GETTING THERE Fly to Geneva or Zurich. The trip from Geneva to Chateau-d'Oex takes two hours (90 miles) by car or two-and-a-half hours by train. Rail passengers will need to change trains in Montreux, but the Swiss Travel System's baggage service allows travelers to check luggage straight to their destination, making this a breeze. From Zurich Airport the trip is longer—three hours (146 miles) by car or three hours and 45 minutes by train—but more flights from the U.S. fly direct to Zurich than Geneva. Getting around the Pays d'Enhaut without a car is easy, especially if your lodging isn't far uphill from the train station. Hot tip: Travelers coming from Geneva will want to reserve window seats on the special Panoramic cars of the MOB rail line from Montreux to Chateau-d'Oex.
SKI AREA STATS La Videmanette: Summit elevation is 7,073 feet; vertical drop is 3,822 feet; skiable terrain is 76 miles; Adults ski for $29 per day, teens for $18 and children for $14. La Braye: The summit elevation is 5,413 feet; the vertical drop is 2,230 feet; skiable terrain is 54 miles; Adults ski for $23, teens for $15 and children (through age 16), $10.60. *A six-day "Top Card" Gstaad Super Ski Region Pass is $155 for adults, $99 for teens ages 17-20 and $75 for children 16 and under.
SLEEPING IN The Gstaad Palace is the grand old hotel of the region, with prices to match (011-41-33-748-5000; fax 41-33-748-5001). The three-star Hotel Rougemont is popular with families and has a big indoor swimming pool (011-41-26-925-8080; fax 41-26-925-9185). The Bon Accueil in Chateau-d'Oex—an 18th-century chalet with great views and exceptional dining—has been transformed into an offical "Silence Hotel," an international chain where peace and quiet reign (011-41-26-924-6320; fax 41-26-924-5126). Check with the Chateau-d'Oex and Rougemont tourist boards for special family snow packages in the Pays d'Enhaut, which include a full week of lodgings, half-board and lift tickets from as low as $257 per adult during high season.
DINING OUT The top-ranked restaurant in the region is La Chesery in Gstaad (011-41-33-755-1500, fax 011-41-33-755-1660, www.rest-cheeserii.ch), but locals remain faithful to the raclette accompanied by accordion music at Le Cerf in the heart of old Rougemont (011-41-26-925-8123). Le Train Bleu in Hotel Résidence La Rocaille in the center of Chateau-d'Oex puts a fresh and delicious California-nouvelle spin on robust Swiss cuisine. Don't miss the L'Etivaz cheese, a regional specialty, for dessert. Relais de la Gruyère in Chateau-d'Oex (011-41-26-924-7252) serves the most popular pizza in town.
DON'T MISS The antique paper cuttings at the local museum or Claude Allegri's antique shop, both in Chateau-d'Oex. They may sound boring, but most visitors change their minds when they get a close look: The amazingly detailed works of art, often depicting the pastoral life of the dairy farmer, speak volumes about the sweetness of life here.
The village of Gstaad was transformed into a pedestrian zone in June 1999 and is worth a visit simply to people-watch. It is popular with an international jet set that favors furs and Moon Boots, wraps its pedigreed dogs in sweaters before taking them for walks, enjoys buying expensive gems while on holiday and would generally prefer to sunbathe than ski.
WHEN TO GO Chateau-d'Oex's liveliest event is the International Hot-Air Balloon Week, held during the last week of January. The largest such festival in the world of ballooning, it features 80 balloons from all over the world and brings a village party and carnival atmosphere to the streets.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS The "Top Card" ski pass includes both shuttle bus service and lift access to Glacier 3000 at Diablerets, where a new tram debuted in December 1999, putting the breathtaking glacier at 9,850 feet within easy reach. Low-level intermediates will have no trouble skiing here, andd when avalanche danger is low experts will have a blast. An excursion to Glacier 3000 makes a great day trip from the Pays d'Enhaut.
INFORMATION For Chateau-d'Oex: Office du Tourisme, Ch-1837 Chateau-d'Oex, Switzerland; 011-41-26-924-2525; fax 011-41-26-924-2526; www.chateau-doex.ch; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Rougemont: Office du Tourisme, CH-1838 Rougemont, Switzerland; 011-41-26-925-8333; fax 011-41-26-925-8967; email: email@example.com.
For Gstaad: Gstaad Saanenland Tourismus, CH-3780 Gstaad, Switzerland; 011-41-33-748-8181; fax 011-41-33-748-8183; www.gstaad.ch; email firstname.lastname@example.org. To obtain information from the Swiss Tourism Board in New York, call 212-757-5944.