Two thirds of the skiing is actually in the Lenzerheide valley where there is skiing on both the West and East sides of the valley, whereas in Arosa there are only slopes on the West side. But the lift connection between the two valleys – the Urdenbahn cable car from Hornli to Urdenfurggli - is a high capacity one, capable of shifting 1700 people from one side to the other in an hour, so getting across and returning is very rarely a problem. (But if you’re a strong skier who likes a challenge, you should hire a guide and try some off the off-piste routes.) Within Lenzerheide, you can switch between the two sides of the valley most easily at Parpan where there is a connecting lift; otherwise it’s a walk or a short bus-ride.
There's between 700-900m vertical from the highest peaks - Brűgerhorn Hőrnli and Weisshorn - to Arosa and about 60km of piste skiing of which 31 per cent is for beginners, 57 per cent for intermediates and 12 per cent for advanced skiers and boarders on wide-open mostly east and south-east facing slopes above the tree line. There's also an abundance of easy off-piste skiing possibilities between the marked runs, and there is a special confined area where strong skiers can not only go as fast as they can, but have their speed recorded.
The ski area is easily accessed from the centre of Arosa,either by 125 passenger cable car or the adjacent 3-man chairlift which whisk you up to the Tschuggen ski area (shaded pink on the map and the main beginner ski area), by drag lift to Tschuggen from Prätschli or better still you can hop on the free Hőrnliexpress-Weisshornbahn bus which runs between Arosa (cable car) and the Hőrnliexpress gondola above Inner-Arosa.
The Tschuggen ("little hill") middle station ski area is flanked by beginner slopes running west and east either side with a trio of supporting T-bar drag lifts. Intermediates can ride to higher ground either by taking the Weisshorn 2 cable car to Weisshorn summit (2,853m) or via the old 2-man chairlift to Brűggerhorn (2,453m), with a choice of three red run descents from Brűggerhorn back to middle station. At Weisshorn summit you have the choice between the red run (7) or a not too demanding black run (10), but often the best snow conditions both on- and off-piste will be found over on Hőrnli on the left of the ski map. The top of the Hornli lift (2511m) is also where the Urden lift, which connects Arosa to Lenzerheide departs from
Good skiers can blitz the whole of the Arosa side of the ski area on piste within two days but for advanced skiers there are plenty of off-piste possibilities to be enjoyed with a guide.
Queuing for ski lifts is not a problem and the ski area is rarely crowded except for the lower sections of the run back down to Arosa the from Tschuggen middle station which can become crowded at towards the end of the day in peak periods.
The ski runs are well posted and so are the many adjacent walking trails but in white-out conditions it can be difficult to distinguish between markers either side of the piste from those that mark the walking trails and you could easily find yourself on one or the other or in semi-off-piste conditions in between.
There's over 25km of cross-country ski trails and a 60km network of on-mountain hiking trails, Winter walking in Arosa is a mainstream activity and if the weather is not suited for skiing, it’s something everyone should try. All the mountain restaurants, including three summit restaurants, can be reached by walkers without once having to access the lift system. There is also a special pedestrian lift pass for full-time walkers. And if you want to combine walking with sliding down the mountain there are special slopes for sledging.
This is a much bigger area because there is skiing on both sides of the valley. You can therefore follow the sun: in the morning you ski the East-facing Piz Scalottas and Statzerhorn mountains (or Arosa’s slopes, see above, as they mostly face East too) then in the afternoon you can tackle the mostly West-facing Rothorn and Weisshorn sectors.
The Rothorn and Weisshorn side is higher than the other side, so has slightly more open bowl skiing and fewer tree-lined runs. As well as the pistes, there is often a lot of off-piste here as well. Be aware, however that there are big cliffs blocking the direct path from Rothorn to Valbella, so hiring a guide is heavily recommended. They can also show you much longer itineraries which take you away from the piste network.
The villages of Lenezerheide (sometimes still called Vaz and Obervaz), Valbella, and Parpan are all at a very similar altitude. The official height of all three villages ranges from 1475m to 1500m so the valley floor is very nearly flat here, which should not prove too great a surprise given that the Heidsee lake is in the middle of it. But Churwalden is noticably lower at 1230m. Its's a great place to escape to in a blizzard.
The highlight for intermediates and above is the run from the highest part of the ski area (Rothorn 2865m) all the way down to Parpan, with a vertical of about 1400m. This includes the Silvano Beltrametti world cup downhill course. The top part is almost all North facing so the snow is usually in excellent condition.
Although a few of the chairlifts are rather ancient they work perfectly well and with nearly 7,500 tourist beds in resort and a lift carrying capacity of 21,500 people per hour the lift system is fine and except at peak season and some weekends queuing is a rarity and never a big issue.
The lifts open at 9am and close 4:15 - 4:30pm and the last piste patrol is 4:30 - 5:00pm depending on time of year and with later times applying from end of January until season ends. The times of last patrol are marked at the bottom of each lift and piste reports are available online at Arosa Bergbahn in German but its mostly graphics and easy to understand.
In terms of speed and capacity the most important ski lifts are Weisshorn 1 cable car from Arosa Bergbahn station (1,739m) to Tschuggen middle station (2,013m), the Weisshorn 2 cable car (both 125 passenger capacity) to Weisshorn (2,653m) and the 6 passenger Hőrnliexpress gondola starting from beyond Inner-Arosa (1,820m) to the west of Arosa up to Hőrnli (2,511m).
From the centre of Arosa (1,739m) the you can take the Tschuggen Ost chairlift which looks fairly ancient but is a pleasant ride through the trees and caries you 300 or so vertical meters to Tschuggen in under 5-minutes and often quicker overall than using the cable car.
The beginner slopes on Tschuggen are well served by T-bar drag lifts and while there are those that think drag lifts are a pain they helpful to novices (once they have mastered the art of getting on and off) who benefit more riding uphill on skis than they do sitting on a chairlift.
Beginner skiers and snowboarders also have the option to buy a restricted lift-pass covering just the Tschuggen area (shaded pink on the map) at approximately 2/3rds of the price of the standard lift pass.
For moving around the ski area three important 4-man chairlifts are Carmenna chair which rises most of the way up Weisshorn with useful opportunity (legitimately) to exit at the half way point, Plattenhorn chair - especially useful for getting to the popular Carmenna Hűtte restaurant - and the Hőrnli when you want to stay high on that mountain.
Two annoying deficiencies in the lift system are evident at the base of the Brűggerhorn and the Innerarosa Tschuggen chairlifts. At both chairlifts you have to boot or side step 20-30 metres uphill which is irritating especially as you are likely to have to repeat the experience many times during the course of your stay.
It is planned to build an important new lift off the back of Hőrnli which would connect Arosa with the bigger Lenzerheide ski area. Projekt Verbindung Arosa - Lenzerheide is highlighted on the Arosa ski map but while vested interest groups continue to debate the relative merits of the plan there is no firm start date, but it seems likely to proceed in the not too distant future.
Beginners on Tschuggen can easily meet family and friends for lunch, either at Brűggerstuba restaurant (middle cable car station) or at Tschuggenhűtte. As they gain confidence, beginners can quickly progress to more demanding blue runs such as the blue run (15) from the half way exit off the Carmenna chairlift, the longer blue run (1) from the top of Hőrnliexpress gondola, the blue run (4) from the top of the Hőrnli chairlift and the blue run (5) beneath the Plattenhorn chair.
The long "Home-Runway" blue run from Hőrnliexpress gondola base station descends most of the way to resort level, but stops short of Arosa village and is quite a distance to return to the village on foot. To ski all the way down to the village, there's a long blue run (9) around the eastern flanks of the Brűggerhorn (2,447m) all the way down to Arosa or you can take a right at Prätschli and catch a couple of T-bars back up to Tschuggen.
There's the Mickey Mouse Kids Club at resort level next to the open air ice rink in Arosa and another in Inner-Arosa - if these two are full a third is opened at Prätschli - and yet another one mid-mountain at Tschuggen Hűtte and the resort prides itself on catering for families with young children.
And part of the resort's appeal to beginners of all ages is that they don't have to spend their whole holiday learning to ski. They can take a break and spend a morning walking up to a mountain restaurant on a winter walking path or the afternoon skating on the lake. It is, after all, supposed to be a holiday.
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If it's your first time skiing in Arosa, the following itinerary will get you well acquainted with the ski area. Start by taking the cable car to middle station and then change cars and ride again to Weisshorn, exit right and warm up on red 7 then 8, then ride the Bruggerhorn chair and ski red 6 to Prätschli and take the Tomeli drag back up to Tschuggen - you'll see the half-pipe on your left - and follow the markers down the other side to Carmenna chair.
The Carmenna chair takes you most of the way back up Weisshorn (or you can exit the chair quite legitimately at a supervised half way point) then ski red 12 beneath the chair taking the right hand piste over to Plattenhorn and cruise down red 5 to Carmennahűtte for your first pit-stop before riding the Plattenhorn again and ski other side of the chair following blue 5 then working your way skiers right and ride the Hőrnli-Express gondola and enjoy the three short reds (2), ride the chair back up Hőrnli then ski down blue 1 and break for lunch either at Alpenblick or try the not so obvious restaurant at Hotel Gspan which you can see just right of the piste before Inner Arosa.
After lunch either go back up by gondola for more skiing on Hőrnli or ski down to Inner-Arosa (5-star hotel spotters note the Kulm Hotel bottom right at the far of the piste and the Tschuggen Grand rising high above the trees in the background) then catch the Inner Arosa-Tschuggen chair back up to Tschuggen and may be try the black runs off Weisshorn or you can head back up the Brűggerhorn and ski the long blue 9 down to Prätschli then use the drag lift to gain height and if you're done skiing for the day you can ski blue 16 home run down to Arosa or late season you can pop back up Tschuggen and ski down to Tschuggenhűtte for a spot of late afternoon après - that's the Arosa ski area, or most of it, done in a day. It''s not huge but it's good fun and typically Swiss.
And now it's time to take the Urden lift over to Lenzerheide. Again most of the runs are crusiy red and blues, so when you ski them is likely to be determined by the time of day (the East-facing slopes on the far side from Arosa are best in the morning) and whether the weather encourages you to seek out the high open bowls (Rothorn, Weisshorn and Piz Danis have the best) or the tree-lined slopes lower down (all the mountains have some but the best are on Piz Scalottas and Statzerhorn).
The whole ski area is a bowl and advanced skiers and boarders will be quick to identify the wealth of accessible easy off-piste skiing between the marked runs. There are also challenging off-piste itineraries surrounding the Arosa ski area and after a good dump of snow, Arosa can be a good short-break destination for experienced powder hounds.
The off-piste skiing between the marked trails is also good for those still learning the art of deeper snow skiing and wanting to experience short excursions off-piste with easy return to terra firma. As a smaller resort with fewer guests the off-piste doesn't get tracked quite so quickly which is another plus factor, but even when it's been tracked, it provides useful transition for early stage off-piste skiers whose confidence and comfort zone may be boosted by the knowledge that others have gone before.
The best on- and off-piste skiing is usually found on Hőrnli on the left hand side of the ski map and which is accessed by Hőrnli express gondola and the Hőrnli chairlift. Once at the top you can boot up hundred metres to Hőrnlihut for a drink (are you really that thirsty?) or choose between three central red runs and two easy blues either side of the reds. Continue all the way down to Inner Arosa and back up the gondola or ride back up on the Hőrnli chairlift and test yourself with different variants on- or off-piste. Been there, seen it, done all the pistes? Then hire a guide at the Ski School and explore the off-piste.
There are good off piste descents from the top of the Carmenna Pass (not marked on the map) which is below and to the right of the Plattenhorn peak and can easily be accessed by traversing skier's right from black 11 on Weisshorn, then ski down to Carmenna Hűtte. Less easily reached are the off-piste pitches that descend left and right side of the unnamed peak directly above the Plattenhorn chair. You have to hike across and up from blue 4 on Hőrnli side and in good snow conditions (meaning safe as well as fresh) you'll see local skiers and boarders cutting impressive lines.
Very much easier to get to and just as rewarding is the area to the left of the rising Hőrnliexpress gondola and beneath the east-west rocky Tschierpa ridge which can be seen (but is not named) on the far left hand side of the ski map. The higher reaches can be reached by booting up a ridge at the top of the gondola but it's easier to take a lower line skiers right off the Hőrnli blue 1 and then enjoy the rolling off-piste pitches down to Schwellisee where it's flat and a slow ski slide or walk across the frozen lake but if in doubt about the ice better to ski or walk the left hand side around the lake.
Back over on Weisshorn, experts can drop in under the cable car or traverse lower down and drop in from red 7 but if skiing this kind of terrain be sure to hire a local guide with a good understanding of snow conditions and which slopes are prone to slide. Some of the east-facing slopes can be risky and a good guide knows which slopes to avoid. The same is true of the north east facing slopes near Schwellisee Ski. The whole ski area including the area between the runs looks quite safe, but it's worth remembering that the old Carmenna chairlift was twice taken out by avalanches inside the ski area so better safe than sorry, take a guide!
The run back down from Tschuggen to Arosa is scenic and not much more if you are a strong skier or boarder, but it is possible to ski down through the forest if you know the routes or more easily you can ski the break between the trees under the Tschuggen Ost chair back to Arosa.
If you're a strong off-piste skier not averse to skinning up some long uphill stretches you can hire a guide and ski-of piste from Arosa via Maiafelder Furka to Davos and then ski back to Langweis where you can catch a train back to Arosa. Other day-tours off-piste include ski descents off the back of Plattenhorn, Hőrnli or Carmenna Pass to lift served skiing at Tschierchen then work your way back to the Hőrnli.
If you're inexperienced at pipe riding and unable to ride the high side walls with confidence its intimidating sight, but for advanced terrain park riders it looks a lot of fun, and challenging.
Experienced boarders will relish easy access to the off-piste pitches between marked runs and for the same reason, conditions permitting Arosa is a good place for intermediate riders to learn the art of riding deep snow, but at the other end of the spectrum its fair to say that Arosa is not an ideal place for novices to learn to board. There's no shortage of tuition, but the drag lifts serving the beginner runs on the Tschuggen are less easily ridden by novice boarders.
The two most popular places for lunch are Carmenna and Tschugghut, especially on warm sunny days when the sunloungers are out in force. Standards of food and service are good and the eating on the mountain is generally a pleasant experience.
Skiers and snowboarders share the mountain with walkers enjoying 60km of winter walking paths adjacent to some pistes and one of Arosa's big plus points as an alpine resort is the fact that each of Arosa's mountain restauarants can be got to on foot without using the lift system and if you prefer not to ski and not to walk, some huts can be reached by sleigh ride.
Alpenblick mountain restaurant on Hörnli ski piste serves speciality cheese and meat fondues, tasty grilled chicken (don't forget chips!) and has a reasonable selection of wines on offer. It's open from 09:00 until 23:30. At night you get there by taking an affordable sleigh ride which departs hourly from Schlittenpost outside Restaurant Grischuna in Inner-Arosa at 18.00, 19.00 and 20.00 hours. Tel: +41 (0) 81 377 14 28
Mountain restaurant Brüggerstuba forms part of the middle station at the top of the first cable car up from Arosa and serves quite reasonable pasta dishes. For drinks there's also the Sternerbar umbrella outside while by day it's quite unremarkable every Wednesday night late December through March it is the on-mountain venue for Europe's biggest multimedia laser show. Tel: +41 (0)81 378 84 25
Carmennahut is a traditional rustic Swiss mountain restaurant and long time favourite in Arosa, deservedly popular and usually busy especially blue sky days when it's a happening place, with large comfy sunloungers and an outside bar. Traditional Swiss dishes and a good choice of wines from Italy, France and Germany. The Bratwurst mit Rősti is recommended and washes down well with a bottle of Soleado Cabernet Sauvignon. Ski to the Carmenna by taking the red run from the top of the Plattenhorn chairlift or via black run 11 from Weisshorn. Tel. +41 (0)81 377 22 96
Hőrnlihut is a summit restaurant but you have to boot about 100 metres or more uphill from the top of the Hőrnliexpress gondola to reach it. You'll ask yourself is it really worth the walk up, we decided not, which means we can't tell you, but at least that gives us an excuse to go back. Next time we'll find out, promise. Tel. +41 (0)81 377 15 04
Sattelhut on Weisshorn is a cosy rustic traditional Swiss-style mountain hut with a new, well sheltered sun terrace, great mountain views and outside bar which is a popular meeting place. Tel. +41 (0)81 378 84 07
SiT Hut is unmistakenly boarder territory close to the top of Arosa's Tomeli draft lift, which runs along side the half-pipe. If you're 40-plus and arrive on skis you might want to walk on by, but if your wearing baggies and beanie it's a cool and friendly place to hang out. Leave your board outside or take it in with you, no one will mind. Tel. +41 (0)79 407 89 38
Tschuggen Hűtte is a complex of four restaurants and an umbrella bar close to the bottom of the Tschuggen West drag lift, easy to get to and one of the most popular places to hang out for lunch. There are four restaurants are Kuhbar, Saustall, Raclette Bar and Tschuggenstűbli - none of them excpetional - with outside tables and up to 300 sunloungers so well worth checking out on a blue sky day. It's also a big party venue later in season and definitely worth splitting your skis with a friend to guard against theft or mistaken identity. Tel. +41 (0)81 378 84 45
Weisshorngipfel restaurant and bar on Weisshorn summit - the top of Arosa - is the place to go for the highest sunlounging, best panoramic views or for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Try the Swiss "Zmorga" sunrise breakfast every Thursday from late December until end March or fondue at sunset every Tuesday from late January until early March and watch the torch-lit ski descent by the Ski School SSSA returning to Arosa cable car between 9:30 and10:00pm. Advance booking essential for breakfast or dinner and phone before 2pm at least one day in advance. Tel. +41 (0)81 378 84 02
Individually many hotel buildings have no particular architectural merit but as a whole Arosa is a pretty traditional Swiss winter sports resort.
Mostly in winter the village streets are purposely left covered with a few centimetres of snow which means cars run quieter and the streets are cleaner and with the snow crunching under foot and tobogganing on village streets is commonplace it helps to complete the winter holiday experience.
The majority of winter guests come from Switzerland, Germany, Benelux and even Austria with only around 5% coming from the UK and like most ski resorts it's busiest from February through to the middle of March.
On arrival in Arosa and especially if staying in one of the hotels near the station and the lake it could take you a while to realize that the most of Arosa village shops and hotels are higher up the hill so its well worth exploring Post Strasse on foot early in your stay to check out what's on offer.
Best for late afternoon sunshine and on-mountain après ski is Tschuggen Hütte and while there's a reasonable choice of bars for partying on mountain there are no buts for après on the main run back down to Arosa.
And when you get back to town one thing that Arosa is missing is vibrant après ski. There appears to be a gap in the market for a really good well-located après ski bar but it seems Arosa's clientele is mostly content to hurry back to their hotels.
Grottino Pizzeria is a popular Italian restaurant. It's easy to imagine the menu offering, and the pizzas are good, but there are other reasons for being here. Look beyond the typical Italian menu and you'll find an incredible choice of wines with a wine list featuring sixteen pages of superb red wines including many top reds from Italy, America, Australia and France - Sassicaia, Opus One, Chateau Talbot, Le Pin, Petrus and Mouton - and some excellent Spanish Rioja's. Cigar smokers too will be excited by the selection of 60 top smokes - Cohiba Robusta, Siglo 1-6 and Montecristo A to name but a few and there's also a tasty selection of 24 Rochmilchkäse cheeses. Wine buffs and cigar smokers can have a lot of fun and the prices of wines are reasonable considering what they are.
Hotel Cristallo on Post Strasse is recommended - in fact here you can choose between two restaurants: Le Bistro is visible from the street and Cristallo's main restaurant (open to non-residents) at the rear of the hotel has good views across the valley. It's a rich menu with speciality dishes and stronger on meat - steak and lamb especially - than fish. There's a good wine list including quality Spanish wines and waiters are knowledgeable. It's not cheap, like for like wines are probably around 305 more expensive than Grottino but it's good food and wine in a tasteful spacious interior with good atmosphere and a plenty of tables seating for 2, 4 and 6 in comfort plus a big table for larger groups. It's
Hotel Eden's Ta Pa Restaurant is a fun place to eat and serves a selection of 24 tapas dishes chosen from the blackboard. The dark wood tables, comfy chairs and cushioned benches, terracotta tile floor and deep orange walls, candle lighting and a trophy head and horns of a 600kg bull makes for a modern setting in the Spanish style. There are tables for only about 40 covers mostly on large (shared) tables and booking is essential.
Besides skiing and snowboarding other winter activities include: Nordic walking; cross country skiing; snowshoeing; tobogganing; ice-skating (natural and artificial); curling; horse-drawn sleigh rides; ballooning and paragliding.
Arosa has one of the best networks of winter hiking trails in the Alps - 60km of mostly on-mountain winter walking from village level (1,739m) right up (if you wish) to the summits of the three main highest mountains, highest of which is the Weisshorngipfel (2,653m), and all of Arosa's mountain restaurants can be reached on foot. Accompanied walking on Tuesday and Friday afternoons (1:30 - 3:30pm) with Nordic Walking Instructor Sonja Amstutz Tel: +41 (0) 79 409 75 70
Arosa has 26.5km of cross country trails on Maran, Prätschalp/Oschenalp (panorama trail), at Isel and on the Obersee trail. You can rent equipment at the cross country centre in Maran or at sports shops in Arosa and free copies of the cross country trail map are available at Arosa Tourism. For lessons contact Cross Country Ski School Geeser Tel: +41 (0) 81 377 22 15 or Mobile: +41 (0) 79 445 53 13; Opening hours: 9-12am and 1-6pm daily. A cross country ski bus (Islabus) operates between Arosa Post Office and Isel and is free for holders of a valid ski, hiking or cross country pass.
Cross Country Ski School Geeser arranges snowshoeing tours on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, no previous experience necessary. Tel: +41 (0) 81 377 22 15 or mobile: +41 (0) 79 445 53 13 for reservations up to 6pm the previous day
There are three toboggan runs marked on the map: one for Sithutte via Tschuggenhutte down to Inner-Arosa (0.6km), another main run from Prätschli back to the Obersee Lake in Arosa (1km) and less obvious is the longer run from Arosa (Untersee) down the valley to Litzirűti (2.8km) then return to Arosa by train. Use of the toboggan runs is free of charge but you will need to rent a toboggan which you can easily do at Stivetta, Rhaetian Rail (Arosa train station) and the Langwies mountain hut.
There's ice skating at the open-air ice rink in Arosa (Tel: +41 (0) 81 377 17 45) and at the natural ice rink at Inner Arosa (Tel: +41 (0) 81 377 29 30); both are open from 10am to 5pm daily and night skating is also possible. You can also try your hand at curling. Private lessons or group lessons in curling (1-4 persons) are available on request. Call the Ice Sports Centre (Tel: +41 (0) 81 377 17 45) or register at Arosa Tourism (Tel: + 41 (0) 81 377 17 45) before 5pm on the previous day. You will need to wear warm clothes and flat shoes with rubber soles.
Horse drawn sleighs are busy all over Arosa, on-mountain as well as off-mountain and the drivers, horses and sleighs congregate like taxis by the station. If not nearby the station your hotel can call to make a reservation. Prices for 2-4 people vary depending on route and after 6pm a 50% surcharge applies.
Balloon trips are available at weekends from December to March and Arosa hosts a 5-day Alpine balloon week at the end of January / beginning of February. Trips are for groups of four departing between 8 and 10am (other times on request as well as trips for more than four persons involving several balloons). The one hour balloon trip over Arosa starts and lands in Arosa - flying time 1 hour, total time 2-4 hours, CHF350.-, and the longer balloon trip over the Grison Alps starts in Arosa and lands in a nearby valley (possibly Austria or Italy) - flying time 2-3 hours, total time 6-8 hours, CHF 550.-. For more information and reservations contact Manuel Knobelspiess +41 076 331 86 37
Daily flights from Weisshorn to Obersee CHF190.-, weather permitting. Best to book in advance or you can try and make a reservation directly at the starting and landing point. Tel: +41 (0) 79 449 88 13
For more information contact the tourist office in Arosa:
Tel: +41 (0) 81 378 70 20
Email: [email protected]