WITH FUR-LINED LOUNGE CHAIRS at mid-mountain huts, fondue for sustenance, chalet-style hotels and lift tickets costing less than what you’d pay at most American ski resorts, Switzerland caught my snow bunny daughter’s attention first for another reason. “Mom, can we go to the real Matterhorn?” Having seen the fake mountain at Disneyland, she was smitten. We’d been planning to go to Colorado for winter skiing, a ritual repeated for years and years. But why not make a change? While the Rockies never get old, perhaps it was time to point our skis (and snowboards) in a new direction.
Tiny Switzerland, just the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, holds a mind-boggling number of ski areas — some 250-plus. Many are large, others diminutive, and all — wedged cheerfully into mountainous terrain — occupy characteristic villages reflective of their regions. Though Norway gets the credit for inventing schussing, the Swiss embraced the sport in the late 19th century as a utilitarian means to traverse the landscape. Not long after, blue blood British tourists discovered skiing’s thrills during long winter stays at tony resorts such as St. Moritz, ensuring the cold-weather phenomenon took hold.
Today Switzerland, a legendary gathering place for glitterati, famous for its white-gloved service and having hosted the winter Olympics twice, reigns as a snow lover’s paradise. With ski destinations in all its three language regions, each accessible by the efficient Swiss train network, it offers riders long, meandering ski runs; heart-thumping vertical drops; glaciers galore; miles of treeless expanses; and eye-popping vistas. Not necessarily secluded, though set amid stunning nature, resorts often connect to one another, allowing skiers to S-turn from village to village — sometimes even to neighboring countries — all in the same day. Add in a vibrant après-ski culture plus chilly activities from tobogganing to skating to snow polo, and Switzerland’s largesse convinced us to give its slopes a try. Even better, we decided to ride the storybook Glacier Express from St. Moritz to Zermatt, a train trip that would allow us to try out two famous ski towns on one trip.
Upon arrival at Zürich Airport, we haul our suitcases, laden with puffy ski clothes and layers, to nab our first train for the adventure. We’ve bought a Swiss Pass, a remarkable travel savings allowing children under 16 to ride free on their parent’s unlimited travel ticket throughout Switzerland. It also provides gratis admittance to museums and transportation on boats and buses. With that magic ticket firmly in hand, we walk from the airport to the train station, find the platform for the next train to glamorous St. Moritz and take a seat.
St. Moritz, famous for its celebrity guests, nevertheless imparts a sporty vibe. We snuggle into swanky Badrutt’s Palace, poised minutes from the foot of Corviglia, perhaps the region’s most famous ski mountain. Ideally located for whooshing home at day’s end, the hotel also lies close to St. Moritz’s famous lake, frozen in winter but thronged with warmly clad revelers. That’s where we attempt skijoring, a nervy sport where a muscular horse pulls a scrambling person on skis across the ice. I decide I’m happier under blankets on a horse-drawn carriage ride, a hot wine in hand, tromping along the snow-carpeted forest trails. Later, after a much-deserved, truffle-strewn (pizza-like) flammkuchen, I retire to the Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski’s spa for a marmot oil massage, a time-honored Swiss tradition said to restore overused muscles. To wit, I return the following day, repaired and rewired, to redo my skijoring efforts with a modicum of success.
When it’s time to board the fabled Glacier Express to Zermatt, we’re sorry to leave St. Moritz. But once seated on the nostalgic-styled train, complete with panoramic windows, we’re ready for the next phase of our escapade. Called the “slowest fast train in the world,” the Glacier Express averages 22 miles an hour, chugging for nearly eight hours across Switzerland. Thankfully, it’s also famous for its cuisine, and along the way we sit at starched white-clothed tables, sipping Swiss libations and nibbling charcuterie. En route, the train passes through 91 tunnels, crosses 291 harrowing bridges, trundles out of snowcarpeted valleys and climbs myriad Toblerone-shaped peaks. From the windows we see cross-country skiers with groceries balanced on their backs, cows with bells, and children sledding.
As we near Zermatt, our excitement grows. We disembark and drag our bags up the pedestrian main street, filled with après-skiers, St. Bernard dogs and romantic carriages. “Where is it?” says my daughter, furtively searching for the Matterhorn, disappointed it isn’t in sight. Suddenly it appears as if summoned, majestic and authentic, at the end of the street — just waiting to be skied.
Info to Go
Fly to Zürich or Geneva on Swiss International Air Lines to make quick train connections to all regions of Switzerland. You can purchase a Swiss Travel Pass for the trains online through RailEurope.com. Swiss Deluxe Hotels offers a collection of characteristic yet opulent hotels across Switzerland.
Over the last three–four weeks, Portugal made significant strides in slowly, but surely, reopening the country for travel. As of May 18, Portugal further loosened restrictions by ending the country’s COVID-19 State of Emergency status while continuing social distancing.
Finding a beachfront Punta Cana all-inclusive resort for all ages can be daunting when you want to take home great memories with loved ones but also experience a sophisticated escape. Now, you can have both thanks to a new resort: Finest Punta Cana.
United Airlines introduces United CleanPlus, a partnership with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic. The company is committed to putting health and safety at the forefront of the entire customer experience, and hopes to deliver an industry-leading standard of cleanliness. This partnership brings together Clorox and some of the country’s top medical experts from the Cleveland Clinic to help guide United Airlines’ new cleaning, safety and social distancing protocols.
At FXExpress Publications, Inc., we can’t wait to #ComeBacktoTravel, and we can’t wait for the travel industry and others to #ComeBacktoGT. Join us over the next several weeks as we entice you with photos from some of the places we’re most excited to visit. Take a visual journey through some of the Florida Keys’ most breathtaking sights with us, just in time for the June 1 reopening.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, small businesses create two-thirds of net new jobs and account for nearly 48 percent of the U.S. private sector workforce. And small- and medium-sized businesses outpace all other sectors as one of the fastest-growing in the United States. InterContinental® Hotels Group (IHG) goes above and beyond to create opportunities for this segment with its IHG® Business Edge program, voted Best Small- to Mid-Sized Business Program in Global Traveler’s 2019 GT Tested Reader Survey awards.
A first of its kind in the region, The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi launched a safe and clean certification program. The program seeks to uplift and standardize cleanliness and hygiene levels across all businesses and organizations in the tourism sector, including hotels, malls and other attractions. DCT Abu Dhabi will offer certifications that ensure compliance of standardized hygiene levels, and the program will roll out in phases, with the first dedicated to hotels.
United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is celebrating the heroes. Travelers can nominate the unsung heroes in their lives for a chance to be selected for one of 25 complimentary, seven-night European river cruises for two through July 31.