Destination – Grimentz, Switzerland
It is a rare place that provides both an exquisite journey back through time and an exhilarating adventure through an unbelievably immense natural landscape. Hidden in the heart of the Swiss Alps, its buildings stained dark by centuries of sun and roofs well worn by centuries of snow, the Village of Grimentz offers just such a doubly awesome gateway (and getaway). With a strikingly elegant jumble of age-charmed chalets scattered around a tight downtown network of medieval side streets and old-world shoppes, Grimentz can quickly draw you back into a world of alpine sheepherders, ancient ox carts and lederhosen-clad laborers. And as you drift out of the center of town, quaint ski chalets give way to the shimmering grandeur of the val d’Anniviers, a lush alpine valley ringed by jagged, snowcapped ridges and pinnacles. Famous for its proximity to the Matterhorn, the val d’Anniviers region offers incomparable big-mountain adventures and Nordic ski terrain.
For a taste of plush alpine living, consider staying at the classically Swiss Hotel De Moiry, where the Salamin family (some of whom are themselves champion skiers) has been serving their guests fire-melted raclette and maintaining top-quality chalet rooms for generations. Well rested, start your adventure in Grimentz with an über-satisfying breakfast at Becs de Bosson Restaurant, where their towering toast concoctions will keep you energized through hours of snow-sporting and sightseeing.
Speaking of which, after wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets which in the summer months are lined by red geraniums, consider making your way to the Grimentz-Zinal cable car station, where you can zip across the valley in the third longest cable car in the country, taking in the nearby peaks from a whole new perspective. If you are up for a little alpine skiing, both the Grimentz and Zinal ends of the cable line offer exceptional slopes—though it’s also worth just riding the car out and back for the vistas! If you are looking for similarly mind-blowing cross country skiing, the Bendolla ski area—located right next to the Grimentz cable car stop—offers over fifteen kilometers of well-groomed trails which work their way up to over 6,000 ft of elevation!
Not to be outdone, the Zinal side boasts an equally impressive selection of trails, accessible either by bus or cable car. Alternatively, the 11-kilometer Grimentz-to-Vercorin trail allows you to ski across the valley and take your time indulging in the sublime mountain panoramas along the way. If you happen to hike the valley before the snow flies, don’t miss the icy blue mountain water of Lac de Moiry—which in the winter becomes an equally gorgeous, if frozen, example of Grimentz’s postcard-perfect Alps landscape. If you like traveling by ski, the Grimentz area also has over 30 kilometers of new touring routes for the intrepid (and well prepared) ski-trekker.
If you are especially bowled over by the prospect of six kilometer (round trip on the 3k line) cable car rides, consider arranging your visit around it: you can stay at the Hotel Cristal, where the rooms open out onto the ski area and cable car terminal!
Cold or a wee bit peckish from your morning exploring the vast topography of the the val d’Anniviers? Gather round a warm oven and take part in the centuries-old Valais tradition of baking Rye bread! (Valais is the canton or province in which Grimentz is located). The community organized event and workshop includes professional instruction in the traditional rye making technique, a history lesson on the food’s historic role in the region, and, best of all, a sampling session complete with aperitifs.
To continue your Swiss culinary experience, be sure to circle back downtown to the Restaurant-Crêperie La Claire-Fontaine, where superb local cheeses, breads and produce are carefully combined into signature dishes like fondue with tomatoes, and scrumptious egg and ham crepes.
Keep the evening alive just up the road at the well-regarded Chez Florioz, an après-ski bar that also serves delicious Swiss bar food—which, to be clear, means even more excellent cheese and charcuterie along with flatbread pizzas. Though Florioz often closes on the early side, Grimentz parties on into the night over at Domino’s, a beer and pizza joint jamming with music and boasting a full bar.
In Grimentz, you can begin your day in an eighteenth century chalet, eat a champion’s breakfast of local cheese and eggs (as you gaze out across an uninhabited expanse of meadows and mountains), travel forward again into time as you board a state of the art cable car, ski across some of the most sensational terrain the world has to offer, and finish your day cozied up around a fire, surrounded by friends and smoldering cheese—now what more could a home away from home offer?
For travel information, visit Go Xski.