For me, the five pillars of any successful holiday are these – seeing beautiful landscapes, meeting local people, trying new things, eating and drinking well, and finally, finding adventure.
Any ski holiday easily fulfils all of these, but I was keen to find out if an alternative mountain holiday to the Swiss Alps – minus the skiing – could deliver.
After taking an easy combo of bus and train from Zurich, we arrived in Lenzerheide and were welcomed with a glass of bubbly at the characterful Hotel Kurhaus. Run by a young and enthusiastic team of four, this hotel has a lovely easy charm to it. There’s a tapas restaurant, where the excellent Swiss Pinot Noir flowed on the evening we spent there, and great coffee to pep you up in the morning.
The Lenzeheide-Arosa region isn’t far from Davos and the whole area was where last century’s sick and ailing would come to take the healing air of the mountains.
You can certainly see why. On the best days the warmth of the sun combined with pure mountain air to form a heady tonic (even if for us it was healing nothing more serious than a hangover).
Snowshoeing the Swiss Alps
Our first evening was spent snow-shoeing through a wintery realm of pine trees and softly falling snow (more on our Alp Fops snowshoeing experience).
You could happily spend a full week snow hiking around the magical paths of the Swiss Alps, feasting on fondue and chocolate. But we had a to-do list, and the next morning we got to it…
Biathlon was on the agenda the next morning – a combination of cross-country skiing and shooting. After donning long, thin skis and clipping the front of our foot-hugging shoes into the binding (the heel is left free) we hopped, slid and generally propelled ourselves onto the tracks.
Once there our instructor proceeded to drill us. It was fun and certainly blew away the cobwebs on a rather woolly morning. The shooting was a welcome rest during which we got to lie down to take aim.
This winter Olympic sport is intense – physically challenging and calling for a lot of skill and stamina. I don’t count competitiveness as one of my character traits, but this would be a lot of fun for a crew of sporty types with a healthy sense of competition.
Long lunches on high
Although I was looking for alternatives to skiing I thoroughly enjoyed cruising the slopes of Lenzerheide (if there are blue skies and perfect conditions, then why not). The Lenzerheide /Arosa area has 225km of varied slopes, so it’s a great spot for mixed ability groups and families.
Even if you’re not on skis there are great mountain huts and restaurants easily accessible on foot. So you can enjoy the views from the ski lifts and mountain peaks without having to tackle the red runs.
We headed 2865 meters up to the Rothorngipfel panoramic restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal and drinks overlooking the valley.
Hamams & spas
After a busy morning, one of the best ways to recharge and sooth the muscles is a proper soak and steam in a spa. Switzerland knows this and does spas very well.
The biggest hamam in the Graubünden Alps at Hotel Schweizerhof in Lenzerheide didn’t disappoint. Several steam rooms, pools and treatment areas surround a softly lit central chamber and bathers relax on large stone slabs between steams, dips and scrubs.
After cooking is complete you wrap yourself in warm, fluffy towels and head for the relaxation room. There you can recline on soft beds, rehydrate with mineral waters and herb teas and nibble on medjool dates, pistachio nuts and Turkish delight – oh so decadent.
At the Shweizerhof we wore cotton wraps in the spa, but let it be known that many of the hotel spas in Switzerland are, as they delicately word it, ‘textile free’…
Nothing quite beats the thrill of a downhill moonlit sled ride after dinner. For us, said dinner was enjoyed in Arosa’s traditional Grison restaurant, the Burestubli Arlenwald. After traveling there by bus we tucked into a bottle of Swiss Pinot Noir alongside plentiful trays of smoky sausages, wedges of polenta, roasted vegetables and kirsch soaked cherries with ice-cream.
After eating and drinking our fill (and then some) the owner handed us a key to unlock the restaurant’s stock of sledges and off we sped. The ten-minute route back down to Arosa village was over far too soon, but the fresh mountain air definitely snapped us out of an after dinner stupor and off we headed for drinks on the town.
Great Swiss train rides
The Swiss train system is well known as one of the most efficient and comfortable in the world, and we wouldn’t argue with that. Running like clockwork through incredible mountain scenery, these immaculate, cheerily red electric trains are a pleasure to behold (even if you’re not a railway enthusiast).
The journey from Chur on the Arosa Express takes you high into the mountains and over the impressive Langwieser viaduct.
On our journey home we were treated to blue skies and a spectacular display of snow-laden forests and mountains– a final farewell treat from Switzerland. Who needs skiing, eh? (Only joking dear reader, although it’s certainly possible to get by without it).
The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination. Prices start at £112 per person. Find out more on the Swiss Travel System website.