An expert guide to ski holidays in Crans-Montana

Advice

Spread along Mount Bonvin’s broad slopes, a towering massif rising to nearly 3,000m, Crans-Montana, in the Swiss canton of Valais, lies quietly under the radar when it comes to British visitors.

The ski area is extensive and varied, especially suiting intermediate-level visitors. There are runs with long, panoramic views, as well as some sheltered wooded slopes, and it is almost entirely south-facing, fuelling the local claim that Crans Montana is the sunniest resort in Switzerland.

Stay on track with the essential facts from the resort below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the pistes, expert ratings and advice. For further Crans-Montana inspiration, see our guides to the resort’s best accommodationrestaurants and après ski.

In this guide:


Inside the resort

Crans-Montana began life in the late 19th century when its first hotel, Le Parc, was built in 1893. The sunny aspect combined with fresh Alpine air made it popular as a health resort, and a number of residential sanatoriums were built – some later converted into hotels.

Set at 1,500m, strictly speaking, it’s not one resort but two. Crans and Montana are a mile or so apart, but a long trickle of mostly low-rise buildings, more modern than traditional chalet-style, has merged the small towns together. However, the two centres still retain a distinct character.

These days, of the two villages Crans is more upmarket, with big-brand shopping, glitzy nightclubs and most of the main bars; although Montana has traditionally had a younger vibe, its après-ski scene tends to be a little quieter.

Until his death in 2017, Crans-Montana’s most famous resident was archetypal Englishman Sir Roger Moore, and the resort still attracts a discreet, rich clientele who come for the quiet and somewhat rarified atmosphere. It isn’t a package destination but that said, cheaper accommodation is available, including a strikingly stylish youth hostel, and there’s a younger crowd now taking over the bars. The opening of Alaïa Lodge offering shared accommodation options and an après ski terrace in 21/22 has helped to attract a youthful following



crans-montana


Crans and Montana are a mile or so apart

The high standard of hotels and restaurants make the resort a strong candidate for indulgent holidays, and easy access means it also suits late-bookers snatching a weekend break when weather conditions bode well. However, last-minute bookers might end up paying more for lift passes – in 2020/21, Crans Montana introduced dynamic pricing for lift passes, meaning that buying online and in advance gives the best prices. On the plus side, the resort has a hotel pass scheme that means you can choose to buy on-the-day lift tickets from your accommodation at heavily reduced rates. Direct trains run from Geneva airport to Sierre, connecting with a small funicular (refurbished in 2022/23 with a train departing every 20 minutes) that climbs the steep hillside to Montana.

On the slopes, pistes are mostly comfortable blues and reds; more expert skiers and snowboarders may be disappointed by the lack of challenge but, if the conditions are right, there are plenty of off-piste options, plus a network of uphill routes for ski tourers. Towards the end of the season, the south-facing aspect means that lower pistes can soften by mid-afternoon, so on warm days, Crans Montana lends itself best to early starts and late lunches.

For freestyle fans, the 5,000m2 Alaïa Chalet indoor and outdoor action-sports training complex in nearby Lens has trampolines and foam pits for practising tricks, and runs ski and snowboard camps in winter.

A family-focused festival, Etoile Bella Lui, runs from early December to early January each year. Paths around the town are illuminated by lanterns, leading to a craft market, ferris wheel and shows taking place on the ice rink in the centre of town. 


On the slopes

Crans-Montana has three main access points to the mountain, spread along the valley – the Merbé/Cry d’Er gondola in Crans, the Arnouva gondola in Montana, and a third serving Les Violettes, at 2,220m in the middle of the ski area, from the Barzettes area of the resort. A free shuttle bus links the bases and continues to the small outlying hamlet of Aminona.

Best suited to intermediates, of Crans-Montana’s 140km of marked pistes, there are 38 red runs, 14 blue runs and nine black. A further 10 testing itinerary runs, marked in yellow on the map, are patrolled but left unpisted for the more experienced, and there are also some challenging off-piste opportunities in the eastern areas of the resort, and over 40km of marked blue, red and black ski touring routes. These range from three introductory level routes suitable for beginners, to La X’trême for more advanced tourers. The latter criss-crosses the ski area combining four of the routes, giving a total vertical ascent of 3,000m.

From Cry d’Er (2,267m) and Violettes, the higher, open and tree-less slopes of Mont Lachaux (2,140m) suit morning excursions, with relaxing, usually uncrowded, pistes which continue down the mountain to Barzettes.



CRANS-MONTANA


The slopes in Crans-Montana are best suited to intermediates and beginners


Credit: sylvain cochard

On clear days, continuing on up to Bella Lui (2,543m) gives panoramic views, and a giddyingly high restaurant here has a broad sun terrace and makes a good pitstop before taking another scenic blue to Chetzeron. The Bella Lui piste from here also marks the start of a series of runs used as a downhill race course, the Piste Nationale.

The runs from the resort’s highest point, Plaine Morte at 2,927m, are also a treat in good weather. However, in bad visibility route finding can be difficult in these exposed stretches so if the weather closes in it’s better to head back to the lower, tree-lined slopes.

From just below Plaine Morte, a long black run accesses the eastern fringes of the resort, where there are some meaty blues and reds from Petit Bonvin at 2,383m. A day’s itinerary between Crans and Aminona is easy to do, but time the return carefully as some lifts close at 4pm. The alternative is to return by free shuttle bus.

The terrain park at Cry d’Er, is Switzerland’s second largest terrain park, operated by Alaïa Parks from 2021/22, with boardercross, quarterpipes, big-air, rails and a superpipe.


Who should go?

Grabbing a quick weekend at short notice when snow conditions are good is a very appealing prospect in Crans Montana. It is a great place for a bit of short-break indulgence and is also easily reached from Geneva. Trains run from the airport to the valley town of Sierre, from where a funicular zips up to Montana, a total transfer time of about two hours and 40 minutes. On the slopes, pistes are mostly comfortable blues and reds meaning beginners and intermediates will feel most at home; however there are some off-piste options for experts.


Know before you go

    

Essential information

  • British Embassy/Consulate: 00 31 359 77 00
  • Ambulance: dial 144
  • Police: dial 117
  • Fire: dial 118
  • Tourist office: See crans-montana.ch, the website for the Crans-Montana Tourist Board, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office in the centre of Montana.

The basics

  • Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
  • Telephone code: from abroad, dial 00 41, then leave off the zero at the start of the 10-figure number. 
  • Time difference: +1 hour

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