerland, Feb. 21, 2001--"It's a good day to go to Gstaad," afriend said to me before we departed from Denver International Airport. Eventhough Shawn and I live only a few hours drive from several world-renownedski resorts, we heard that there might be something more to the winter skiexperience than the resorts we have in our own backyard.
After a direct flight to New York, we hopped aboard our Swissair flight toZurich, Switzerland. We passed through time zones speedily in our spaciousbusiness class seats, with diversions such as portable music, books, and anentertainment system that popped up out of the armrest.
We passed through the passport check, claimed our baggage, and caughta train to the Gstaad region all in the same building.
The train dropped us off in Saanen, a charming Swiss village five minutes bycar or train from Gstaad proper. Saanen and Gstaad represent two of the ninevillages that make up the Gstaad Saanenland region. Within this region, 6interlinked skiing-areas with 69 lifts crisscross the surrounding Alpsservicing 155 miles (250 km) of ski runs.
Although a lift ticket can access all of this terrain, one would behard-pressed to ski it all within a weeklong stay, even with a guide.
A short drive from the sporty Alpine Lodge - fully equipped with spafacilities, Internet access, a game room, restaurant, and bar - we loadedinto a gondola in the Saanenmoser village. Atop this lift a restaurant stoodamidst the backdrop of the dramatic West Bernese Oberland Alps. A sense ofthe massive size of this ski region soon overcame the kid from Colorado.
Long ridges and valleys blurred the lines between in-bounds skiing andbackcountry skiing, which may be why many of the European skiers we sawtended to stay on the trails demarcated with occasional orange poles. We sawthis as an opportunity to make some fresh tracks off-piste.
Within three days the snow conditions changed from moist corn to 6-12 inchesof fresh powder with snowstorms and glorious sunshine swirling around theAlps. We enlisted the services of a guide from the Gstaad Ski and SnowboardSchool to make the most of our on-slope experience. Our veteran guide ledShawn and I over untracked slopes dotted with pine trees and wooden cabins,over riverbeds, and on wide on-piste (groomed) slopes.
By lunchtime we had covered a large amount of terrain, but a relatively smallamount of the whole area. We dined on traditional Swiss food in a woodencabin at Lengebrand. Rosti, alpine macaroni, sausages, vegetables, beers, andmore quenched our hunger. Not exactly light fare, but in moderation it madefor delicious skier fuel to breach the two ridges and three valleys back toour starting point.
By the ski day's end we toasted with a Jager tea (hot tea and Jagermeister)and then took respite in the Alpine Lodge's sauna and steam rooms. In theevening we dined on delicious homemade food at Pubbles Restaurant/Bar, a20-minute walk from our hotel in downtown Saanen. Not only does Pubbles serveup fine Swiss food, but it also turns into a lively nightspot off the beatenpath of most tourists.
Although our stay in the Gstaad Saanenland region was brief, our ventureacross the pond to seemingly distant mountain ranges dispelled several mythsfor us.
Gstaad may be internationally known for affluence, chic night spots with theclientele to match, high-end restaurants and hotels, and an enormous amountof skiable terrain, but the resort also exudes a low-key charm in the pursuitof leisure and sport that has influenced ski resorts throughout the U.S.
Neither Gstaad's reputation nor its location in the Alps need daunt visitors.The villages within the area offer environments for all types and in manycases, are no more difficult or expensive to visit than a trip to the NorthAmerican Rockies. So stop dreaming about a Swiss ski trip, relax, and play onone.
-A roundtrip second class train ticket from Zurich to Gstaad costs$106.
-A Flexi Pass for three non-consecutive days of travel in Switzerlandwithin a 30 day span costs $156.
-A Swiss Pass for eight days of unlimited travel in Switzerland costs$220.
-With a Swiss Pass/Flexi Pass you will be entitled to unlimited travelon the entire network of the Swiss Travel System. This includes the SwissFederal Railways, most private railroads, lake steamers, postal coaches andthe urban transit systems in 36 Swiss cities. On most excursions tomountaintops a discount of 25 percent is granted.
-A one-day lift ticket is $30 for all of the Gstaad Saanenland skiarea.
-A six-day ski pass is $144 for all of the Gstaad Saanenland ski area.
-Children's lift tickets are half price.
(All prices are subject to change so check with the appropriate contacts.)
Tel: +41 (0) 33 748 41 51
Hauptstrasse, 3792 Saanen
Tel: +41 (0) 33 748 88 35
Ski and Snowboardschool Gstaad-Saanenland
(To organize a ski guide contact ski school when you arrive.)
Tel: ++41-33-744 18 65
Fax: ++41-33-744 18 69
For more information contact:
An excerpt from SkiNet's story: Ski the Alps: Hot Spots, Packages
Found at: http://www.skinet.com/article/resort.cfm?alias_id=4594
The car-free village of Saas-Fee is classic Switzerland, with a spectacular setting amidst the glaciers. Lindenmeyr Travel has a package that includes round-trip airfare on Swissair to Geneva, first-class rail transfers and seven-nights at the Allalin hotel, a four-star in Saas Fee. Daily buffet breakfast and daily four-course dinner are included. It also includes a six-day ski pass. If two adults buy a ski pass, children under 16 ski for free. Lindenmeyr also adds an eighth night at the four-star Hotel Tiffany in Geneva. The price is $1,700 for March travel, dropping to $1,600 after March 23. Lindenmeyr Travel (800-248-2807/ www.lindenmeyrtravel.com).
Gstaad and the surrounding towns are another option for the quintessential Swiss ski experience. Ski Europe offers a package including Roundtrip airfare from New York to Zürich, Transfers from Zürich to Gstaad by Swiss Rail (Second Class), 7-nights accommodation with continental buffet breakfast, All local service charges and taxes, No cancellation penalty, and $250,000 Travel Accident Insurance. This package costs $1,149 from Feb. 3 to March 11 and $983 from March 12 to April 22. Ski Europe (800-333-5533/ www.ski-europe.com)