Those who know about the adjacent ski resorts of Crans and Montana — known together as Crans-Montana — rave about the holiday experience. It’s not a well-recognized international Swiss ski brand like Zermatt or Verbier. Despite this fact, Crans-Montana is not a second-tier ski destination. The opposite is true as the combined resorts have 140 km of skiing available and extremely developed base facilities with luxury shopping and over 2,000 guest beds in a wide array of accommodations from hotels to chalets.
Truly breathtaking views of the Alps from every angle at Crans-Montana
This leads me to one of the reasons Crans-Montana is an appealing ski venue. Because it doesn’t have the same international name recognition as other large ski resorts, Crans-Montana works hard to please.
This is tremendous news for families, as the resort has taken extra steps to everyone’s needs are met. Despite the jet-set reputation, the vibe at Crans-Montana is friendly, not arrogant. The dining, hotel, retail, and ski experience here is a pleasure. I’m sorry to say that this is not always the case in Switzerland…
The best part of the Crans-Montana ski experience is the prime views. The hillside perched over a Rhone River valley faces over 40 of the highest peaks in the Alps, including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.
Crans-Montana is south facing and gloriously sunny (although the ski conditions can erode faster in the spring months as a consequence). Finally, the location is convenient — it’s an easy 180km drive from Geneva or 300km from Zurich with no steep passes to navigate in bad weather.
Luxury good enthusiasts love the plethora of designer shops
The terrain for families at Crans-Montana is close to perfection. They’ve identified specific areas for different age groups and abilities including a ski kindergarten for pre-school kids and a snowpark for teens.
There’s a tremendous beginner area on the golf course called Snow Island with massive room to spread out. Activities include snow tubing, button lifts, and a magic carpet. The Crans Ski School kindergarten is also located here. Snow Island is isolated from the rest of the ski runs, which makes it safe and comfortable. There’s a mini-amusement area with games and rides for little kids as well.
An unbelievable amount of terrain at Crans-Montana is school-age kid-friendly— 38% of their slopes are blue (easy) and 50% are red (intermediate). 12% of the slopes are black (expert) which means that the really hard-core skiers aren’t here en masse unless they have their kids-in-tow or are here to go off-piste.
The resort is straightforward to navigate, as the run set-up is horizontal and linear. Note, most people drive from their accommodations to the ski area if they can’t walk (although there is an area bus), so an early start is a plus. It would be a hassle to end up at the opposite end of the resort as your car at the end of the day, since it takes time to get from one side to the other. Coordinate afternoon skiing accordingly.
Snow Island is an expansive beginner skiing area. One of the best I’ve seen!
Although most ski resorts in Switzerland offer discounted tickets for children or family ski passes, very few do any consequential marketing around full packages that save money on the big family ski costs including lodging, ski rentals, and lessons.
I was so pleasantly surprised when the tourist board handed me a data sheet on their Gold Fever promotion for the year with a 33% discount on packages during non-peak periods. I love this! They are actually recognizing that skiing is expensive (with and without kids) and just because you choose to travel in Switzerland, doesn’t mean you have unlimited funds.
Make sure you understand all the resort-wide promotional options before finalizing arrangements as there is likely to be something in place for families.
The official Swiss Ski School operates lessons in both Crans and Montana. There is less choice here than the other large ski areas but the strong international clientele here means English lessons are easy to find.
We didn’t take lessons so I can’t comment on the specific experience, but the official Swiss ski program is consistently reliable for quality across the country.
After-ski boots Crans-Montana style showcased in our hotel, L’Etrier
We stayed at L’Etrier and found it perfect for families. The interior has been updated and they have several room configurations that support 4-5 people including connecting rooms and suites. Service is friendly, breakfast is good, and they offer a half-board program for dinner as well. There’s an indoor pool (outdoor pool over summer months) and a spa. Guest room pricing starts at 170 CHF per night with supplemental charges for children.
I didn’t scout other options, but the tourist board mentioned Hotel du Lac is a great budget choice where rooms can be less than 100 CHF per night.
Outstanding food and views to match at Cabane Des Violettes
We had two great meals I want to mention. Dinner at La Bergerie du Cervin offers an atmospheric Swiss mountain experience with delicious food.
Also, lunch on the mountain hut Cabane Des Violettes is a treat at 2,200m. Sit on the stunning terrace and stare at the Alps. The chef is from the famous Hostellerie du Pas-de-L’Ours. Try to go pre or post the mad lunch rush. Reservations are recommended.
Winter activities include ice-skating, snowshoeing, and sledding, although the main winter activity is definitely skiing. In the vein of eager to please, there is an impressive seasonal event calendar here, so it’s worth planning around special activities. Crans-Montana is also famous for golf over the summer months. Given the views, I know I’m heading back for all-family hiking when the snow is gone.
Stay tuned for articles covering Davos, St. Moritz, Val Thorens, and Alta Badia (Dolomites) with kids. We’ve had a busy winter!
Editorial Note: Crans-Montana tourism hosted our accommodations and skiing. We were not asked to express any particular point of view. As always, all opinions are our own.
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